Tuesday, September 26, 2006

It is Not a Miserable Life. It is Worse Then Miserable

I know an ever-dwindling number of doctors and nurses in Iraq. Those who have not been murdered or become "collateral damage" are fleeing in terror for their lives. In the last 8 months alone five people whom I knew. Three of them nurses two of them doctors have been killed in Iraq. In each of those murders those murdered were targetted because they were medical personnel. For three of those murders there I have reason to believe that they were murdered by Interior Ministry "special forces." Back on July 10th Erdla posted this:

A waning professional class

A concurrent shortage of doctors and nurses has also been reported in Basra. According to Abdullah, there are no reliable statistics on how many doctors, dentists, pharmacists and nurses have left the area, but unofficial data suggests that at least 200 health professionals have left since January. Health ministry statistics also suggest that an average of 30 doctors and nurses per month have left Iraq over the past year after being targeted by criminal gangs.

The emergency unit in the Teaching Hospital was closed for five months after a number of doctors were killed by unidentified attackers while working there. Now many doctors and nurses refuse to go to work, fearing for their lives. "I have a family to look after," said one paediatrician from the Teaching Hospital, speaking anonymously. "Even though it's my responsibility to look after my patients, I can't risk turning my sons into orphans - their father, also a doctor, was killed while doing his duty at the hospital."

Nurses earning the equivalent of between US $150 and $200 per month say these salaries do not justify the tremendous risks they take. "We've asked the central government to review their salaries," said Abdullah. "If salaries aren't increased, we're going to lose the nurses.

On June 11th I posted this:

"The third child Ibtisam Mahmoud is aged 9. She was injured by the bomb targeting a police patrol in the Al-Sadriya market. Her condition isn't known but isn't thought to be very serious. She's being carried away from the hospital by her brother*. Ibtisam was not treated at the hospital. She was turned away. The hospital was too full to take any more patients so her brother had to carry her through a neighbourhood that's now regularly bombed, on foot, in scorching heat, to see if he can find a hospital that will treat her.

In the comments to that posting Maryam who recently did a guest posting here made the following comments:

"To come back to the point our Irish host who is a friend to Iraqis all of us despite the categories westerners want to put us into is making. Wounded people being turned away from hospitals is very common now. I work in an emergency department and we have no space. There are no beds in the wards. They are all taken with badly wounded people. We cannot get plasma. We cannot get drugs. We cannot even get normal saline. We have to wash surgical gloves that are meant to be thrown away after one use. The list is endless. I go home now and I am to exhausted and numb to do anything but sit and stare.

Just get the filthy murdering American PIGS out and we can start to cope until then they stop everything that would be good for MY PEOPLE from happening. We are Iraqis first. IRAQIS. Take your murdering PIG soldiers and your murdering exiles and GO!


You AMERICANS opened our borders to these fanatic criminals you AMERICANS are perfectly happy to let them murder our children when you are not murdering them yourselfs. Then you point and say "oh look the dirty Arabs we CIVILISED AMERICAN PIGS must stop the arabs from killing one another" IT IS YOU AND YOUR TRAITORS DOING THE KILLING OF OUR CHILDREN!!! TAKE YOUR CHALABIS AND YOUR ALLAWIS AND YOUR BARZANIS GO HOME TO AMERICA AND LET THEM HELP YOU SODOMISE YOUR OWN DISGUSTING COUNTRY!!!!

I am sorry Mark my friend for this language but they need to learn and I speak only whatevery Iraqi knows. They even HIDE behind our children they lure them with sweets and toys hoping to use them as shields.



On June 13th I posted a photo showing the conditions under which people like Maryam have to work. Today the doctors in Yarmouk hospital have gone on indefinite strike. They regularly get beaten up in the A&E department by interior ministry commandos. That's the interior ministry that's riddled with death squads. That's the interior ministry whose "special forces" report directly to the US embassy official James Steele and American "counter-insurgency" specialist Steven Casteel. That's the interior ministry special forces who get paid directly from American funds. Does this sound familiar?

