Sunday, March 16, 2003

Moving to Sulymaniyah was an excellent idea. Not only are the hotel and scenery better than Arbil, but the stories are a damn sight more interesting as well.

The downside is that we’ve been so busy that I’ve had little time to update the Blog.

An early start yesterday (Saturday) – not helped by the fact that we woke up to find that one of the 4x4s had a flat. No time to fix it straight away – luckily we’ve hired another vehicle so piled all our gear into that and drove to Darband-I-Khan, about an hour away. This map gives an idea of where we were:

There, a platoon from the Badr Brigades – a Shia militia backed by Iran -- were putting on a show of strength and pissing off the Americans by flexing their Iranian backed muscles.

The military parade was quite a sight – about a 1,000 soldiers being put through their paces and showinf off their hardware – mortar launchers, katyusha rockets, rocket propelled grenades. Flanked by the mountains, with the flags flying in the breeze and a military band playing, it was easy to get good pictures and audio.

Here's an audio snippet and here's a rather good article on the Badr Brigade.

We came back and cut quick pieces for World TV and World Service…..and a technological breakthrough…we fed the TV piece to London on a new piece of kit called “store and forward.” Basically you pump the pictures into the computer, compress them, and then uplink them onto the satellite through a dish that’s about the size of a laptop. London receives them like an e-mail, fiddles with them, and broadcasts them. It’s fairly slow – it takes a couple of hours to send a 2 minute piece, but the quality’s excellent, it’s cheap, and it means we can send stuff from anywhere in the world – even the balcony of a hotel room. I’ve not used it before – it was a bit fiddly but I was very impressed.

Another busy day today, sending our TV and radio piece on Halabja to mark the 15th anniversary. That should be out the way later this afternoon then I’m going on strike for 24 hours. I need a rest before the bombing starts.

Oh, and Assad the driver has been given his marching orders. Not only was he packing two guns and was blind as a bat and a shit driver but he was a lazy bastard as well. We sent him back to Arbil with a flea in his ear.


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