Waiting for the First Bomb of the Day

Election Week in Iraq

Waiting for the First Bomb of the Day

Election Week in Iraq

Waiting for the First Bomb of the Day
An email conversation about the news of the day.
Jan. 24 2005 11:45 AM

Election Week in Iraq

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This was my Monday.

8:30 a.m.: Everything is ready, cameras are checked, batteries are charged, and boots are on. I am sitting on the balcony having the first coffee of the day and waiting.

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It's around this time the big explosions usually happen. There is nothing in the world worse than waking up to the sound and the shock of an explosion; you lose precious time trying to figure out if you are OK. If it is just an improvised explosive device, you wouldn't bother going out, because the Americans and the police will already be there and the possibility of having your camera smashed by each of them is very high.

Or was it a car bomb, and if so, where?

Last week we had one 100 yards away from the entrance of our hotel. The police were very nice: They just punched and kicked when they saw the camera. Displaying the date and time setup screen was enough to convince them that I had erased all the pictures of a car bomb attack against the Australians.

The past two days were calm, in Baghdad terms, i.e., no huge car bombs, just the normal explosions and violence.

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The phone has just rung—it was another photographer checking things out. "Did you hear that?" he asked.

"Yes, but I couldn't see the smoke."

"Yeah, brother, I will check the wires and call you later."

"OK, take care and keep me posted."

I can hear police sirens in the streets now, but usually it doesn't mean anything; most probably it means the police are too scared to be trapped in a traffic jam.

I just checked the wires. They said the bomb is in the Green Zone. Back to my coffee, waiting for the next one.

10:30 p.m.: This morning's explosion turned out to be a car bomb against the prime minister's party headquarters. The Americans cordoned off the area.

"I will smash you and your camera if you take a picture," said the GI who stood behind the barbed wire a kilometer from the real site of the explosion.

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad is an Iraqi freelance photo-journalist. He is also a columnist for Britain's Guardian newspaper. Wendell Steavenson is British/American writer whose work from Iraq has appeared in Slate, the Financial Times magazine, and Granta. Her first book,Stories I Stole, is a chronicle of Edvard Shevardnadze's Georgia. Abdul-Ahad and Steavenson met in Baghdad at the end of 2003 and plan to marry at the end of this year.