"People are not just killed by death squads in El Salvador - they are decapitated and then their heads are placed on pikes and used to dot the landscape. Men are not just disemboweled by the Salvadoran Treasury Police; their severed genitalia are stuffed into their mouths. Salvadoran women are not just raped by the National Guard; their wombs are cut from their bodies and used to cover their faces. It is not enough to kill children; they are dragged over barbed wire until the flesh falls from their bones, while parents are forced to watch." [ same location as immediately preceding link. - mfi]

Take a look at the photographs below and the supplied AP captions. The middle one is a death notice for a doctor who worked in Yarmouk hospital. No I'm not going to translate it for you. I'm too busy trying not to puke. And the tears of rage in my eyes are making it too difficult to focus:

Empty ward Yarmouk hospital Doctor's strikeAn employee of a Hospital walks across an empty ward, following an indefinite strike called by Iraqi doctors of Yarmouk hospital, in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday Sept.26, 2006. Doctors of Yarmouk hospital went on an indefinite strike, after Iraqi police commandos beat up one of the doctors, because they were taking time to treat one of their bleeding colleague, later that colleague was treated and saved. Doctors said that the strike will continue till Iraqi ministry of Defense take action against Iraqi police commandos, according to police at the hospital. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

Death notice yarmouk hospitalA death notice about a doctor, who was killed recently by unidentified gunmen, is seen written on a black banner, at the Yarmouk hospital, in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday Sept.26, 2006. Doctors of Yarmouk hospital went on an indefinite strike, after Iraqi police commandos beat up one of the doctors, because they were taking time to treat one of their bleeding colleague, later that colleague was treated and saved. Doctors said that the strike will continue till Iraqi ministry of Defense take action against Iraqi police commandos, according to police at the hospital. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

Doctors in Yarmouk hospital are on strike demanding protection from death squadsDoctors of Yarmouk hospital look on from their residential building, after an indefinite strike called them, in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday Sept.26, 2006. Doctors of Yarmouk hospital went on an indefinite strike, after Iraqi police commandos beat up one of the doctors, because they were taking time to treat one of their bleeding colleague, later that colleague was treated and saved. Doctors said that the strike will continue till Iraqi ministry of Defense take action against Iraqi police commandos, according to police at the hospital. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)


Now read on. I've posted below in full an article written by an Iraqi doctor. It's description of what Iraqi doctors' lives have become under the American funded and led efforts to rip Iraq into pieces. He's pulled his punches, I know from what I personally have seen and from what my friends in Iraq have told me that he's pulled his punches quite considerably. You should note that despite the fact that he's pulled his punches that he dare not give his name.

This is just one aspect of the blood-soaked miserable hell. That America has created in Iraq.

"It is Not a Miserable Life. It is Worse Then Miserable" - A Doctor's Day in Baghdad



I have a big family. My eldest two are already dentists and both abroad. I have one daughter just married one month ago. so I am not yet a grandpa. Although I have perfect job satisfaction, Full Professor, with MRCP, FRCP and a couple more degrees from London and France, things are so unhappy here in Baghdad, there is no quality of life at all. There are no services: we are loaded with garbage, as it is not collected more than once every so many weeks, the garbage collectors are also afraid of being killed. We have almost no electricity, no fuel, bad water supply, and what's more you could get killed whether you are Shiite or Sunnite, if you fall in the wrong hands. I nearly got killed on several occasions, I cannot count the sheep sacrified for my safety till now.

As for our colleagues, nearly none is with me from our medical class, all have left the country, the last one two months ago, to Oman. The only one left with me is XXXXX, he is a physician in the department of Medicine

It is not a miserable life. If there is a grade more than miserable, then it will be ours!

We work no more than three days a week in the university, medical city, the one which was elegant and beautiful is now surrounded by garbage and barbwires and concrete blocks from all directions. We don't spend more than three hours maximum at work, so that totals to nine hours a week. This is the maximum that anyone is working. In the afternoons most of my colleagues say that they have completely stopped going to their private clinics, for fear of death or abduction. I do no more than one and a half hours in the afternoon, I have to feed my big family. I come back rushing to my house after that, we lock our doors and do not leave at all.

