YI/ON4WW : Iraq

April through June 2003. This is it, Iraq. A country where every single soul could easily be a millionaire. A country where only few are. The war continues up to this point of writing (September 2004). Humanitarian agencies are now also the target.
When we re-entered Iraq in the south on a security assessment mission, my feelings were that the people in the South were hopeful. Hopeful for much needed assistance.

However, the coalition forces were not liked. Not at all. And this coalition tried their best to reinstate electricity, water, sanitation, pipelines, etc...but were constantly hampered by sabotage. It was an impossible task.

Our mission for the UN WFP FITTEST was to put up emergency communications for all UN and NGO agencies. As well were we to build communications and internet connectivity for all the WFP offices.
It was a huge task. We worked 17 hours a day, 7 days a week to achieve our goals.
It was frustrating for the humanitarian community to witness how the deserving Iraqi people were not getting what they needed most : peace and stability.

The hectic workload left few time to make QSOs. I made 1,109 contacts from base stations in Nassiriyah and Najaf. Add to that 358 mobile contacts.
It was exciting to make these, be it few, QSOs. I never met the native ham radio guys in Baghdad, I heard they were very helpful in the re-building of their nation.

One more thing on the Middle East. I experienced the generosity and incredible hospitability of the people in this region.
I felt welcome as a stranger. I could communicate with people, even if sometimes we didn't have a common language to use.
The stories of 'One Thousand and One Night' originate in this region. Never did I feel hostility.
Yet, desperation can quickly change a person's mind. The atrocities we've witnessed in Iraq, have an origin.
These atrocities are pure madness. Madness originates because of an underlying reason... Enough, before I get into politics.

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Click on the photographs to see the full size pictures.


