Blogging from Baghdad

I’m ashamed to say that I did not know that my first blogging friend from Baghdad, Zeyad, who had stopped posting, is blogging again, but this time for NY Times Select — which means, sadly, that it is behind a pay wall and that’s one reason I didn’t see it. But there is wonderful writing from Zeyad and from four other Iraqi bloggers: Najma, from A Star from Mosul; her father, A Citizen of Mosul; An Average Iraqi; and Konfused Kid. Here is Zeyad on the scene shopping before Eid:

The drone of generators scattered on the pavement and loud Lebanese pop music from a nearby CD store filled the air. Youngsters were checking out the girls, and a couple of National Guardsmen were munching pistachios and chatting at a nearby nut stand. The soldier seated behind the machine gun on an army pickup briefly eyed my shopping bag as I was passing by. He frowned as I gave him a quick smirk in response to his suspicious glance.

All of a sudden there was a rocking explosion, which left a sharp buzz in my ears. Some people froze in their tracks; those with children disappeared down side streets. Some drivers started turning their cars in the wrong direction, while others went quickly into reverse. Store owners immediately took out their locks, switched off their generators and started closing, an automatic chore in our area by now. Amazingly, some customers were still bargaining in a few stores….

It turned out to be a roadside bomb, planted in front of an ice cream vendor on our street, that went off when a police patrol went by. The patrol continued at high speed down the street toward my location, shooting randomly at nearby houses and in the air. I stood behind a pole as the patrol passed me, sirens blazing and AK-47’s sticking out the windows, pointed at pedestrians.

“Bloody fools,” I heard an old man close to me say. “They’re out of their wits with fright. And the morons hiding in the Green Zone think they’re going to run a country with people like that. By Allah, they will be hunted down to the last man.” …

And Zeyad on New Year’s Eve:

Baghdad on New Year’s Eve reflected the general mood in town: dark, gloomy, cold, and apprehensive. Just the short cruise to my friend’s house and the image of the ghostly street was enough to send a chill up my spine.

Although it would be an exaggeration to say that we used to receive the New Year in better spirits or with more optimism and hope, there is no doubt that it was never as disheartening as it is now. I recall that we used to lament the fact that we had nothing exciting to do on such occasions except driving around busy streets at 1 a.m., throwing lame pickup lines at girls, having a late dinner at a restaurant and then passing out drunk at a friend’s house.

It’s ironic that we can’t even have that now, except perhaps for the last part, since I ended up wrapped in blankets and drunk on my friend’s living room couch.

I told Zeyad long ago that he is born to be a journalist and I wish I could entice him to CUNY.