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Iraq: Media Suppresion & Yet Another Bomb

Helen Williams & Kevin Williams | 05.09.2004 10:19 | Anti-militarism | Indymedia | Repression

How can the truth possibly come out of Iraq if the media are too scared and too weak to even attempt to search for it? Yet another bomb goes off near Welsh activists. They document what happens immediately after a bomb goes off in Baghdad.

Smashed up taxi at bomb site.
Smashed up taxi at bomb site.

Hi Bagdad 4 September 2004
This morning Kevin, Wejdy and I decided to do some shopping along the main street here in Kerrada. We needed lots of things, not least to sort out the glazier to fix the glass in the appartment. We ordered the glass and booked the glazier in a shop just off the main street - it's going to cost 15,000 dinar (6 pounds) for the glass and fitting. After this we returned to the main street and continued on our way. Wejdy popped into a shop and Kevin and I waited outside for him.
As we waited we saw a three humvee convoy approaching us from the direction of Karamana Roundabout. I remember joking to Kevin that poor Wejdy was going to miss them - he so likes to tell them to "go home".
Suddenly there was a huge explosion in the centre of the road. Kevin and I saw the actual flash of the explosion and the huge dust ball thrown up by it. We immediately and instinctively turned away and ducked in case we should be hit by shrapnel - the bomb had gone off less than 80 metres away.The three humvees were not hit or damaged - the bomb had gone off just after the last one had passed it - they sped off at full speed, leaving the scene in haste - I, for one, have never seen humvees move that quick, and, in fact, did not know they could even go that fast. Wejdy exited the shop and we all rushed to the scene - although it was difficult to see where we going as the air was still thick with black smoke and dust.
As we approached we saw a white bearded man in his 40's, wearing a white dishdasha, come running up the street away from the bomb. His dishdasha was covered in blood all over his chest and legs - he was panicstricken.
Then a man in his late 20's went past us - his checked shirt covered in blood. Many others had small shrapnel wounds to heads and bodies and bloody cuts.
Wejdy saw a dead body carried off as we neared the scene. And at the site of the explosion there was a smashed taxi and a pool of thick red blood on the road behind it - no one could have lost that amount of blood without dying, in my opinion.
The security guards form the bank across the road had come out into the street and, for no reason, started firing their guns into the air. This had the effect of terrifying the already terrified Iraqi onlookers and they began to shout at the guards - hands and fists aloft - it was quite a sight, and it resulted in the guards offloading more of their AK47's into the air.
As no one was trapped and we could help no one, we began to take photos. We were careful not to aim our cameras at the bank, surrounded by razor wire - this is a sensitive/high risk building and you are not allowed to take photos of things like this in the New Iraq.
Paddling around in the glass on the pavement, we took some photos. Then the crazy guards saw us - one was shouting at us from the roof of the bank. They did not want us taking photos at all and tried to grab the camera that Wejdy was using. Now, guards and police etc in Iraq are notorious for their lack of training and bad behaviour, but their action here with regards to people taking photographs was obviously an order that they were following to the letter, right from the top. A near fight broke out as they grabbed at Wejdy and then at me and then as others in the crowd got involved and started shouting at the guards it just got worse and worse. Wejdy was dragged off, Kevin and I managed to pull him back. By now 'Hayder' from the music shop turned up, spoke to Wejdy and then went off, also to have a go at the guards. We eventually sat down a little away to calm down.

As we sat and surveyed the scene of carnage and lost life, several Iraqis came up to talk to us. One was Omar from a barber shop just 40 metres back up the road. He had blood on his forehead and chest, but he was okay, just shaken, like everyone there. He was concerned if we were okay and invited us to his shop to sit down and have some chai. We followed him to his shop and sat on dusty seats - plaster had fallen from the ceiling in the explosion. He told us how his brother had been down by the bomb when it went off. He was injured - his side and leg cut open - and he had been taken to hospital. We were given water and he went to fetch some glasses of tea. As he placed them in our still wobbly hands, I noticed that the glasses were shaking in their saucers - his hands were also still shaking.
Shops all around had lost their fronts - the ones next to the roadside bomb were completely wrecked - shops we had walked past just minutes before - intact and their keepers not suspecting that today would be any different from any other. The musical instrument shop opposite the butchers had lost big panes of glass. I thought how, even if there was not one death or injury, just this mess was hard to bear. People are now faced with glazing bills and a clear up job - I only lost one pane of glass in the appartment window in the bomb a few days ago, but the hassle and the mess, and the shock, put us out completely.
Having spoken to onlookers, and witnessing for ourselves, we knew that there were definitely two Iraqi dead and 8 or 9 injured who had gone to hospital. This is our neighbourhood.
Some 20 minutes later, 'fresh' humvees turned up. The soldiers, as usual, made things much worse and started to shout at the local Iraqis in English.
Kevin spoke to one of the soldiers, or rather the soldier spoke to him, when he saw Kevin's camera. He told Kevin that he could not take photos without credentials - none at all. He wanted the camera. A single film crew turned up, they had credentials and were allowed to film. The interviewer asked the American soldier how many had died, "None, a taxi driver has injured his arm" came the response! A complete lie! Kevin adviced them to cross the road to film the pool of blood, they were overly hesitant and refused, saying "We couldn't cross the road now"

The truth is being suppressed In Iraq like never before. Security guards, police and American soldiers all seem to have received an order from on high about people taking photographs. When the corporate media, like NBC, turn up, they don't want to discover the truth either. The fore mentioined NBC cameraman tried to make out that he could not go near the actual scene as he would not be allowed to pass, yet, just three or so minutes later, we ourselves went there. It was here we were talking to 3 from `Christian Peacemakers Team` - so he could easily have gone there to film properly. Incidentally the one was receiving trouble from the American soldiers and was facing having his camera emptied! A soldier was telling them that only 3 injured and that they had been taken to hospital.
As you probably know, Al Jazeera's offices were shut down in Bagdad and they were banned from reporting from Iraq for 30 days, and this looks set to be extended. Their offices were in Swan Lake Hotel, down off Karamana Roundabout. The hotel is not surrounded by blast blocks, razor wire or checkpoints - there's just a couple of guards outside. This gives the reporters from the station quicker and easier access to the outside world - the BBC, CNN and thier ilk are safely tucked up in the fortresses that are the Sheraton and Palestine Hotel. In the new free Iraq, there is no free press, free reporting or truth telling. How much do you get to see about Iraq in the news now? Not much considering the attacks, bombs, deaths and tragedies that occur daily. If the journalists cant do their jobs, admit it, reassess their situation and consider getting out - they are doing the Iraqis and they are damaging the reputation of their profession.

And one more thing. It is clear from these two latest roadside bombs here in Kerrada that death and destruction comes with the Americans. We, and the Iraqis, do not want to see them and we do not feel that we need them patrolling out neighbourhoods. Bombs go off and innocents die, not soldiers, when they are in your street. Innocents die who managed to live through Saddam's regime, wars, airstrikes and sanctions. When will it ever stop?

All for now
Helen Williams
Kevin Williams
living amongst Iraqis in Bagdad
from Newport South Wales.

Helen Williams & Kevin Williams