Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Hard Core Rural Iraq

We headed west out of Baghdad today - toward Anbar Province, birthplace of the Sons of Iraq movement. Also known as the Awakening Council or Sahwa, the Sons of Iraq are Sunni Arabs who once took up arms against the United States, but then joined forces with us to fight Al Qaeda.

Iraqi officials refused to let us into the area without a military escort. "If you go in there alone, you won't make it out alive," the Baghdad Commander told our translator on the phone this morning. (Picture Above: Kevin gets into an Iraqi Army humvee)

Here's what we knew going in: A man and his two sons were shot to death at their home in al-Zaidan village, a farming area of Abu Ghraib. This is still like Iraq's Wild West. Suspicions were that the killers got the wrong guy... that they really wanted the dead man's brother who is a known Sons of Iraq leader.

But what the news story did not share was this: Three days ago, the U.S. military drew attention to this home when they came searching for weapons. None were found, but the family was spooked by how the "visit" would be perceived, and ended up asking American soldiers for help because of it. At this point whether Sons of Iraq members are targeted because of sectarian violence alone or because of some connection to the U.S. - real or perceived - is impossible to figure out.

Here--as in most of our own lives--perception is everything.

As we filmed an animated discussion with village leaders in the back yard, ten Iraqi soldiers and MPs stood in a circle around us. Six humvees were parked in the front near the porch where about 40 mourners sat quietly in three rows of white plastic chairs. This is day two of the funeral, and, as Muslim tradition calls for, it will last for one more day.

The victims were sleeping outside on the ground -- escaping the oppressive summer heat -- when the gunmen attacked early yesterday morning. And it was there on the ground -- in their backyard where we now stood -- that they were killed. As we said our good-byes, we navigated around seven bullet holes left in the hardened dirt, sensing that this is a crime unlikely to see any justice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Please be careful Beth! We love you...the work you are doing is amazing and we think of you daily. Luv Tam