Holiday Accompanied by Lull in Attacks in Iraq
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
In Iraq today, it was unusually calm. There were few reports of violence as Iraqis joined Muslims around the world in celebrating the first day of Eid al-Adha, the feast of the sacrifice. It's an important holiday that this year has produced some struggles of its own. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro explains.
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO reporting:
Eid al-Adha is a time when Muslim families get together, sometimes traveling cross-country. Large meals are prepared, and gifts are exchanged. It's one of the most joyful and important dates on the Muslim calendar. For anyone who celebrates it anywhere, it's expensive. Imagine Christmas lasting for four days, like Eid al-Adha does. But in Iraq this year, high fuel costs have pushed up already high holiday prices, and people are struggling.
(Soundbite of sheep)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: At a roadside Baghdad sheep market, dozens of the well-fed animals huddle together guarded by shepherds with staffs. Traditionally sheep are slaughtered to share with family or the poor. Fifty-three-year-old Mahmoud Ali(ph) bought a medium-sized animal for around $120. It's expensive. And a problem plaguing all of Iraq has meant that he's had to forgo another tradition.
Mr. MAHMOUD ALI: (Through Translator) I, for one, was planning on going to the North, but I don't have gas. There is no gas. This is not a life.
(Soundbite of car horn)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: At a Baghdad service station, precious gasoline flows into the tank of a waiting car. Lines to get to the pump take at least 12 hours. A combination of sabotage of the pipelines, transportation difficulties and corruption has meant the deliveries of fuel are spotty. And the price has soared. Mohammed Sa'ad(ph) is a 25-year-old in a white Korean car. He's spending his Eid here.
Mr. MOHAMMED SA'AD: (Through Translator) There is no other solution. This is depressing, leaving Eid celebrations and worrying about something that I shouldn't be worrying about, even on ordinary days. This is a reality that is forced on us. There is no other solution.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Before the price of gas was raised last month, Iraqis paid about 12 cents a gallon. In state gas stations, that price has now been raised to about 38 cents. But the lines are long, and many have to go to the black market. There a gallon will cost you almost $2. Sa'ad says that's not a possibility for him.
Mr. SA'AD: (Through Translator) Not everyone can buy from the black market. It's expensive. Five gallons at $10--that's a lot. Not everyone can buy that, so I have to bear this and wait in line.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Under Saddam, the average Iraqi's salary was about $5 a month; now it's about $150, but that's usually what a whole family lives on. And it's not just gas that's more expensive; everything is. Take a pound of meat. Under Saddam, it cost about a dollar; it's now doubled in price. And during the Eid holiday, that price goes up even more.
Mr. IMAN AL-HILALI(ph): Tripled. I mean, most of the fees now have tripled. I mean, most of the roads are blocked. There's no petrol, so, I mean, the taxi driver takes triple the amount.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Twenty-six-year-old Iman al-Hilali is in Iraq to celebrate a wedding, his own. He's an Iraqi who teaches English in Yemen. He's come home for the Eid when many marriages are celebrated.
Mr. AL-HILALI: Most of the things I finish for the marriage are using taxi--I mean, going to court, going to the hospital, going to my fiancee's house. I have to all finish it by taxi.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And he has an additional worry. Expensive gas means that he thinks relatives from other cities won't be able to make the celebration.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: A family of 10 crowd into their car. They're using their store of gas to go to the amusement park, another Eid custom. Among them is Aya Falid(ph). She's 10, and she's happy that at least for a day all the problems in Iraq will be left behind.
AYA FALID: (Foreign language spoken)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: `Yes, I am happy because it is Eid,' she says shyly.
(Soundbite of car horn)
Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And with that, they're off.
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Baghdad.
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