Good news from Iraq!
Riverbank Promenade in Basra Pulses Anew With Life
...in recent weeks, as residents of this southern city have gained the confidence to return to the streets and as the days have grown longer, the Corniche has bloomed again into the center of Basra night life.
Young couples sit quietly on a concrete wall above the water, wooden rental skiffs ferry families around and groups of men smoke water pipes at impromptu sidewalk cafes. There is even the occasional rider on a water scooter. Mr. Sultan, a stout date merchant in a white robe, gazed at the river as he sat eating a fried meat pastry called a sambusa stuffed into a piece of bread. (It is a Basra specialty, and he said he had been thinking about it the entire drive.)
... these days, the Corniche is all about life, not death.
..."It's improving day by day," Mr. Hussein said. "It's refreshing. The latest events had stopped people from coming here, but little by little people are coming more."...
--New York Times yesterday
Er, maybe not...
Islamic Law Controls the Streets of Basra
Physicians have been beaten for treating female patients. Liquor salesmen have been killed. Even barbers have faced threats for giving haircuts judged too short or too fashionable.
Religion rules the streets of this once cosmopolitan city, where women no longer dare go out uncovered.
...peace in Basra, Iraq's second most populous city, has come at a cost....
"The militias are more powerful than the police," said Saba Shedar, a goldsmith. The man who brings home a bottle of liquor or the woman without a veil both risk beatings, he said. Merchants who kept their shops open well into the night now close at sunset out of fear....
The militiamen carry out political assassinations and dole out punishment for alleged religious infractions, residents say.
A local businessman who did not want to be identified for fear of reprisal compared the current strict rule to life under Hussein.
..."During Saddam, we had the secret police. Now it's coming again. If you say something bad, they shoot you in the night." ...
The river, green like jade, is unchanged but the city is different, Kareem said.
Lovers used to be drawn here at night, he remembered. "Girlfriends, wives -- nobody asked," he said. "Now, no one dares."...
--L.A. Times today
Basra, of course, is where students were beaten, some reportedly to death, earlier this year for having a mixed-sex picnic.