Our Observer in Baghdad, Last of Iraqis, took the same street scene and filmed it once in June 2007 and then in March 2008. In the first video nobody dared set foot outside; the street is deserted. But now, it seems to have come back to life. Thanks to the American Army? Apparently not. According to Last of Iraqis it's the al Sahwa militia to be thankful to.
The Sahwa (meaning 'awakening councils') are a Sunni-based Iraqi military funded by the American army to fight against al Qaeda. Many of its 80,000 members are former insurgents. The movement has its stronghold in the district of Adamiyah, north Baghdad, in Last of Iraqis' neighbourhood.
More info on Iraq: FRANCE 24 reporter's notebook.
I only had one thing in mind; will I make it to my relatives' house? On my way I saw some of the usual; on the corner there was an al Qaeda watchman sitting on a chair. A motorbike with two teenagers on it (al Qaeda assassins) passed by and there was smoke coming from some where; an explosion is a normal thing here. When I reached the house I was sad- as usual- for what had happened to the lovely neighbourhood that I'd spent most of my life in. I can remember the day when all of this started, I can remember the day when al Qaeda and the other militias decided to make Adhamiya their stronghold and destroy everything beautiful in it, when they decided to kill its spirit, I remember the day when some of the nice people of Adhamiya were deceived by al Qaeda and thought they were for a better future, I also remembered how beautiful, peaceful and lovely this district was.
Adhamiya is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Baghdad, it's a mixture of the old alleys of Baghdad and the new civilized Baghdad and its residents are known for their gallantry and hospitality. There are huge markets there with very nice merchandise ranging from food to clothes to electric appliances. There is also the Imam Abu-Hanifa mosque and beside it is the bridge to Kathomyia (an old original Shiite district), the residents of Adhamiya are Sunni and Shiite but the majority is Sunni. They used to live side by side in peace."
At that moment I felt safe and even if something happened and I died then I'd have died happy. The awakening members (Sahwa) were everywhere and I literally mean everywhere, you could find one in every square metre and there were also many checkpoints where everyone got searched. That's a great thing; I'm really thankful to them for providing the safety that we've been deprived for such a long time.
What I‘ve seen in Adhamiya I'd call a success and the biggest achievement since the beginning of the war. I turned to my wife and said "Can you believe this? Would you believe me if I told you last year that Adhamiay would be like this?" and she said "I hope that soon we'll be sitting in Al-Alwia (a social club) at night with you asking me the same question". I just wish the situation was like this all over Baghdad but unfortunately it's not, so far."