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Skeptical Iraqis prefer window-shopping through TV amid security concern
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12:04, February 11, 2008

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Imad Mahmoud once again saw the familiar shops and stalls of the Baiyaa market and heard the shouting of peddlers, but he could not bargain and buy anything. He was watching TV.

Reduced sectarian violence and blasts are encouraging Iraqis trapped in their houses to venture out. Yet, to a lot of people, the fear of being hunt down by rival militia and being exposed to spooky bombing attacks is still lingering.

Like Mahmoud, they choose to savor their good old days by following TV cameras, including a popular program by the satellite channel Al-Sharqiya.

The documentary dubbed "A City Daily Life" records daily life in the streets of Iraq. It is produced in the simplest way, one cameraman holding his machine shooting whatever happening in the streets without even voiceover.

"I like this program. I'm afraid of going to Baiyaa or Sadriya markets where I used to do shopping. Now, it is really nice to go window-shopping this way," said Mahmoud, a resident in the Sunni neighborhood of Jamia in western Baghdad.

"I can't guarantee the safety of my family and myself because Iam afraid that the militia may suddenly prey on us when they notice we are strangers in their enclaves."

The main stall market located on Baiyaa's Eshreen thoroughfare, is one of Baghdad's most bustling markets. The middle-class district in southwestern Baghdad now is under control of Shiite Muslims after most of Sunni families were driven out in June 2007 during a fierce wave of turf war, which have carved much of the capital city into a patchwork of Sunni and Shiite enclaves.

The specter of being targeted by militia even prevents Shiites themselves from visiting the market. "Maybe Baiyaa market is safe for women," said Ahmed Talal, a 43-year-old businessman who lives in another district.

"My wife often goes to the market. She says it is safe for her to go but not for me. We believe people there are Iraqis and in our conservative society they would not harm a woman."

"I don't trust security in Baghdad markets as a whole, not only because of militias, there were also bomb attacks that kill dozens of people as well. Even if we feel safe, somehow, how long would it last? We are not sure," he said.

Abu Ahmad, who live in the neighborhood, said a tour to the Baiyaa market used to be his daily necessity.

"I used to listen joyfully to the cries of vendors who wanted to show their goods to shoppers. It was my everyday pleasure," said the 65-year-old civil servant retiree.

"Nowadays I can only watch the TV channels that show markets all over Iraq. I visited some of the places in the past years. But now I can only imagine myself wondering there or even perceiving the smell."

The U.S. military said violence in Iraq has dropped by about 60percent since June. Gruesome bloodsheds, nevertheless, remain haunting from time to time.

Blasts at two Baghdad pet markets on Feb. 1 killed nearly 100 people. One of the targeted market, known as Al-Ghazil, was rocked by a similar bombing last November in which 13 people were killed.

The U.S. military blamed the November plot on Shiite militias who it said intended to compel local people to seek their protection by creating chaos.

Abdul Nassir Ureibi, 36, used to frequent the market selling cats, dogs and birds.

"I really prefer now watching my favorite market through televisions, including Al-Sharqiya, because I don't trust what the government says about security improvement," he said.

Muwafaq Hashim is willing to believe the upbeat security and to venture out to revisit the major business streets in the Khadraa neighborhood where he lives.

"I saw the Khadraa market on the 'A City Daily Life' program. It was marvelous that various goods are available there, much more than what I can find in the markets nearby," he said.

His wife, however, insisted none of her family members be allowed to take a risk.

Hashim recalled the old days when he and his friends used to spend hours at the Khadraa market. "I used to go with my friends in the past to drink tea, buy sweets from vendors, and stop for fresh orange juice and gulp it down joyfully without a single drop left."

As the cameraman was shooting a popular market in Iraq's third largest city of Mosul, some 400 km north of Baghdad, some peddlers and bystanders took the chance to complain the poor services in their markets and the hurdles they face in daily life.

"I only want to tell the government through your camera that they should take care of us, because the authorities here prevented us from opening our stalls in this market saying the stalls showing the market as uncivilized, but how can we feed our families?" a man in his 30s spoke to the camera.

A disabled young man showed his crippled right hand in front of the camera and complained that he was jobless and needed help from the government.

Such demands are common in Iraqi cities where unemployment is rampant, and some complaints about basic services, such as scarce power supplies and acute fuel shortage, raised in an ironic way as after five years of the U.S.-led war, adequate basic services to Iraqis are kind of pipe dreams.

When seeing the camera, an old vendor began shouting sarcastically, "We need the services. Where is water? Where is electricity? Where is oil?" It might still take a long time before he gets an answer.

Source: Xinhua

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