Diary of a Human Shield
American and Canadian peace activists report from Baghdad
Tuesday, March 25, 2003,
11:30 a.m. EST
This entry was written by Peggy Gish, 60, an organic farmer and conflict management consultant from Athens, Ohio. Her nonviolent activism extends from the civil rights movement of the 1960s through today. She has been in Iraq since October 2002.
As I write this two bombs exploded in the background. So far everyone in the team is safe. We have been shaken and feel a lot of grief about the continuous bombing of Baghdad. It has mostly been at night, but there is sporadic bombing during the day. In the horizon in most directions we see plumes of black smoke coming up from buildings burning. Yesterday there was a lot of black smoke from burning oil--that was hard on me physically. Today it isn't as bad.
Cars are still on the streets, and we have been able to get around in taxis. Yesterday many of us went to a hospital where wounded people are being taken. We went into the wards to talk with patients and their families and hear from physicians about their injuries. One was a 5-year-old girl with major spinal cord injuries from shelling; another was a 12-year-old boy who had a large cut in his abdomen from shrapnel, and his intestines were coming out. He and 11 other members of his family were injured by shrapnel while in their home two days ago and were hospitalized. Many others were awaiting or just coming out of surgery for removing shrapnel.
Right now we are waiting to be picked up to see the destruction at bombing sites. For the last three nights I have slept in a tent at the Al Wathba water treatment plant, which is next to a large hospital complex. We could not get approval to put the tents on hospital grounds. Most of the bombing has been more distant from our camp, but a couple have sounded about one-fourth or one-half mile from us. There is a shelter building nearby where we can go in if we are in danger.
I have appreciated being at the camp. The more out-of-doors setting with grass, trees, and birds has fed my spirit. People come talk with us, and we have developed relationships with workers and their families. We have visited the hospitals and people in the neighborhood, and we go elsewhere during the day. We are accompanying people and a neighborhood--not just institutions. Tonight I plan to sleep at the Al-Daar Hotel.
I have been experiencing a mixture of fear, anger, but mostly grief about what is happening. There is no good reason for this assault on innocent people. I am impressed by their strength and courage and their graciousness to us.
We don't know from day to day what we will be able to do. Our "minders" have just started wanting to know where everyone is during the day, but we have been able to go to most places we want to go. Our situation could change anytime. We are discussing how we would deal with these possibilities, and also how we would respond to an invasion.
We pray that the countries of the world are still able to stop what is happening here. We need your prayers. We have been carried by God's love.
Monday, March 24, 2003,
12:30 a.m EST
This entry was written by CPT staffer Jane Pritchard in Toronto, based on phone conversations with the team in Baghdad.
The team reported from the Al-Daar Hotel that they had survived another night of heavy bombing from B-52 bombers. It felt like the bombs were bigger or perhaps closer, although they were not close enough to do damage in the immediate neighbourhood. The last bombs fell an hour earlier and some also fell twice during the previous day.
They had heard eight hours earlier from the team camped out at the Al Wathab Water Treatment Plant adjacent to Medical City. No bombs had fallen near this complex.
There is a lot of smoke over the city from both burning buildings and pits of burning oil. The blackness in the sky looks like an approaching storm, and it obscures the sun. Team members visited several wounded civilians at the Yarmouk Hospital downtown. People were injured when a nearby government building was bombed, resulting in wounds from shrapnel and flying glass and head injuries from pressure wave concussion.
On Sunday several team members joined the worship service at St Raphael's Catholic Church. Others met with Margaret Hassan, Director of CARE International. The U.N .food distribution has stopped, and while some private food shops are open, prices are climbing very rapidly as shortages develop. The water supply and telephones have stayed on. The power went out for a few hours during the bombing but is back on.
The team says that Iraqis are not shocked, nor awed, by what they have seen. While the bombs are coming from on high, they say that God is higher. They say that God looked down on the Tower of Babel (south of Baghdad) and found it insignificant. According to the Bible (Gen. 11), the people of Babel had said, "Come let us build a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves." But God destroyed their high tech tower, and frustrated their attempt to invade the abode of God, and then "the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth."
Sunday, March 23,
7:45 a.m. EST
This entry was written by CPT staffer Claire Evans in Chicago, based on phone conversations with the team in Baghdad.
The team reported buildings in the area shake and rattle when the bombs fall. After hearing a report of a downed U.S. pilot, two team members went immediately to the Tigris River to observe or help, but could see nothing. Smoke is now throughout the city. The team expected to leave for worship with a local church. They send warm greetings and appreciation to people around the world who are praying and taking public actions to end this war. They want you to know your actions are appreciated by Iraqis.
Saturday, March 22
2:30 p.m. EST
This entry was written by CPT staffer Claire Evans.
The team continues to be safe and is energetically pursuing its mission of providing friendship with the Iraqi people and witnessing against the use military force. Tonight four team members are in the tent at the Al Wathab Water Treatment Plant, and Al Monsur Pediatric Hospital. Two remain at the Al Daar Hotel. There was bombing in Baghdad throughout the day, but it was quiet from 7:30 p.m to 9:30 p.m. (Baghdad time).
The streets of Baghdad were quiet although a few shops were open. The team visited a family. Near the hospital, the team saw a 75 children playing soccer. They held a prayer service at 10:00 p.m. and remain calm in their convictions.
Friday, March 21
1:30 p.m. EST
This entry was written by CPT staffer Claire Evans.
Bombs have been falling for the past hour, according to Lisa Martens and Stewart Vriesinga, who are at the Al-Daar Hotel.
In Baghdad the bombing is more intense tonight than it was the previous night. Shrapnel can be heard rattling in the area. Inside the hotel, severe pressure can be felt when bombs explode. Bombing at tent site, Al Wathba Water Treatment Plant, and Al Monsur Pediatric Hospital is somewhat less intense.
Friday, March 21
10:54 a.m. EST
This entry is written by CPT Canadian coordinator Doug Pritchard in Toronto, based on phone conversations with volunteers' family and friends.
Scott Kerr and Lisa Martens report there is more life on the streets today, more shops open and street traffic. They visited the team staying at the Al Wathba Water Treatment Plant and Medical City complex and walked around that neighborhood. They had many heartfelt conversations. The Lebanese Embassy is nearby and they spoke with the Ambassador.
They met with doctors at the Al Monsur Pediatric Hospital, who said it was hard to send children home and delay their treatment in order to prepare the hospital for civilian casualties. When Lisa asked them, "What are your dreams?", they replied, "No war. No sanctions. But really, it is your country that needs the dreams."
As Lisa returned to the Al-Daar Hotel, the taxi driver spoke of his wife and baby and the difficulties of maintaining his ancient vehicle. But he refused any payment from Lisa for the trip.
The team is anxious about the coming night. Some of them will be at the Al-Daar Hotel. The last attack only took an hour, but the building shook heavily and it seemed to go on forever. Others will be in tents at the Water Plant. They have access to some underground water pipes for shelter if needed. The team says it is hard getting enough sleep but their spirit is good.