Movie1 : cruising choppers
Movie2 : pfff...
Movie3 : typical road conditions...
Movie4 : typical ? well, not really, but...
This is my turn-off, okay, coming !
Been to all those places, except for Baghdad
To these places too. Basrah was our base, where we kept stock. From there we went on installation mission, up to 500km away from Basrah
Um Qasr was our first stop
Our warehouse was in this Kuwaiti warehouse. In the beginning we had to drive stock across the border
Notice the changing colors from the UN vehicles ? Before the war, they were white. During and just after the war, a lot of them were stolen. It was then decided to paint the new and old vehicles blue, so we knew which ones were ours. The flack-jacket was mandatory in the beginning of re-entry
First we had to cross the border. Here some Kuwaiti soldiers
Across the border, these symbols would quickly disappear as people destroyed them
See the oil-fire in the distance ?
War stuff
Explosion of UXO's (unexploded ordnance). Lots of these dreadful things lying around after a war, and a deadly hazard to civilians
This ain't from a meteorite
War stuff
Flying war stuff
The roads in southern Iraq were stunning. Excellent highways, very good secondary roads. Not many traffic on them though
A mosque in the desert
Destroyed war stuff left behind on the famous highway from Basrah in the south, to Baghdad
War stuff, convoys
War stuff, convoys
Women distilling salt in desert water
War stuff, rockets
Camel taxi
Once upon a time, the pick-nick stopover places were used
Our telecoms vehicles were equipped with 2 hf stations. They were used in security assessment missions, to guarantee comms. After re-entry, we used them to do our security and office installations
War stuff
Destroyed war stuff
Tanks all over the place
A destroyed tank
In the desert, give way both left and right to camels
Lots of reconstruction needs to be done
Old war stuff
Explosion of UXO's
Destroyed tank
Take it easy, 'ole boy. One of the next days, a truck managed to do a strange trick here
Quite a trick. We had to take a different road, to reach our destination. This road was not cleared for traffic, but we had to make a decision and went ahead
Camel herd
Hurry up, boy
War stuff, convoys. We continuously had to overtake these convoys, otherwise no work could be done
War stuff
Desolate apocalyptic view
Some fruits florish in the desert heat
Temporary bridge put in place by the coalition forces
Women working in the greenery
A train ? Yes, and operational !
How to transport a 6 meter steel pipe
Here's that temporary bridge again
Young men jogging
Kids playing football. Rare sceneries
Hard to imagine this happening in western Europe. It happened with cows, but that's a loooong time ago
During our security assessment mission, we took a road along the countryside, and started chatting with some farmers. They had little knowledge about the past war, and were not influenced by it
Greenery and water, in a desert environment
The problem of getting fuel...
Taxi drivers push their vehicles to the gaz pump, to save some hardly needed drops of fuel...the Iraqi's are put on a fuel ration for the time being
Strange to see such lineups in the country of oil..
Yes, we cued up nicely as all the rest did
I engaged in some chatting, and as soon as the crowd hears my nationaility, the ice is broken. Once I even got a guy saying - Belgici, Jean-Marie Pfaff ! Our goallie is known worldwide...
If the gaz stations were without fuel, which happened ever so often, we relied on our own supply...wherever you go, do-it-yourself
Somebody in the vehicle procurement system, did not foresee that in Iraq there is no such thing as 'unleaded'...hence we had to use a pepsi can, cut it to the right size, etc...
This guy is happy. He made a good deal.
I'm reluctant to tell you how much we paid maximum for a liter of fuel. About 40 times less than back home. That would be about 0,025 Euro for 1 liter. Maximum. Most of the time it was half that price. No wonder people back home get pissed off with their governments because of the sometimes ludicrous high taxes...
Hey, is that a broadband dipole ? Yes it is, strung up in Nassiriyah. Some QSOs were made
Here we have a multiband dipole from Bushcomm...the darn thing is 48m long, way too long for a hotel roof...but some bending and returning of the wire, and hey, some more QSOs were made from Najaf
This is Patrick YI/F5ORF
Yours truly
Our boss Peter ON6TT in Basrah. That is what he does with those things. That camera thing from WRTC2002 really gets him going...
That is what we do with those things !
And that is what we do with these things....
Here's the station setup in Najaf
Different view, MFJ switcher and IC-706MKIIG
Well, it's time do some meetings...always a necessary cheerful chap around
Meetings to coordinate things between the UN agencies, and between the UN and NGOs, etc...
One of the castles of Saddam, I think this was in Hillah
This too in or around Hillah, and this statue got to do with Babylon ! But sri, my thoughts were not really with sightseeing, should have kept better notes
Off to another meeting...
...and another one, with the local sheikh
The holy mosque in Karbala
Discussion outside the General Hospital....the General Hospital was called Sadam General Hospital, but the Saddam part was being removed
Not yet removed here though....
In all capitals of the provinces, an architect constructed exactly the same hospital. As we were doing installations in those hospitals, by the end of our trip we knew them inside out by heart
Iraqi ambulances
Some hardware shopping needs to be done...usually one finds what he needs...
Socializing with the team in Basrah, over dinner
Nice lunch in the only appropriate restaurant in Al Kut
Citizens gathering for evening theater event in Amara !
Picking up the local lingo...
Socializing with NGOs and the Brits in Amara. One week later, six Brits were killed in that area
Our buffet table in Najaf. Nice hotel, nice people, nice crew
Well, after all those meetings, and inspecting the power situation, it's time to do some work...
Better start working quickly !
Okay, okay, no hurry, here we are, where's the fire ?
Satellite links for internet-connectivity
80 to 100m towers were often used to put our security vhf repeaters
Inside the ladder, pretty high up
Some more vhf installations...
Inside the hospital, security was pretty tight as you may notice. For us, the most important box is the one which Robert holds...Masafi...water bottles ! Much needed !
Hey, will you hurry up here ?!...
...I want you to check the view with me !
Eh, some more laddering up and down
VHF repeater installations
Done !
This is how we downloaded our e-mails during mission trips...satphone with laptop
Putting up our own ICT container warehouse in Basrah...think we ended up with 5 containers in the end
VHF-HF antennas in Najaf
Hey, everybody looks happy, something most be right and operational !
Yeah yeah, team South got their act together...bingo !
Downtown Basrah...lots of war damage
And filth not getting cleared from the streets
Basrah harbour...Sadam's yacht was docked here
Basrah strolling...
The kids, how will they come out of all of this ? At least still some smiles here..
The kids who destroyed this window, were not so innocent anymore...what can one expect after such mayhem...
Our fridge in Amara hotel...place the cans in the blower compartment of the aircon...the aircon was blowing, but not cold air...gee, what a place
To end, what will always be my most filthy toilet moment...This toilet was in Amara. As you see it, it was already cleaned out a bit. Yes, I HAD to use it...shit man, shit happens !

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