Dohiyi Mir
    In Which NTodd Says His Peace

Thursday, July 10, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.

Strangers in a Strange Land

Salam Pax hasn't been blogging much, but he is at least still writing stuff for the Guardian. Here's what he had to say last week:

Going down south to Basra is like going into another country. You are literally going through another time zone. The war was in full throttle when daylight-savings time should have come into place, but since there was no government to organise it some governorates just didn't change their time. So when you go through Samawah and Nasiriyah you enter a different time zone, and then come back into +4 GMT zone when you get to Basra.

The other reason why it feels like you are going into another country is the British presence in the south.
So while we are sitting with some people in Amarah we hear the following story.

During a wedding celebration, two young men fire celebratory shots into the air. A British patrol happens to be near by, they think they have a couple of Fedayeen shooting at them. Bang bang, the Iraqis are dead.

The British take the bodies to the hospital, and after conducting an investigation they find out they were not Fedayeen, a mistake has been made. So the next day two British officers, two Iraqi lawyers and a translator go to the hospital and ask how the locals deal with this sort of thing. The concept of "Fasil" or blood money is explained to them. A couple of days later the word spreads that the British have paid 15 million Iraqi dinars in blood money to the families of the two Iraqi men. Further bloodshed was stopped. Perfect.

I am not discussing the moral correctness of blood money. This is the way things are done here and if this money will stop any sort of revenge killings then it is worth it. No, I only have one comment: being foreigners, they paid too much. Habibi, everything is bargainable here, and paying 15 million in blood money will ruin the blood money market - it is way too much. You should improve your tribal connections and get someone to bargain for you.

Must be weird to be in your own country and feel like you're in another country. I sometimes feel like that in certain parts of Vermont. At least we didn't worry about getting killed at our wedding in Stowe (of course, there were no celebratory shots fired, either). It's heartening to see the British are trying to figure out the cultural rules, though if they weren't there in the first place they wouldn't have to learn how to bargain about blood money.


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