What about shopping? What shopping? You must be joking! It is called Marathon Buying, for I try to spend no more than ten minutes getting all the needed vegetables, fruits and food items--this is on my way back from university, ie three times a week. I also spend another ten minutes in the afternoon on my way back from clinic buying gas (benzine, car fuel) for my home electric generator. It is all black market reaching four to five times the official price. If I need to get it legally, I have to spend overnight in line in front of the gas station, people bring their blankets, water, food, and sleep in the street in front of the gas stations. Of course sometimes I speak nicely to the guard of the gas station, presenting my ID and my buisness card and ask them if I could fill my car off-line. Sometimes they kick me out, othertimes I would get lucky and the guard has some rheumatic complaints, back pain or knees pains and bingo! I can fill my car off-line, with a promise to bring him medicines. Of course without any physical exam or investigations, if I was too lucky, and the stars where on my side that day, then I may even be allowed to get an extra 20 litres of gas for my generator.

A month ago, there were militia men with their guns, storming the dormitories of resident doctors in the medical city. They were particularly looking for doctors from Mosul or Anbar. There was a big fuss, and target doctors went into hidings, none was caught. Next day, two of them -- rheumatology post-graduates under my supervision -- asked me to give them leave to go to their hometowns and not be back except for their exams, and that even their training and teaching be taken there. I agreed, because they were leaving anyway. They would have been killed if they were caught, not because they have done any crime, but just because they are Sunni from Mosul and Anbar.

I believe that many doctors from southern parts of Iraq, who were Shiites, also left the dormitory on that day, because they feared that they are not safe anymore, and that next time it will be their turn, when maybe Sunni militia gunmen will come. So everyone left. Actually in that week I had prepared a lecture for post-grad doctors in the medical city. No one appeared, as all resident doctors had left. Of course many have come back again, but are terrified. Yet life has to go on.

The same applies for other hospitals, services are almost non-existant now. I was in Yarmouk hospital two days ago. The resident doctor whom I was visiting was living in a place in the hospital with broken, dusty furniture, wood and metal scattered all over, doors and windows broken. It looked like an animal barn. I was requesting a death certificate for a colleague. I went with him to the morgue where he kept the death registry. Outside the morgue there were the bodies of two young men, both shot in the head, laid on stretchers in the open air. The hospital was barricaded behind huge cement walls-- the hospital itself had been targeted several times by car bombs. A few months ago, doctors in this hospital declared a one day strike because they were being regularly beaten and wounded by officers of the National Guard. The hospitals are frequently raided by militia men who pull the wounded out of their hospital beds and drag them to where they will be executed.

Attendance of patients to hospitals has dropped tremendously. We used to see an avrerage of 100 one hundred patients in our consultation clinic at Rheumatology every single day prior to 2003. We don't see more than twenty these days. Don't ask me where did the patients disappear to? Many are scared to leave their homes and go to the hospitals. The hospital used to provide medicines for the chronically ill, for diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. We used to have a monthly blood check followed by a month supply of DMRDs. These supplies are now so infrequent, blood checking is not done. Because services are so irregular, most patients got fed up and decided it is no more worth it to attend hospitals. Even simple NSAIDs most of the times are not available to patients coming for acute complaints. Many who used to come from towns and cities away from Baghdad, for better treatment in the capital city, now think it is too risky and dangerous to travel to Baghdad for follow ups. Instead, patients stop their therapy altogether, or depend on local facilities and whatever simple resources they get where they are, regardless of whether it is efficient or not. The financial situation of most families in Baghdad has gone so much down, that many find it is a luxury to treat chronic illnesses. The priority is for food, fuel and staying alive.

This is a small summary of what and how we are living.


What of Maryam? Well I got one piece of good news today. My friend Maryam phoned me. She got another death threat the day before yesterday. A very detailed and specific death threat. It detailed every movement she'd made over the last few days, it detailed every one of the many different routes she took from her home to the hospital where she worked. It gave similar details for her widowed mother and for her children. It was so specific and so detailed that she knew it was time. She and what remains of her family didn't bother to pack. They piled into their cars and drove hell for leather through the night. Through al-Anbar on what is the now the most dangerous highway in the world. They were shot at three times during that trip.

At least they made it. At least she's alive.