Noises of war form daily sound-track for Baghdadis

Here are the top ten sounds that punctuate the life of an Iraqi

By Rawya Rageh

BAGHDAD - It's the time of the year for the music-world's Top 10 lists. Iraqis who wake up and fall asleep to explosions and gunfire have something else to offer: The Top 10 distinctive sounds that highlight a day in a Baghdadi's life.

Here's what Iraqis say they "listen" to:

    10. The roar of power generators. "Oh! They are our best friends, those generators," said Mahasen Chalabi, a 40-year-old accountant. "We've been living in war since 1980 and generators have been the one useful thing - we lose power in both summer and winter and without the coolers and heaters, God knows how it'd be."

    9. Gunfire. "We hear no birds. We hear bullets. It's the most disrupting sound," said George Nichola, a 23-year-old literature student. "I automatically start seeing scary images in my mind," he added. "It's like being in the Wild West."

    8. Construction. "I actually don't mind it. It reflects our determination against terrorists - they bring down one house, we build another," said Mohammed Basil, a 34-year-old marketing executive. "But I mind when it's something built by foreign troops - we don't want them to stay."

    7. Police and ambulance sirens. "Our life now has become all about sirens," said Ammar Mansour, a 27-year-old businessman. "Before, we used to shriek at the sound of sirens, but now complacency rules."

    6. Loudspeaker warnings by coalition patrols. "I call it the sound of tyranny," said Mohammed Ahmed, a computer science engineer. "You'll be driving and they'll yell at you 'Stop! Let the patrol pass first,' and one can't help wonder: How rude."

    5. The rattle of tanks and Humvees. "Don't they say the war is over? Then why the tanks and those scary vehicles?" said Mohammed Hashem, 21. "I can understand these vehicles patrolling the major highways, but why the narrow residential streets? And they have this habit of not coming alone. There has to be a whole loud bunch."

    4. The clutter of helicopters. "It's so provocative, those army helicopters flying all the time above us," said Khawla Adnan, a 40-year-old former civil servant. "What's even more annoying is that they fly at such a low altitude, and the kids get really scared," she added. "We mock how the superpower deploys helicopters to crack down on an enemy that doesn't have half its capabilities - and they still can't do it right."

    3. Sirens in the Green Zone, the fortified home of the U.S. Embassy and headquarters of the interim government. "This particular siren really depresses me," said Umm Mustafa, a mother of two and a Green Zone resident. "I wonder what its use is? The Green Zone is frequently attacked anyway and the siren goes off after the attack takes place, so what's the point?"

    2. Explosions. "It's the sound that has come to accentuate our misery," said Duha Mohammed, a doctor's assistant. "Day after day, these booms terrorize us. It's one redundant sound the people have become sick and tired of."

    1. Silence. "Believe it or not, what petrifies me most is when it gets quiet. I feel like it's the silence that precedes a storm," said Chaki Shukri, 41. "Normalcy for us is the noise of helicopters, gunfire, explosions and sirens."

- The Vancouver Sun

Right to Quiet Society Newsletter, Spring 2005
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