Airdate: 
Sunday, February 27, 2011 - 20:32
Channel: 
SBS One

Iraq has been mostly out of the headlines recently, but daily life there is still a struggle that few of us could comprehend.

On a recent visit to his homeland, video journalist Fouad Hady was nearby when a building in Baghdad was reduced to rubble by a new Al Qaeda technique; renting shops in apartment buildings and packing them with explosives.

What's left behind are harrowing personal stories of people losing their family, friends, homes and all their belongings.

He captures the suffering and fear that ordinary Iraqis want the world to see, but the authorities are keen to keep out of the spotlight.

WATCH - Click to watch Fouad's report.

BEHIND THE SCENES - Fouad talks about how he found the story, and the emotional effect that it had on him.

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Transcript

This week Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi's strategy for clinging to power was brutally simple - murder his own people. With hundreds already dead, the dictator declared he would fight to the last man. The uprising in Libya took place as protests continued across the Arab world. Fouad Hady, our award winning correspondent witnessed this growing discontent in Iraq on a recent visit to Baghdad. Soon after his arrival, Fouad found himself in the middle of the capital's almost daily terror attacks. And a warning, some scenes in Fouad's report may distress some of you.

REPORTER: Fouad Hady

REPORTER (Translation): What happened today?

SERMAD, TAXI DRIVER (Translation): A car blew up. It was booby-trapped. There was a big blast.

Sermad is taking me to Haifa Street in his taxi. Haifa Streea is a major road that has been rocked by violence again and again since the American invasion.

SERMAD (Translation): It happened in the main street, there were many people.

REPORTER (Translation): So what's this?

SERMAD (Translation): The Ministry of Finance - this is the area of fire.

REPORTER (Translation): Why?

SERMAD (Translation): It is the most dangerous area in Baghdad. Want to know why?

REPORTER (Translation): Why?

SERMAD (Translation): It has government offices. It's the most dangerous area, all explosions take place there because the government is there. Haifa Street is closed.

REPORTER (Translation): Why?

SERMAD (Translation): Whenever a car explodes, they close the street - it has to be washed and cleaned because of the blood. Salhiya is blocked.

For Baghdad drivers - traffic jams caused by bombs are almost routine.

REPORTER (Translation): How long have you been here?

MAN IN CAR (Translation): I left Zafaraniyah;.. since ten.

REPORTER (Translation): In the morning?

MAN IN CAR (Translation): What is the time now?

REPORTER (Translation): It's two.

While we are in traffic there is another big explosion nearby. We try to head towards this but we don't get far. We are sent back at a checkpoint, so we try another road, only to hit another checkpoint. It seems the authorities are trying to restrict the reporting of bombs like these. So I set off on foot and I meet with a local called Bilal. Bilal offers to help find an advantage point I can film from but every where it is the same story, people are afraid to cross the authorities.

MAN (Translation): You take your shot and leave and it's me who gets in trouble. You know how the guards are - a while ago we allowed Baghdad TV up there and we had a problem.

Bilal keeps trying, he is determined to have the world see the trauma his neighbourhood is suffering.

BILAL (Translation): We just want you to film this for us - I want you to shame them.

He finally finds me a spot and I can steal a few shots of the bomb site. Already the earth movers are at work. This is all that's left of an apartment building filled with homes and shops and people. I find Bilal the next day - he is burying a friend killed in the bombing.

BILAL (Translation): This martyr was like a brother - he was a close friend. What was his crime? Tell me.

REPORTER (Translation): Is his body buries here?

BILAL (Translation): Not his whole body - just his legs, no head - just his body. When I went to the morgue I found my other friends, some of them are headless, some without legs. For how long will we be like this?

I am told the dead were victims of a new al qaeda technique. Bombs are packed into a shop under an apartment building, instead of into a car or truck.

MAN (Translation): They rented a place and they paid more than the usual rent and they booby - trapped it. They put cement sacks filled with explosives in it.

Nearby a tiny grave is being dug for another victim of the explosion.

BILAL (Translation): They'll bury a young child there. What was his crime?

I am taken to see the grieving family. One of the mourners insists I come and see the young boy's body being prepared for burial. His name was Hassoun, his little body was broken by the rubble when the family's apartment collapsed.

MOURNER (Translation): I'm telling you to film this, tell the world - show the world. It's the act of a criminal! Look at what happened to him - look at the child. They don't have money to bury him. Would God accept this? Film it! It's so unfair - so unjust.

Hassoun's father Ali, is waiting outside.

ALI (Translation): There is no god but God.

MAN (Translation): He has lost everything, no storage, no place to live, no son - Nothing is left! We don't ask anything from the government but a place to live.

ALI (Translation): I want Hassoun. I want my son, I don't want a place to live.

