I was always interested in the culture and architecture of the Middle East, especially Mesopotamia.
Iraq is practically a “country – museum”. Unfortunately, most of the relics are kept in museums around the world: in USA, England, France, Germany and who knows where. The things we call simply “stealing” the western, civilized world calls : “preserving the cultural heritage”. So, they “preserve the cultural heritage” of Iraq, Jordan, India, Greece, Egypt etc. (the list is long).
“The preservation of the cultural heritage” was very obvious when Americans invaded Iraq. They were not choosy. They “preserved” everything they could get their hands on, including paper money (US$) even though, it was “the cultural heritage” of the modern times.
I spent 8 years in Iraq, all together: from June 1979 till March 1985 and 1989 and 1990 till the American Invasion (Gulf War, Desert Storm).
I was there before Saddam Hussein and during most of his era. He came to power at the end of 1979 once the previous president, Ahmed Hassan Al-Bakr retired. Saddam was practically prepared for the position.
I was visiting building sites from Basra (South) to Mosul (North). I think that I visited all cities and most villages in Iraq. I was a witness to Iraq’s prosperity during Saddam. He built new cities, roads, irrigation, infrastructure etc. You didn’t have poor and homeless people. Schools and hospitals were free, food was cheap. Actually, everything was cheap and all the people were able to buy whatever they wanted.
My impression was that at least 90% of the Iraqi people loved him.
When Khomeini came to power in Iran, Saddam attacked Iran hoping for a fast victory. But, the war became longer and longer, Iraq became financially weaker and weaker. The invasion of Kuwait, was the beginning of Saddam’s end.
Practically, during all my time in Iraq, I was living under war conditions. First I left Iraq 3 weeks since the beginning of the war with Iran. I escaped by car and through Jordan, Syria, Greece (where I came by boat from Syria) I reached Belgrade. I spent 3 weeks traveling and visiting places.
After 3 months, I went back to Iraq. The war conditions were – “normal conditions”.
At the beginning Baghdad was bombed every day, a few times a day, randomly, targeting different parts of the city. Then, for some time, the first bomb would hit around 4am. Then the number of Iranian attacks lessened but, they again became random, different times and places. Usually, you would hear the alarm before the attack. After some time, attacks were so fast that alarms were not activated. I was kind of “happy” whenever I heard an explosion. It meant that I was alive, the bomb had landed somewhere else, not on you.
At the beginning of the war, we didn’t have shelters. Then, they started building shelters of reinforced concrete with walls and roof 2-3m thick. One such shelter, near my house, was hit directly, all people inside were killed.
The city was dark. Windows were covered during the night so lights could not be seen from the outside. No lights on the streets. Headlights on cars were painted in blue, producing only minimal light.
I was living between the palace of Saddam Hussein (approx. 2.5km on one side) and an oil refinery (approx. 3km on the other side). Those two places were attacked almost every day and MIGs were constantly flying above our heads.
Also, Iraqi air defence was pretty active, and, sometimes, it was an even greater danger than the Iranian MIGs.
Most building sites I was involved in, were military projects or the projects of special interest to Iraq and as such, some of the most likely Iranian targets.
The airport was closed, naturally. All transport, passenger as well as freight, was going through Jordan (approx. 1000km mostly through desert). The Kuwaiti border was open till the American Invasion.
The last time I left Iraq, it was in September 1990. It was through the Iraq – Turkey border. Till then, I used to extend my residence permit once a month going to Kuwait.
Iraq extends a working visa once a year, max 5 times. Previously, I was working in Iraq from 1979 till 1985 on military projects and projects of special interest of the Iraqi Government (Saddam’s bunker, HQ of Baath Party etc.), my visa was extended 6th and 7th time. During my 7th year in Iraq, I moved to Jordan.
When I came back in 1989, I couldn’t get a working visa so, I had to go to Kuwait once a month and stay in Iraq practically as a tourist for a month at a time.
Since, Iraq invaded Kuwait on 2 August 1990 and the situation with USA was pretty tense, I couldn’t go to Kuwait any more, and Iraq didn’t have a good relationship with the other neighbors except Jordan. I had to leave the country.
My driver Zoran gave me a lift to the Turkish border which I entered on foot. It was a strange feeling. Once, a very busy border where you had to wait for 4-5 hours, was – almost deserted. The increased presence of the army was visible. War was in the air.
