Greetings from Iraq…

Dear friends,

Greetings from Fallujah – Iraq!

I have been on the ground in Iraq for 2 weeks now and I just wanted to send a quick note and touch base.

The good news is I have with me film maker David Bradbury, thanks to a very generous donation from an activist friend which has ensured this trip and all its stories will be documented by a great film maker – thanks again Neville!

David and I flew into Basra in southern Iraq and quickly began to investigate the issue of pollution caused by recent wars, namely weapons containing depleted uranium which were used widely in Basra in 1991 and 2003 by US forces. It was a depressing visit. The city is in poor condition with slums having emerged in the last few years as rural families move to the city seeking jobs. The environment is extremely polluted both from war remnants and the massive oil and gas industries. The rate of cancers and birth defects in the community is still very high and clean-up of the environment is slow. There is much to be done to repair this war-weary city. We spoke with many Doctors, scientists and activists and have some sobering reports to come.

made the 6 hour drive through southern Iraq from Basra to Najaf safely despite the crazy kamikazi drivers & 15 or so checkpoints with plenty of questions & passport checks...the scenery was depressing - palm trees making way for industrial waste from wars and oil & gas industries...

made the 6 hour drive through southern Iraq from Basra to Najaf safely despite the crazy kamikazi drivers & 15 or so checkpoints with plenty of questions & passport checks…the scenery was depressing – palm trees making way for industrial waste from wars and oil & gas industries…

Next we headed to the holy city of Najaf where we were hosted by the amazing Sami Rasouli and the Muslim Peacemaker Team. Here, as well as interviewing Professors and community leaders, we got to take in the unique culture of this historic holy city, visit the world’s largest cemetery, wander the ruins of ancient Babylon but best of all hear of the inspiring work of this team of dedicated peacemakers. These Iraqis, like so many others , constantly dispel the myth of the so-called ‘sectarian violence’ in Iraq, as they hold hands together, Sunni, Shia, Kurdish, Christian, Sabean and work together for healing and inspiration. Can’t wait to share more about that!

The largest cemetery in the world Wadi-us-Salaam in the holy city of Najaf, southern Iraq. About 5 million people are buried there and many aspire to be buried there...quite a sight

The largest cemetery in the world Wadi-us-Salaam in the holy city of Najaf, southern Iraq. About 5 million people are buried there and many aspire to be buried there…quite a sight

From Najaf we travelled to Fallujah via Ramadi and are now settled at Fallujah General Hospital where I have reunited with old friends. If you’ve been following the news from Iraq, Fallujah is currently at the centre of Iraqi politics as the city is leading massive anti-government demonstrations here every Friday. Stay tuned…

Our travel in the new Iraq has not been easy. We have been constantly stopped by Iraqi police and army, held at checkpoints and questioned. If it wasn’t for our quick-witted Iraqi friends there is no way we would have got into Fallujah through the 15 or so checkpoints.

A CNN team headed for Fallujah yesterday was forced to turn back to Baghdad due to army road blocks. Iraqi people were prevented from travelling to Baghdad to attend a planned demonstration there. Journalists are being arrested (a French journalist was imprisoned for 3 weeks for taking a photo of a water treatment plant).

It seems the new Iraq is becoming very close to the old Iraq in terms of lack of free press, free movement or free speech… after so many decades of suffering Iraqis deserve better than this.

When the word “democracy” is mentioned here the response is usually a big belly laugh from Iraqis who struggle with every day with human rights violations, security and basic services.

I’m aware I’m reporting this sad news of the legacy of the US/UK/Australian invasion and occupation of Iraq on a Saturday exactly 10 years after a massive outpouring of public opinion against the war by about 15 million people all over the world. It was a day that we raised our voices together, and although our voices were dismissed by some governments, how important was it to register our dissent nevertheless, so that history has noted it.

A friend of mine has made a great little tribute video to those who marched against the war in Australia – have a look, you may see yourself!

Here’s the link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMnPcAUIxlM

You might also enjoy these reflections and commentaries:

http://www.theweek.co.uk/world-news/51511/lest-we-forget-anti-iraq-war-protesters-were-right#ixzz2KxlOVNUq

http://www.countercurrents.org/ferner120213.htm

http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/for-democracys-sake-lets-talk-about-our-war-in-iraq-20130213-2ed6y.html

I’ve posted some colourful pictures of my trip so far on my Facebook page, so please go and check out the pics http://www.facebook.com/donna.mulhearn?ref=tn_tnmn

I hope to write again with more reflections – David and I are very aware of our precarious position as foreign journalists here in this police state, how ironic is it – 10 years ago it was the Saddam regime that was paranoid and oppressive, now it’s the Government of the new Iraq…

Your pilgrim

Donna

PS: You can also follow me on Twitter @donnamulhearn

PPS: For those of you who like to read a glossy mag, pick up Marie Claire Magazine this month; they were good enough to ask me to contribute an article about the 10 year anniversary – Good on them!

PPPS: Attached pic shows how palm trees are making way for industrial waste from wars and oil & gas industries in the new Iraq…

PPPPS: “Mission Accomplished George W.Bush declared. But what was the mission?” Professor H at Ramadi University asked.

Flying into Basra

Flying into Basra

The new Iraq: an oil company building overlooks poverty-stricken slum in Basra...

The new Iraq: an oil company building overlooks poverty-stricken slum in Basra…

Slum in Basra

Slum in Basra

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