Eight years after the invasion this tragic scene is still being repeated all over Iraq - 11 civilians killed every day. While the men pray over Hassoun's coffin the women try to calm his mother.

MOTHER (Translation): I want to die. I don't want any. I want to be next to you my darling! I want Hassoun.

REPORTER (Translation): How old was he?

ALI (Translation): Six years, in four or five days time - We were going to give him a birthday party.

Hassoun's mother is desperate to see her son one last time, but the men know the terrible state of his injured body. Later, she kisses my hand and begs me to tell her how her son looked, was her son badly damaged. I search for words of comfort but nothing can soothe her, nothing can take away her sorrow.

The next day Bilal is at the local pool hall.

BILAL (Translation): Yesterday my friend was playing with us - he got killed. This is our life - we bury the dead then we come to play. This is the life we live.

I want to know more about Bilal's life, so after the game he shows me around, starting at this local carpenters shop, until recently this is where he worked.

BILAL (Translation): These are cabinets. No I do not work, there is no work.

REPORTER (Translation): Why is there no work?

BILAL (Translation): No one's working - our goods are stacked in the storeroom - nobody goes shopping.

Of the workers that are still here, many are children.

REPORTER (Translation): How do you manage school and work?

CHILD (Translation): After school I come here to work - school and work and I study after work.

The owner of the workshop tells me working children are commonplace.

REPORTER (Translation): He is ten years old, isn't there a law to stop this happening?

FACTORY OWNER (Translation): If there was a law, it wouldn't happen. Look at today's explosions - what law? In the current circumstances there is no hope for Iraq.

Bilal takes me to his home. He lives in this small space with his mother, two brothers and an orphan they have adopted.

BILAL (Translation): This is my room and this is the kitchen. My brother, the martyr and these are my uncles - they are all dead. We're just stuck here, me, my younger brother and the one older than him. How can we marry? My older brother married - where could I live? Upstairs! I don't have money to build another bedroom upstairs.

Bilal has a girlfriend. But his girlfriend is a Shi-ite and he is a Sunni and he rarely gets to see her.

BILAL (Translation): I haven't been to see her lately - I'm afraid to because of the Shiites, I don't mention the sectarian violence but I fear for my safety.

Back at the bomb site nearby, families are looking through the rubble for their possessions.

MAN IN THE STREET (Translation): My blanket is full of blood - we have to sleep on the street. May the government be happy, they are honourable! What a waste voting was, they are dishonourable. Not one official visited us - we'll sleep on the street - may it please the government. May Ayad Allawi and Nouri al-Maliki be pleased!

MAN 2 (Translation): If one of them has a salary reduction, it's a disaster but when people die it is nothing!

WOMAN (Translation): Politicians families live comfortably abroad - what is the crime of those who died? The young people and children, what did they do?

MAN 3 (Translation): Before the elections, they came. They said they'd build, and construct and they asked us to vote for them. Once we did, we saw none of them. They ignored us, destroyed us, the government did. So it was "œVote for us so we can kill you." They came with their sweet-talk and their long rosaries, where are they now?

These people are full of anger at Iraq's politicians. I find the family of little Hassoun nearby, now living in their grandmother's house. A photo of their dead child takes pride of place. His uncle was also badly injured in the blast.

UNCLE (Translation): I was buried, I don't know how it happened. I ate so much dirt that I tasted death on my tongue.

For Ali, his son's death at home has a bitter irony. For years he rarely took his kids out, fearing for their safety.

ALI (Translation): I wanted to take them out but I was scared of explosions. I wanted to take them out but you hear of explosions everywhere. We were taking precautions but it's destiny. What can you do? It's his luck. It's our luck.

There are now three families crammed into this tiny space.

UNCLE (Translation): All of us live here, 19 people in a room and a hall. A room and a hall. Have a look. Even God wouldn't accept it.

The family go to see what is left of their home.

HUSSEIN (Translation): This wreckage is our house, that shop, that corner, that was my father's shop. Where? That corner, along the wall that collapsed, that's my father's shop.

Hassoun's brother Hussein digs in the rubble, but only fragments of their lives survive. The bombings, the killings, the anger and the burials, they are all taking a terrible toll on Iraq. Will it ever be safe and happy again? Nobody here knows the answer.

YALDA HAKIM: We hear the situation has not improved for the family who lost their son, they still remain homeless. In this week's behind the scenes feature on our website Fouad talks more about his Baghdad trip. That's an interview in both Arabic and English. Given all that's happened to his homeland, he says every Iraqi has a story.

Reporter/Camera

FOUAD HADY

Producer

AARON THOMAS

Editor

WAYNE LOVE

Translation/Subtitling

DALIA MATAR

JOSEPH ABDO

SUHEIL DAMOUNY

Original Music composed by

VICKI HANSEN

27th February 2011