February 10, 2008, 6:49 pm

DANIEL DEMOUSTIER : This is Basra, in the Southern city of Iraq. Basra was captured, in the last Gulf War, by the British army. That always has been the plan, the Americans would take Baghdad and actually the rest of Iraq, the British would occupy South Basra. Basra is actually, ohm, it has a strong history and it’s a place with many Shi’a-people live there, Shi’a-Muslims. So they also had a history with Saddam Hussein, because they were oppressed, during the Saddam-regime, the Shi’a-people got a lot of troubles from Saddam Hussein. Remember the mass graves we found later on, most of the victims were Shi’a-victims. There’s a story behind it because in the first Gulf War the Shi’as tried to oppress Saddam Hussein and at the last moment they didn’t get the promised support from the Western troops. So, when the Americans pulled out, when Kuwait was captured in the first Gulf War, these people were the victims, because then Saddam Hussein took revenge for their uprising. But now this after the… I call it the invasion of the British troops in the second Gulf War now, in 2003. And I’m here with a, in a sort of patrol… These are pictures shot from an APC or a British military vehicle, driving through the streets of Basra and at this time, everyone was still more or less quiet, I mean, the people were, there was a sort of positive feeling actually towards the British troops, I have to say. I mean, people were thinking things were now getting better and unfortunately we have to say now that it wasn’t totally the truth. But you see therefore, you see little kids waving at you, you see people being, or at least trying to be, friendly to you and, but it’s a strange feeling because, you know, you are with the army and I don’t really particularly like it but sometimes you don’t have a choice. Nowadays there’s not much more alternative to go with them because if you walk in the streets with your big camera, you might be captured and kidnapped within 10 minutes, so. This is sometimes the only way to do it. It’s also a nice way to do a nice pan shear from a higher position in the car and you can capture daily life when you pass by. People don’t, sometimes don’t know that their getting filmed because you come on a quite, you know, you travel with some speed and you capture daily life moments while driving by, so it’s a long tracking shots of daily life in Basra, after the British invasion.

DANIEL DEMOUSTIER : These people don’t have anything, I mean, Basra is a very, very poor area. Although that’s where most of the oil comes from. But it always has been. I mean, they have the most oil, they have big electricity factories, they have water but all that was going to Baghdad and all taken away from them. And this was true during the Saddam regime and is still the case now because Baghdad is more important and everything goes away from them. And they live in terrible, poor conditions. I haven’t been there this year, but, you know, they try to improve the situation slightly. For instance, of course there’s no electricity, no water and the irony is, you can see the oilfields all around you, you can see the rich, the gold coming out of the earth. And they have nothing of that; it’s very frustrating to be there I think. And therefore Muqtada al-Sadr has a strong support in this place. At night the rebels would take the ambulances and they would use the megaphones in the ambulances and they say, you know, don’t go and work for the enemy, you know, don’t go and work for the Americans or the British, you know, because we know who’s going to work, we get you, you know. I mean, there’s always been a position and, I believe, not long after I’ve done this shot, the first bomb attack happened in Basra, which was a total shock to everyone. It started in Baghdad but everyone thought maybe in Basra because they’re all Shi’a, they will, they will stay quiet but they didn’t and so some of the attacks started to happening in Basra only a couple of days after I took these pictures.


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