Friday, January 16, 2009

Return of the Baghdad Blogger

After a two-year absence from Iraq, Salam Pax has now not only returned to his hometown along the Tigris but has started to blog regularly, something he hasn't done since 2006 on his last blog, Shut Up You Fat Whiner. On his new blog, Salam Pax: The Baghdad Blogger, Salam reports that the security situation in Baghdad has indeed improved (On Security):
About three years ago while making a film for Newsnight I was filming an Iraqi army manned checkpoint. They didn’t mind me filming but they all put on something to cover their faces, balaclavas or scarves with dark sunglasses, just anything that would conceal their identity. The soldiers I talked to told me how they would never leave their homes wearing uniforms. The uniform is taken out of the house in a plastic bag until they are out of their neighbourhoods.

Not today. There are more checkpoints than before. Every bridge has at least one at each end. There are checkpoints in and out of many districts and Iraqi police and army control all of them. And not a single balaclava in sight and none of the anxiety and nervousness you used to feel before.
On his Twitter account, Salam sums up his Friday in Baghdad:
Fun day in Baghdad = Lunch at a nice restaurant, a drive through the city, a family b-day gathering and later drinks @home.

As another measure of increased stability, Iraq Pundit notes that Iraqis are buying cars faster than they can be imported, citing a LAT article on the subject. This optimism has also been corroborated by Iraqis that Iraq Pundit has kept in touch with (Developments in Iraq):
While nobody's reporting that all's well in Iraq, improvements are undeniable. In my own social circle some of the most anti-American, anti-invasion professionals have returned to Baghdad. They had left in 2003, and now they're back in Baghdad to help return the country to normal.

Iraqis are looking forward to voting at the end of the month. Many more now understand the importance of the elections, vowing never to boycott the vote ever again.

UPDATE: While Salam Pax rides around Baghdad, Touta spends the afternoon with her family going to a restaurant and shopping. She too, like Salam, notes the signs of hope in Baghdad (Silent Secrets of a blossoming Baghdad).
First of all, I have to admit, there has not been one day where i have been happy with electricity/water/safety in Baghdad. But you have a distinct feeling that things will improve. You see people smiling at each other now. Shopkeepers sing rather than cry over the loss of someone, or complain about the masked men.

A million fairy lights illuminate the dark that once was. The generators hum a melodious tune in the background. Now when the generators run out of benzin, or the electricity is turned off, instead of the curses and prayers, candles float around flickering as everyone patiently waits while cracking jokes.

Its friday, and there are no traffic!! Correction:less traffic. On the way back, I walked out the car and wandered while the queue did not move. I sat in the front seat, and others got dizzy as I constantly turned to try to take everything in. Cars are suddenly new and shiny. Oh, and new types of hummer have been brought into that shop. People buy them and bounce through the streets with Eminem blaring toy soldiers or some other song. Also, another improvement, I see more girls. They walk around in groups smilling and stopping at juice parlours.

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