Reporters on the Job

BAGHDAD WAKE UP CALL: ATTENTION, ATTENTION, ATTENTION.... THIS IS A MILITARY AREA.... THIS AREA IS CLOSED, BY ORDER OF THE COALITION FORCES... IT IS FORBIDDEN TO ENTER THIS AREA.... IF WE SEE ANYONE WITH A WEAPON, HE WILL BE SHOT IMMEDIATELY."

"That was my wake-up call last Friday morning," says correspondent Annia Ciezadlo. A US Army Humvee, prowling the streets outside her hotel, was blasting the curfew warning in Arabic. The Humvee was patrolling Firdos Square, where the US pulled down Saddam's statue on April 9, 2003.

Weeks after Saddam's statue came down last year, a sculptor named Basim Hamed put up a statue of an Iraqi family standing in front of a rising sun.

"To me, at least, it seemed to symbolize a new, post-Saddam Iraq, full of promise," says Annia. "Lately, though, Basim's statue has been festooned with pictures of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and Mustafa Yacoubi, his aide in US custody.

"This April 9, security was so tight in Firdos Square that it took us almost half an hour to get out of the military compound that sprang up, almost overnight, around our hotel. When we got back that afternoon, security was even tighter. "At midafternoon, a US soldier clambered up on the historic pedestal and tore down the pictures. I had just returned from Sadr City, where pictures of Mr. Sadr and Mr. Yacoubi festoon the walls, alongside pictures of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas recently assassinated by Israel. In Sadr City, thousands of angry men, streaming out of a mosque and chanting "Forgive us, Ali. Forgive us, Ali. Moqtada is the wali" - meaning that Sadr is the successor of the Shiites' founding martyr, Imam Ali.

David Clark Scott
World editor

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