Luckily, my wife and children stayed in Belgrade after the holiday. They were supposed to come to Iraq after me, but, due to increased risk of the war, we decided for them to stay in Belgrade and wait.
America invaded the country. The reminiscence of American “values” and their “help” are still there: Thousands of people killed, hundreds of thousands sick and poor people, ancient sites destroyed …We, Westerners (as they refer to us) will never be welcomed and safe in Iraq anymore – thanks to… you know who.
Oduvek sam bio zainteresovan za kulturu I arhitekturu Bliskog Istoka, specijalno Mesopotamije.
Iraq je prakticno drzava – muzej. Toliko istorije na jednom mestu. Nazalost, vecina ostataka se cuvaju u muzejima Amerike, Engleske, Francuske, Nemacke I ko zna gde jos. Ono sto mi zovemo kradja, zapadni, “civilizovani” svet zove “zastita kulturne bastine”. Tako su “zastitili kulturnu bastinu Iraka, Jordana, Grcke, Egipta itd (lista je dugacka).
To se pogotovu videlo kada su upali u Irak I kako su poceli da “stite” sve sto im se naslo pod rukom. Nisu bili “gadljivi” ni na papirnati novac (specijalno americke dolare), mada je to “kulturna vrednost” novijeg datuma.
U Iraku sam proveo 8 godina; od juna 1979 do marta 1985 I 1989-1990 kada sam ga napustio uoci Americke invazije (Gulf War, Desert Storm)
Bio sam tamo pre Sadama Huseina, i za vreme Sadama Huseina. Sadam je dosao na vlast krajem 1979 mirnim putem po odlasku u penziju prethodong predsednika Ahmed Hassan AL-Bakra. On je prakticno bio pripreman za tu funkciju.
Obilazio sam gradilista od Basre na jugu do Mosula na severu. Mislim da sam obisao sva mesta u Iraku. Video sam kako se Iraq Izgradjuje pod Sadamovim voctvom; izgradnja gradova, puteva, irigacije, infrastructure. Skole I bolnice su bile besplatne, hrana jeftina. Ustvari, sve je bilo jeftino I dostupno svima.
Moj utisak je bio da ga je bar 90% Iracana obozavao
Po smeni vlasti u Iranu (po odlasku Saha Reze Pahlavija I dolaskom Homeinija), napao je Iran, nadajuci se brzoj pobedi. Rat se oduzio, finansije su slabile, izvrsio je invaziju na Kuwait I to je bio pocetak njegovog kraja.
Znaci, u Iraku sam bio prakticno u sve vreme rata sa Iranom I ziveo pod ratnim uslovima. Prvo sam pobegao iz iraka, 3 nedelje po pocetku rata preko Jordana, Sirije I Grcke (gde sam stigao brodom iz Sirije). Na putu sam proveo 3 nedelje obilazeci zemlje usput.
Posle 3 meseca vratio u Irak. Ratno stanje je bilo – normalno stanje.
U pocetku su bombe padale svaki dan, po nekoliko puta, pogadjajuci razlicite delove Bagdada. Onda, su pocele da padaju redovno ujutru oko 4 sata. Zatim se to proredilo ali su napadi vrseni u razlicita vremena. Pre napada se obicno oglasavaju sirene. Vazno je da se cuje eksplozija. To znaci da si ziv. Kasnije su napadi bivali tako iznenadni da ni znaci upozorenja nisu stigli da budu aktivirani.
U pocetku nije bilo sklonista. Onda su poceli da prave sklonista sa armirano betonskim zidovima I plafonom debelim po 2-3 metra. Jedno takvo u blizini moje kuce u to vreme, je pogodjeno direktno I svi unutra su izginuli.
Grad je bio zamracen. Obavezno pokriveni prozori da se svetlost spolja ne vidi, nema svetala na ulicama a farovi su bili obojeni u plavo tako da se svetlost samo nazirala.
Ja sam stanovao tacno u vazdusnoj liniji izmedju palate Sadama Huseina (oko 2km) sa jedne strane I rafinerije nafte (2-3km) sa druge strane. Ta dva mesta su bombardovna skoro svakodnevno I avioni su konstantno leteli iznad nashi glava.
