The Amiriya demonstrations were pro-Saddam demonstrations led by a boys' high school in the area.
Gasoline is a big problem. A friend of ours quit her job a couple of days ago because her husband can't afford to wait in long lines for 4 or 5 hours to fill up their battered Volvo so that he can drive her across Baghdad every morning to the clinic she works in. Everyone has been buying black-market gasoline of late, but we've been getting leaflets and warnings threatening 7 ? 10 years of prison if we buy or sell black-market gasoline. Black-market gas simply means a surly, dirty guy surrounded with yellowish plastic containers selling gas for over 30 times its original price. He, inevitably, has a cigarette dangling out of the side of his mouth and a furtive, hurried look about him.
We've been using candles most of the time instead of kerosene lamps because the kerosene man hasn't been coming around these last few days and we need the kerosene for the heaters. The kids really hate the candles. The other day, the electricity suddenly flashed on at 8 pm after a 6-hour blackout. We were exalted. Everyone jumped for the television at once and a chorus of voices called out, "News! The movie! A song! Cartoons!" After flipping the channels, we settled for a movie.
We sat watching until one of the scenes faded into a darkened room. The camera focused on the couple sitting at a round table, gazing into each others eyes and smiling fondly across two elegant candles. It was a cozy, romantic candle-light dinner. I think the whole family was lost in the scene when suddenly, my cousin's youngest daughter spoke up, impatiently, "They have no electricity! They're using the candles?"
It took me about 15 minutes to try to explain to her that they had electricity but actually *chose* to sit in the dark because it was more 'romantic'. The difficulty of explaining romance to a 7-year-old is nothing compared to the difficulty of explaining the 'romance' of a darkened room and candles- especially if the 7-year-old has associated candles to explosions and blackouts her whole life.
These last few days have been truly frightening. The air in Baghdad feels charged in a way that scares me. Everyone can feel the tension and it has been a strain on the nerves. It's not so much what's been going on in the streets- riots, shootings, bombings and raids- but it's the possibility of what may lie ahead. We've been keeping the kids home from school, and my cousin's wife learned that many parents were doing the same- especially the parents who need to drive their kids to school.
We've been avoiding discussing the possibilities of this last week's developments? the rioting and violence. We don't often talk about the possibility of civil war because conferring about it somehow makes it more of a reality. When we do talk about it, it's usually done in hushed tones with an overhanging air of consternation. Is it possible? Will it happen?
Sunnis and Shi'a have always lived in harmony in Iraq and we still do, so far. I'm from a family that is about half Shi'a and half Sunni. We have never had problems as the majority of civilized people don't discriminate between the two. The thing that seems