May 12th - A Message from Ma’ali
16 May 2004
A last afternoon with the students, the journey home and my forthcoming US tour.
“You are going back to England? Could you please tell Tony Blair we’ve had enough of his bombs?” I promised Ma’ali I’d pass her message on.

She and Manal and Nihad and Dalia all came to say goodbye, in the girls’ housing at Baghdad University, and Farah came to give me the book list for her project. She’s writing a thesis on the political discourse of the Iraq debates between Tony Blair and Ian Duncan Smith. I know, I know, why would you want to subject yourself to that, but she’s fascinated by their use of words to play around with the facts and people’s beliefs.

The trouble is, and it’s the trouble for a lot of students, that they can’t get the books and the journals. I would rather, of course, wave a wand and rehabilitate their libraries and give them much more comprehensive access to subscription web resources, but my wand batteries are flat so…

If anyone thinks they can get access to journals and books and British library resources which can be either photocopied, scanned and e mailed or sent in with someone who’s heading that way, let me know and I’ll send you the list. If anyone has remote access to sites like Lexis, and is willing to share their password with Farah, that would also be very helpful.

Farah also said her favourite band is Blue. This is because, in their videos, they are naked and her parents, because they’re just pop videos, let her watch them.

In the end I haven’t created as many twinnings as I hoped to. This month just gone and the next one I planned to spend following up all the contacts we made through the circus with schools, youth centres, disabled kids’ homes and so on, and that’s not been possible in the current situation, but I’ve got all the contacts that will make it possible to get them sorted over the next few months.

The humanitarian flight out of Baghdad International Airport is run by a non-profit organisation flying aid, sick people and NGO workers in and out of conflict zones. The pilots are South African, the aeroplane second hand from Qantas Link with a recorded safety announcement in Australian, the window seat and the aisle seat one and the same, with in-flight refreshments in a cold box by the door.

Nada, an Iraqi doctor working for the International Medical Corps, was leaving to Jordan for some training. She’d never flown before and the corkscrew take-off, climbing to fifteen thousand feet while still over the airfield to stay out of rocket propelled grenade range, unsettled her stomach a bit.

Waleed was in Jordan, keeping his head down for a couple of weeks after getting death threats. He didn’t know if it was because he worked for the BBC, because he said something derogatory about Saddam or because of some grudge. He was making use of the time away, working on a documentary about heavy metal across the Arab world and its relationship to devil worship.

Faris Daraneh saved me from falling apart when I rediscovered the merits of a kind, obliging travel agent over a cold, unreasonable, heartless computer. I sat next to a Welsh smuggler and father-to-be on the plane, coming back from his holidays. Salih picked me up at Heathrow airport, bought me falafels and played Basra folk music all the way into London so I wouldn’t feel homesick. People trudged about looking miserable, not realising that I’d just left behind a load of people who, not all but many of them, would give almost anything to be here, not tat they’d necessarily be any happier than those people if they were.

It feels good to walk down the road unnoticed and unshouted at and to not be invited to share intimate relations with three quarters of the men on the street. It feels good not to worry about bombs, random shooting and kidnapping and horrible to know that, for all my Iraqi friends, that’s still an everyday issue and there’s no going home and getting away from it all.

I’m going to the US to do some talks about Iraq. The dates up to the end of May are below; more information from and then I think I’ll be at the 5th Grassroots Organising Conference on Iraq, in Indiana, and watch this space for whatever’s happening after that.

Amnesty International have just published a report on killings of civilians in Basra and Amara, the British controlled parts of Iraq, including those by UK forces and those by armed groups and individuals: see

I expect I’ll carry on writing from the US but I just want to thank everyone who’s been reading, everyone who’s helped make twinning links happen, given me support, sent e mails that I haven’t replied to personally, helped me financially, said prayers, made spells, meditated or otherwise sent me protection.

This is not the time to forget the Iraqi people. This is not the time to give up the struggle for peace and justice.

May 18
Los Angeles, CA- 7:30pm Flor y Canto - 3706 N. Figueroa Ave-
in North East LA -
May 19
Santa Cruz, CA
May 20
San Francisco, CA- Anarchist Library at City College 11:30-2pm
May 21
Berkeley, CA 8:30pm - Long Haul Infoshop 3124 Shattuck Ave. at Woolsey
May 22
San Francisco, CA - 4:30pm - New College
May 24
Seattle, WA - Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave with Biotic Baking Brigade sponsored by Left Bank Books
May 25
Vancouver, BC- Spartacus Book Store benefit
May 26
Bellingham, WA - 12-1:30pm World Issues Forum - Fairhaven Auditorium, Western Washington University, 6 pm potluck - 7pm show - Alternatives Library at EcoBell, 1515 "I" St.
May 27
Olympia South Puget Sound Comm.College, noon, bookstore, then an unconfirmed evening event in downtown Oly.
May 29 Portland, OR - Liberty Hall - Black Cross medic gathering
May 28
May 28-31 (date to be confirmed soon) Port Angeles, WA at the Juan de Fuca Festival
May 29
Portland, OR Liberty Hall, 311 N. Ivy St.
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