Issue Date: February 13, 2004
Photos and text by Linda Panetta
||Coalition forces stand at the ready as more than 100 Iraqis demonstrate
outside the Coalition Provisional Authority. The men were protesting their
eviction from the squatters camp that is the only home for more than
3,000 people. An organizer addresses the men, who chose to sit in order to show
the military that they were not going to be violent.
~ ~ ~
|The day we visited, Al Huda residents learned the Coalition Provisional
Authority was evicting them. One woman pulled me aside to show the
identification cards of her children and other family members. This is
who they are evicting! Where are we to go? she cried. As she pleaded for
our help, she and other mothers began laying out the I.D. cards on the street
for me to document their plight.
~ ~ ~
||A child climbs on one of Baghdads ever-present piles of garbage.
In the background is the Chaldean Church of the Assumption of the Blessed
Virgin Mary. Chaldeans, members of one of the oldest Christian churches, have
been living peacefully alongside Baghdads Muslim community for hundreds
of years. Both are victims of the wars violence.
~ ~ ~
|Surrounded by open sewage and rubble, a little girl near Hai Tarik
stands near her familys water supply -- a broken plastic barrel. Pools of
sewage are everywhere in Iraq, in part because the lack of predictable
electricity keeps drainage pumps from working.
~ ~ ~
||With businesses destroyed and roads that connect them to other towns
virtually impassable, Al Huda squatters become creative entrepreneurs. At the
entrance to the camp a woman sets up an instant convenience store
-- the only one around -- selling a handful of essential items that
range from eggs to cigarettes.
~ ~ ~
|At the Magreb Youth Art Center in Baghdad, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton and a
young artist display the boys handcrafted pottery. The unique center,
sponsored by a nongovernmental organization and the Norwegian government, seeks
to offer the arts as an alternative to the violence of war. Unfortunately,
security concerns have made many NGOs withdraw from the country, and there is
little money available to continue worthwhile projects like the center.
~ ~ ~
||Even their squalid living conditions in the Al Huda squatters camp
dont prevent childrens smiles for the photographer. These children,
along with hundreds of others, were running barefoot or in open flip-flops
through rubble, garbage and disease-laden sewage. Thousands of squatters, their
homes destroyed by coalition bombings, are living in the bombed-out buildings
that were a former training center for Saddam Husseins security forces.
But while we were there they were told they will be evicted at the end of
February. Where they will go is anybodys guess.
National Catholic Reporter,
February 13, 2004