Monday, February 19, 2007

Perspective: In absence of police, vigilantes take to the streets in Baghdad

Iraqi boys with toy guns play at setting up a checkpoint in Yarmouk, Baghdad

BAGHDAD, 19 February (IRIN) - Muhammad Azawi, 58, wakes up early every morning and joins fellow vigilantes to patrol their Yarmouk neighbourhood of Baghdad.

"Our mission is to keep peace in our neighbourhood. We keep in contact with the other vigilantes in the neighbourhood to make sure there is no danger. Should something untoward happen, we start putting our defence mechanisms in motion," Azawi said, a retired fireman and father of five.

With an increase in sectarian violence in Baghdad and a lack of effective policing, ordinary citizens have been forced to find their own ways of protecting their loved ones.

"We take our guns with us only when it is necessary, because we don't want to give the impression that we are also fighters. Some neighbourhoods are attacked by militias and others by insurgents but the result is always the same - the death of dozens of Iraqis on a daily basis," Azawi added.

Read the rest at Retures/Alternet