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Bedouin Nomads Receive Aid in Nasiriya


The effort to bring order out of chaos in Iraq is a daily struggle as food and water shortages continue. Among those who need of help are the Bedouins near the southeastern city of Nasiriya.

VOA-TV's Deborah Block has the story of a friendship between the Bedouins and one U.S. Army soldier.

NATURAL SOUND – BEDOUIN SPEECH

U.S. Army Sergeant David Marr stands on a truck that is supplying badly needed water to these Bedouins outside the town of Nasiriya. Although Sergeant Marr is dressed in army clothes, he wears a traditional headdress.

SERGEANT DAVID MARR, U.S. ARMY
“The first couple of days here, the people, the Bedouins and the people in the village I go to, wanted me to wear a headdress, and it kind of closed our relationship even tighter because now they accept me as one of them. I was proud to put it on.”

NATURAL SOUND - WOMAN TALKING

Even though the truck has plenty of water to go around, some people rush out of their tents to make sure they don’t miss their opportunity, like this woman who fills leather saddlebags.

NATURAL SOUND - WOMAN GETTING WATER FROM TRUCK

UNIDENTIFIED MAN
“I think they were kind of surprised that I would come out here and deliver water to them. Water’s here, wow this is great.”

Food is also needed. David and other soldiers, both American and British, hand out yellow bags of pre-packaged meals similar to there own military rations.

NATURAL SOUND – BEDOUIN SPEECH AND SHEEP

David has formed a bond with the Bedouins who call him Doud (dow-ewd), an Arabic name. He shares cigarettes with the men.

SERGEANT DAVID MARR, U.S. ARMY
“Marlboro is a big favorite out here.”

…And candy with the children.

NATURAL SOUND – DAVID MARR TALKING WITH CHILDREN

SERGEANT DAVID MARR, U.S. ARMY
“I have three kids at home…and they remind me of how much I miss my kids. Through connecting with them, you connect with their parents and the elders of the villages or the Bedouins, and you never know, one of them might one day be president of their country, and change our peace process to make it better for all of us.”

The Bedouins are a nomadic people who herd sheep, goats and camels in the harsh desert. But it was tougher to endure the regime of Saddam Hussein, they say, than the desert. Food rations were withheld if they refused to join Saddam’s Baath party.

To protect themselves, they moved farther into the desert. But now, with Saddam out of power they feel safer, and have moved closer to Nasiriya where it is easier to get food and fuel for their vehicles. But food prices are high and many of them are desperately poor.

British army corporal Jamie Doig says some people have had little to eat.

CORPORAL JAMIE DOIG, BRITISH ARMY
“They’ve had a lot to deal with. It’s nice to come out with some humanitarian aid and distribute some food for them.”

The Bedouins say they are waiting for additional American food aid. Some humanitarian groups are hesitant to deliver food because of the instability in Iraq. Wahid Soud says the Bedouins hope they will soon be given food they are used to eating.

WAHID SOUD, TRANSLATOR
“They want flour, rice, wheat. They are waiting for something other than you are offering them.”

Wahid Soud has two wives and says he is concerned about having enough food to feed what he hopes will be his growing family.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN
“God is helping them with what they have. With the sheep they have, selling it. Trying to get enough (food) for both of them. But he is waiting for the American food so he can marry the third one.”

U.S. Army Specialist Ashley Fanara is one of the few women who is helping the Bedouins here. She says some of the men ask her male colleagues whether they can buy her using dinars, the local currency.

ASHLEY FANARA, U.S. ARMY SPECIALIST
“They’re kind of uncomfortable with speaking directly to me, and they come to the men and ask if they can trade me for ten million dinar or sheep. Of course, the soldiers just have to say no.”

Today Sergeant David Marr is saying goodbye to the Bedouins because he’s being transferred to the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

SERGEANT DAVID MARR, U.S. ARMY
“You know, they’ve taken me in like family. So it’s really nice of them. It’s hard to say goodbye.”

He says what he finds amazing is that even after a war, people who thought they were enemies, can become friends.

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