Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Tuesday, December 2, 2003 2:23 pm Baghdad Internet Cafe

This is our last full day here in Iraq, we leave at 6 am tomorrow for Amman, Jordan. This will be my last blog from Iraq, but I will be writing more articles (with photos too!) on my return.

Having walked through the dark streets back to my hotel last night (around 10 pm) I realized that this place is STILL not as dangerous as many American Cities (ever been to D.C.?). However, things here do have the potential to become very messy with the possibility of an uprising of all Iraqis who are increasingly frustrated with the US and the too slow return to any semblance of normalcy (electricity, phones, police, jobs, etc.). As one nice man put it..."rest assured, every Iraqi has a Kalishnikov (rifle) and knows how to use it."

This morning we went to one of Baghdad University Campuses and met the Chair of the College of English, some teachers and students, and saw the looting that occured after the occupation in April. We also discussed the current situation and ways that Americans could help. They need to rebuild their English language library, electricity to conduct school and run their labs, textbooks, teachers, and a bit more.

Next we went to the Ministry of Human Rights, located in the Ministry of Oil Building. This ministry was protected by coalition forces. Others, like the Ministries of Culture, Education, Communications, and Trade, were all bombed. The Ministry of Human Rights has only been allocated enough money for a staff of 15 and their first tasks are to 1) register all HR violations that occured under the Saddam regime, 2) investigate and record the 260 mass grave sites scattered throughout the country, 3) develop legislation and framework for HR in Iraq. Their greatest need is help understanding human rights processes, training of personnel, and budgets to do their tasks. There are 35 local HR organizations throughout the country that work with this ministry.

The Ministry of Human Rights has not addressed current HR issues, such as detainees. They have been denied permission by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to even visit the prison camps to find out what is going on. Nor do they have the staff to investigate possible abuses, such as the ones that I blogged about yesterday.

This afternoon we will meet with a former UN ambassador, now head of C.A.R.E. in Iraq and others before we leave. Even though our delegation will return, the "permanent" members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) will continue to have an office here, continue to press for human rights (including the distribution of flyers to soldiers), continue to visit with Iraqi families and those "on the street", and perhaps - in ways great and small - help build the peace that must eventually come to this city.

Peace, Charlie

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