Real Funny Stories from My Crazy City (Part 2)

The crazy city is Basra, and it may seem an odd place to find funny stories — it's one of the most violent in Iraq, with Shi'ite militias fighting for control of the enormous oil wealth in the southern part of the country.

The title was provided by NPR's "stringer" — our contract reporter — in Basra, the man who has to report the bombings, gunfights and near-daily assassinations that are the staple of news from his city. For his own safety, I won't mention his name, but he's a good observer, albeit with an ad hoc command of English grammar and spelling. Every now and then he gets tired of reporting mayhem and sends us an e-mail about things that strike him as funny, weird or revealing about his home place.

Stop me if you've heard this one:

The Two Minarets Mosque

The famous mosque in Basra is the Two Minarets Mosque(since 1920) , all Basra people called it by this famous name and when you hire taxi ,you told the taxi driver to drop you at The two Minarets Mosque, but you would astonish when you reached the area where the mosque located, because there is no minarets over the mosque !!!!!!!!!!

Okay, maybe it's only funny in the way that people in the U.S. like to show off their local quirks and native peculiarities (I'm thinking of Fairbanks, Alaska, here, but feel free to insert the name of your own home town). Maybe it's only minor comic relief, given how bad things are in southern Iraq's largest city, where two Sunni mosques and their minarets were blown up this summer in revenge for the bombing of a Shi'ite Shrine in northern Iraq.

This one points up a phenomenon that's common throughout Iraq: people in cars do not "buckle up for safety":

It is Strange to put the Car Seat Belt

In Al Jazeer roundabout, one of the trade streets in Basra, one of the traffic policemen stopped one of the cars aside and called his colleague: "Come Hussain!" "What happened?" his colleague answer. "Look at this driver, he puts the car seat belt !!!!!!!!!!!"

It's so unusual to wear your seat belt in Iraq that visitors riding in cars in Baghdad are advised not to do it, because wearing a seat belt is a dead giveaway that you're a foreigner:

Basra is controlled by rival Shi'ite militias that have imposed a strict form of Islamic religious law, called Sharia. Barbers, for instance, have been killed in Basra for shaving men's beards or giving Western-style haircuts. The laws also apply to eating certain foods:

Eating chickens against Islamic Sharia (instruction)

After 2003, the Islamic instructions (Sharia) spread in bad methods and one of the Fatwas (decrees) was, "it is forbidden to eat imported chickens," and most of radical extreme muslims believe on this Fatwa..but, the funny in this, they eat the eggs belong to this chickens.!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Since the days of the muzzle-loaded musket, guns have been the noise-makers of choice in Iraq — and throughout the Arab world — whenever there's a celebration. Every victory of the national soccer team has been followed by a fusillade of gunfire, mostly from the ubiquitous Kalashnikov automatic rifle, also known as the AK-47. This next story points out that bullets fired into the air inevitably come down somewhere:

Wedding Parties kill visitors

klashincoves are our symbol in wedding celebration to express happiness during wedding parties..but always these happiness turn into deep sorrow because and as always one or may be two(of happy people) of the bridegroom relatives died through the celebration because of hot bullets and instead of wedding party they put funeral tents according to Iraqi habits!!!!!!!!!!!

By now you'll have noticed that the multiple exclamation marks are the equivalent of the drummer's "ba-da-boom!" in a stand-up comedy club — your signal to laugh or throw up your hands in dismay.

This is the mordant humor of despair, like the jokes from Soviet Russia about a society where thieves and fools have gotten the upper hand. Basrenes love to poke fun at incompetent bureaucrats:

Automatic Electrical ladder

One of Basra Province Council who works in Reconstruction Department and he was among delegation to Amman to attend Reconstruction Startegic Plans to develop Southern Area .And when they want to go to departure room in Basra airport he refused to go up the automatic electrical ladder because he scared to put one of his feet on first step of the ladder ..his colleagues (Province Council members) tried to persuade him but he insisited not to go up this ladder..and he stayed to be the last person ..and finally the ladder servant cut the power from the ladder to let him go.. Note: this man will participate in putting plans to develop the city in modern scientific methods)!!!!!!!!.I don't know what happened in Amman ladders!!!.

It must have been interesting; escalators in Amman, Jordan, don't usually have an attendant standing by to turn them off.

People in Basra, like people in the U.S., also have their secret vices — watching sensational satellite TV news channels instead of getting their news from reliable sources:

We hate Al Sharqiya and Al jazeeras tvs in public

All of us in Iraq has ambiguity personality i.e we love some thing but we pretend we hate the same thing in public because we can not challenge , and our general features is coward (or many faces) and for this reason Saddam Hussein torture us 35 years and we obeyed him and always said (Yes Majesty ) to him .. All of us watching Al Sharqiya and Al Jazeera tvs and in every morning people explain what had seen on these two tvs. And in the final of their speech they say: Sharqiya is bad tv don't 'atch it.

Al-Jazeera ("the [Arabian] Peninsula") is the satellite TV channel based in Qatar and financed by that country's emir. It's been attacked by U.S. officials, such as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, for airing videos of Osama bin Laden and stories critical of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Al-Sharqiya ("the Easterner") is an Iraqi-owned satellite channel that broadcasts from Dubai. It stirred controversy last year when on-air staff members wore black clothing that could be construed as mourning attire when reporting the hanging of Saddam Hussein.

You'll note that this edition of "Real funny stories from my crazy city" is labeled Part 2. We're not sure why. No one seems to remember getting Part 1, and we haven't heard back yet from our friend in Basra. If we find it, we'll let you know.

Corey Flintoff recently returned from a reporting stint in Baghdad.

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