Wonderful Story: Planting Hope in Baghdad One Flower at a Time
Hannah Allam, one of the best reporting talents to cover Iraq in recent years, filed this wonderful story for McClatchy Newspapers (formerly Knight-Ridder) today. It is a story about the 'murderous insurgents' who pour kerosene to kill off Baghdad's flowers, and the Iraqi 'botanical insurgents' who go out and surreptitiously re-plant more flowers. It is the story of an Iraqi civil servant, Ja'afar al-Ali, doing his job and not giving up on Iraq. Clearly, to him at least, Iraq is not lost and still worth fighting for. Lovely:
BAGHDAD — The flowers appear overnight, and in the unlikeliest of places: carnations near a checkpoint, roses behind razor wire, and gardenias in a square known for suicide bombings.
Sometimes, U.S. armored vehicles hop a median and mow down the myrtle, leaving Baghdad parks workers to fume and reach for their trowels. When insurgents poured kerosene over freshly planted seedlings, landscapers swore a revenge of ficus trees and olive groves.
It's all part of a stealthy campaign to turn the entire capital into a green zone.
Jaafar Hamid al Ali, the Baghdad parks supervisor, leads the offensive. He's got a multi-million-dollar budget, along with 1,500 intrepid employees and a host of formidable enemies. There's the fussy climate, salty soil, and nonstop violence that killed 30 of his workers in 2006. Every fallen gardener, Ali said, is a martyr in the struggle to beautify Baghdad.
"My principle is, for every drop of Iraqi blood, we must plant something green," he said. "One gives disappointment, the other gives hope."
[See the comments section for the full text of Allam's piece.]