Leaving Baghdad

Baghdad 1

Originally uploaded by The Toze

I left Baghdad the next day on April 12. Got up, got dressed, had breakfast with Ashouk, a doctor from India who works with IMC. His family, wife and two children live in London.

We left early to get to the airport in time for our 11:00 p.m. flight. The drive to the airport was uneventful. As we entered the airport area we had to stop and our armed escort had to discharge their guns. They dumped all the bullets out and then depressed the trigger into a target that was on top of barrels filled with straw. After unloading and discharging we loaded up again and drove the last few miles to the airport. Our car was also searched on the way into the airport.

We arrived a ways from the entrance unloaded and made our way towards the entry. We were searched going into the airport also. Unlike other airports I’ve been at the road in front of the airport was very deserted, it lacked all the normal hustle and bustle of most airports. After clearing security we checked in with Air Serv which is a private air service.

At the passport checkpoint I was stopped. I had given the man my passport and my new Iraqi residency card from Kurdistan and he looked at them and then said something. Paul, who speaks Arabic asked what was wrong. The passport guy took my passport and residency card and went into the office. My eyes bulged as he came back out without my identification followed closely by a supervisor. They refused to stamp me out of Iraq and I was scheduled to fly to Suli, the plane would stop there unload three passengers and then I was supposed to go on to Jordan.

The Air Serv escort came out to see what the issue was and they told him that I would have to get off the plane in Suli. We agreed to get me through and catch the flight.

We waited about 20 minutes for the plane to be ready, I was one of four passengers. I went to the gift shop to look for possible souvenirs, shopping hadn’t been on the agenda, as a matter of fact, the gift shop at the airport was the only store I entered in Baghdad.

We were taken down about 20 steps and walked out to the plane. There was no one loading luggage, so I got up on the ladder and rearrange the luggage that the previous passengers had put in, so that my wheelchair wouldn’t get smashed. I had come off the plane in Jordan on the way in wheeling drunkenly because they had smashed my wheels. No one in Jordan could fix them so I kept listing to the right and on every roll one part of the wheel would rub against my side guard. Luckily they were able to fix them in Suli. Royal Jordanian sucks, but its the only option.

I asked Paul why the men at Passport control wouldn’t stamp me out. He said that they are supposed to honor Iraqi residency cards issued in Kurdistan, but he thought that they might have been Sadrists. “Why do you think they were Sadrists?” He told me that when the airport reopened a lot of Sadrists applied for jobs there and they basically control the airport jobs.

Arriving in Suli, all the passengers deplaned accept for me. The pilot came back and told me that she couldn’t take me into Jordan without being stamped out of the country. She asked me if I was willing to take responsibility for it. I told her yes. We sat on the ground for about 20 more minutes and then they came and got me off the plane. I was hopeful that I would be able to get back on since they let me leave my stuff on the plane. Thank God for the Kurds. They took me through the back door and stamped me out and I got on the plane and flew to Jordan.

I was exhausted. I went to the Irish Pub near the hotel ate dinner, had a glass of wine. I must have looked terrible, because they gave me a second glass of wine on the house. I returned to the hotel and tried to watch TV, but I fell asleep at 7:00 p.m.

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