A Dream Called Electricity

Simmering in the summer heat, Iraqis now have a dream called electricity.

It is a part of the bigger dream of reconstruction that collapsed. On all measurable levels, the infrastructure is worse than under the former regime of Saddam Hussein, even when it was crippled by the harshest economic sanctions in modern history.

Iraqis lack security, jobs, potable water, and these days when it really pinches, electricity.

“Electricity is life,” said 45-year-old Zahra Aziz, a schoolteacher and mother of four, using a hand-fan in an attempt to cool herself. “Modern life depends on power, and we do not have that here. Having no electricity means having no water, no light, no airconditioning, and in other words, no life.”

Most people IPS spoke to in Baghdad said they get one hour of electricity in 24 hours.

“June is a very hot month, and this permanent electricity failure is just another way of giving Iraqis slow death,” Umayma Salim, a doctor who quit her work at a hospital in Baghdad due to security threats told IPS.

“We are getting all kinds of diseases — sunstrokes among those work outdoors to provide their children food, and psychological effects on all people. The weak functioning of hospitals and other infrastructure facilities have brought all kinds of complications of health and life.”

“We are boiling here Sammy,” a woman said to her husband on her mobile phone while talking to IPS. “You enjoy the breeze and electricity in Jordan my dear, but do try to take us off this frying pan. We are sweating like Niagara falls over here.”

Temperatures in Iraq are usually above 40 degrees centigrade in June, and can jump to more than 50 degrees in July and August.

“We cannot supply frozen and cooled food properly because of electricity failures,” Jamal Rfai, a supermarket owner in Baghdad told IPS. “We bring very limited quantities and if there is any curfew or trouble in the street, then it is all wasted because of the heat, and of course no one will compensate our loss.”

Workers at water service stations speak of incessant electricity cuts. “The main problem we are facing is electricity supply,” a worker who gave his name as Ahmed told IPS. “We have our standby generators, but they are meant to be used in emergency, not for so many hours a day as we do nowadays. Besides, the fuel supply is also not sufficient.”

Waiting time at petrol stations in Baghdad continues to average more than 24 hours. People sleep in their cars, or hire others to sit in their cars for them. And there is no guarantee there will be petrol at the end of the wait.

Most factories have stopped production because of the security situation and the lack of electricity.

“I moved my plastic bags factory to another area seeking better security, but now I cannot work because there is no electricity,” Ahmad Ali, a factory owner from Baghdad told IPS. “We are wasting our time hoping for something that we will never have because this occupation intentionally kills life in this country.”

Similar complaints are coming from farmers. Many say production is down at least 80 percent from what it was before the U.S.-led occupation.

“It is deliberate damage caused by the occupation,” Salim Abdul-Sattar, a local politician from Baghdad told IPS. “To cut electricity is to cut the main vein of life, and that is the main goal of the occupation.”

Abdul Sattar believes that the occupation authorities “could have provided electricity in a few months if they wanted to, but this problem is useful for what they call creative chaos.”

Most of Iraq faced near total electricity failure last week. Iraqi media outlets like al-Hurra and al-Iraqiyah which are known to be heavily influenced by the U.S. government broadcast messages claiming that terrorists had attacked the main electricity stations, causing power outages.

“We are now used to hearing such lies,” a government engineer who works at one of the stations told IPS.

Ali al-Fadhily is an IPS correspondent in Baghdad who works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, a U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region. Read other articles by Ali, or visit Ali's website.

4 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Andersen said on June 21st, 2007 at 6:54am #

    During the bombing of Iraq at the start of the war, all one heard in the news was how precise and smart were the bombs falling on Iraq and how little co-lateral damage these bombs caused. So I’m just wondering who destroyed the hospitals, the schools, the power plants, the water refineries of Iraq. I think the reason they called the bombs “smart” was because they compared them to the average intelligence of the western audience who is still watching the war with dazed eyes.

  2. Chris Crass said on June 21st, 2007 at 1:13pm #

    I’ve been opposed to this god-damned war since I predicted it on September 11th, but that’s no reason for me to be a pompous jerk to people who don’t see things the way I do. I suspect that if you actually cared for the war to end, you wouldn’t spew out jokes so stupid they’d make Jon Stewart cringe.
    People who adopt the thinking that anybody who disagrees with them is a moron are misanthropic narcisistic cynics. A good example of people like this would be the people who own this country and the people who started this greed-based war (Two fairly incestuous gangs).
    Do you oppose the war because you genuinely oppose it or do you just want to pad your ego by posturing as such so you can look down your nose at all those “watching the war with dazed eyes?”
    If there’s any hope for the future, it is in those whom you scorn. People like you alienate people you disagree with, thereby encouraging reactionary thought (Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran) while simultaneously undermining radical/progressive movements. It’s hard to change someone’s mind when you openly hate them.
    Unless you have money.

  3. Andersen said on June 22nd, 2007 at 6:18am #

    Chris Crass:
    I am of the belief that in a democracy, people are just as guilty as their chosen government. If I contract someone to do a job for me and he kills someone in the process, then I have the lame excuse of saying “I didn’t know.” If I hire him again knowing his methods, then I am just an accomplice and cannot vindicate myself.
    The people who do not use their right to vote or vote for a government (twice) that then carries out these murderous acts cannot and should not be considered civilians.

  4. Chris Crass said on June 23rd, 2007 at 2:16pm #

    Whether or not the grand jury of Andersen would consider these people citizens is of little consequence. There’s a couple of ways to get anything approaching accountable government and changing people’s minds is probably the least violent. Maybe you’d just like to call them assholes until they bend to your will? Good luck with that.