Iracka protv vazdusna odbrana je konstantno odgovarala, sto je bila dodatna opasnost, nekada cak i veca od Iranskih napada.
Sem toga, projekti na kojima sam radio bili su vojnog karaktera I kao takvi meta Iranaca. To je bila dodatna opasnost.
Aerodrom je normalno bio zatvoren. Sav transport, putnicki I teretni, je isao preko Jordana (oko 1000km kroz pustinju). Granica sa Kuwaitom je bila otvorena do invazije Amerikanaca..
Iraq sam zadnji put napustio, cini mi se u septembru 1990. I to peske, preko Iracko-Turske granice. Do tada sam boravisnu vizu produzavao svakih mesec dana odlaskom u Kuwait.
Iracani produzavaju boravisne dozvole svake godine I to makimalno 5 puta. Obzirom da sam ja radio na vojnim projektima I na projektima od velikog znacaja za Irak (vojne baze, Sadamov bunker, sediste Sadamove Baath partije itd) meni je izdavana specijalna dozvola za 6 pa I 7 godinu boravka. Sedme godine sam napustio Irak I otisao za Jordan.
Kada sam se 1989 vratio, nisam mogao da dobijem boravisnu dozvolu vec sam dozvolu produzavo svakih mesec dana odlaskom za Kuwait. Prakticno, radio sam u statusu turiste.
Kako je 2 avgusta 1990 izvrsena invazija na Kuwait, tamo vise nisam mogao da odlazim pa sam sticajem okolnosti morao da napustim Irak.
Moj vozac Zoran me je do Turske granice dovezao kolima a, onda sam peske presao grancu, usao u Tursku i nastavio za Istanbul I Beograd. U to vreme nije bilo mnogo prelazaka na obe strane. Irak je u to vreme imao vrlo zategnutu situaciju sa svim susedima izuzev Jordana. Kada sam ja prelazio, nije bilo putnika ni na jednu stranu. Nekada je trebalo cekati 4-5 sati na prelazak. Primetno je bilo povecano prisustvo vojske. Rat se osecao u vazduhu.
Srecom, supruga I deca su ostali u Beogradu posle odmora. Trebalo je da dodju zamnom ali, kako se situacija zaostravala, ostali su u Beogradu.
Amerika je izvfrsila invaziju na Irak. Rezultati “njihovih vrednosti” i “njihove pomoci” su jos uvek tamo. Hiljade pobijenih, stotine hiljade bolesnih (zbog osiromasenog urnijuma upotrebljenog kod bombardovanja), stotine hiljada siromasnih, unisteni gradovi, unistene ili tesko ostecene istorijske lokacije…Mi zapadnjaci (kako nas oni oslovljavaju) necemo nikada vise biti dobrodosli u Iraq – zahvaljujuci…zna se vec kome.
About the photos
Most of the photos are from the period 1979-1990. I included a few from 1974, when I was there the first time, as a student of architecture, on the way back from India. A few I “downloaded” from the internet (photos and Google Earth images) because I didn’t have adequate ones among mine. I included photos that are not mine only in order to show the atmosphere of Iraq more realistically. Also, I could not take photos of some interesting places where I was working, due to security reasons.
The sketches of Ctesiphon, Al-Rasheed and Al-Jadriyah House, I was doing on the basis of photos and my memories of the same.
I divided Iraq slide show in 3 parts. Each of them is approximately 4-7min long with traditional Iraqi music in the background.
Vecina fotografija je iz perioda 1979-1990 mada ima I nekoliko iz 1974 kada sam tuda prvi put prosao kao student na povratku iz Indije. Par fotografija sam “skinuo” sa interneta jer nisam imao adekvantne medju mojim a u zelji da sto bolje docaram duh Iraka. Sem toga, neka mesta nisam ni mogao da slikam zbog sigurrnosti.
Ima I par imidza sa Google Earth.
Crteze koji predstavljaju Ctesiphon, Al-Rasheed I Al-Jadriya House, radio sam po secanju I na osnovu fotorgafija.
Slide show o Iraku podeli sam u 3 dela radi lakseg pracenja. Svaki Slide show traje po 4-7 minuta I prati ga odgovarajuca tradicionalna muzika Iraka.