Sunday, July 17, 2005

Iraqis and the Vanishing Food Rations

After his American employers left and monthly food rations began to shrink, Hussein Hadi started selling his furniture. His bed was the last thing to go. Now Hadi, his wife, sister, mother, two brothers, three children and a nephew sleep on his living- room floor in Baghdad, their blankets sewn from flour sacks. Some nights they fall asleep hungry.

"Hope is small," said his wife, Zainab. Like many Iraqis, the Hadis depend on food rations distributed by the government. Sometimes the sugar they receive has been hardened by rainwater and the rice is crawling with maggots. The soap is so harsh it causes rashes. On the rare occasions when the Hadis received all the items - sugar, rice, flour, baby milk, tea, vegetable oil and a few other essentials - they thought themselves lucky.

I asked one of my friends who live in Baghdad about the last time they received food rations, "last March" was the answer. My family stopped receiving food rations earlier this year.

On another note, it seems that the new Iraqi courts don't guarantee the right to lawyers: prisoners are neither offered the help of a public defender nor can they bring their own lawyers. News about my sibling is so confusing, but we're expecting to know more tomorrow. There are more than ten thousand people in the US prisons in Iraq, and other thousands in Iraq's governmental and paramilitary jails. Everyone deserves to have the right of a phone call to inform his family about his location and status after being arrested, everyone deserves the right of having a trial and knowing what he or she is charged with, and everyone deserves to have a lawyer for his trial.

On a third note, I'll send some burn medications in the next couple of days to the victims of the big gas station attack of yesterday where hundreds of innocent Iraqis were killed, burned and injured. This batch of medicines will be the first in Phase Two of my family's campaign, and the fourth since we started the campaign last year. You can check the final report of Phase One here.