Heat in Iraq

This piece first aired in August, 2010, as part of the show, “Endless Summer”

Listen here.

    Host Intro: This Summer has been one of the hottest on record. New York, D.C., and Las Vegas all set records for average temperatures. But in Iraq the summer heat wave takes on new meaning. Temperatures often soar above 120 degrees Fahrenheit and in a country where most houses can’t power air conditioners for more than a few hours a day because of severe electricity shortages, dealing with the heat is a big problem. Kyle Crawford spoke to several Iraqis about what its like to deal with the extreme temperatures and lack of electricity.

    KYLE CRAWFORD: Omran Rafeek is 28 years old and lives in Baghdad. He, like all his fellow Iraqis, must endure the scorching Iraqi Summer. 

    OMRAN RAFEEK: Summer in Iraq lasts for about 10 months. It starts in March and ends in October. Temperatures start to get better in November, December, and January….Summer temperatures reach 120, or even 130 degrees. 

    KYLE CRAWFORD: Temperatures like this are unimaginable for most Americans. But even on the hottest days, most of us can count on air conditioning to cool us down. Iraqis, however, don’t have this luxury. Electricity is highly unreliable due to the lack of power generation and infrastructure in the country. The exact amount of electricity households and businesses receive varies, but often Iraqis don’t get more than six hours of power a day from the national power grid.

    OMRAN RAFEEK: As you know, there is no electricity. And the summer heat is awful, there are no ACs or fans to turn on because there is no power. Where can one escape the heat?!! you either go out in the sun, or stay at home and its’ pretty hot inside, too. there are no other ways to escape the heat.

    KYLE CRAWFORD: Mohammed Faisal, who works as an accountant and also lives in Baghdad, says that the heat is often so unbearable that he finds it difficult to work. 

    It’s like dying 1000 times in the day. And maybe dying would be easier than living in that situation. I can’t work. Maybe I write one or two words and I go outside. I try to find some little air just cause I can’t see anything because it is very very hot. I feel my eyes want to be closed.

    KYLE CRAWFORD: For Alino Rayan, an engineering student, the heat and lack of electricity makes his already demanding studies even more taxing.

    ALINO RAYAN: It’s like it–it, uh, prevents me from doing my agenda, you know, my daily activities and it’s really bothering for me … I can’t study for college, for my engineering, uh, materials so it’s really, it’s like, it gets me off my game, and, really, that’s very very big challenge for me to still do it through when the power is not on.

    KYLE CRAWFORD: Since the national power grid is not dependable, many Iraqis–including Rafeek–purchase electricity from local contractors. 

    OMRAN RAFEEK: We have a big commerical generator in the area and It supplies power to about 50-100 houses. People buy power every month  usually buy 3 to 5 amperes a month and this is the case throughtout iraq. The generator supplies power from 1:00pm in the afternoon to 4:00 pm. then they turn it on from 7:00 at night to  midnight, and that’s it for the day. the rest of the day, you only have God. we have manual fans, and we just keep fanning.

    KYLE CRAWFORD: When the power is out there are a number of things Iraqis do to try and deal with the heat. Rafeek explains that taking many showers every day is one way to cool down.

    OMRAN RAFEEK: We take showers. we take showers every hour. 

    KYLE CRAWFORD: Faisal also showers many times a day, and to stay cool longer he even showers with all his clothes on.

    MOHAMMED FAISAL: I take a shower six or seven times in one night…All my clothes on also because I want some water to be cold.

    KYLE CRAWFORD: Rayan goes outside in the evening to cool down, but, even at 6pm, temperatures sit above 100 degrees.

    ALINO RAYAN: So, it’s like I go after six o’clock. It’s gets a little bit, uh, darker, you know, shadow. So I go after six o’clock. That’s it.

    KYLE CRAWFORD: Even though it’s cooler outside than inside some Iraqis like Faisal, feel it is too dangerous to venture outside their home to cool down.

    MOHAMMED FAISAL: Here in Iraq you must spend most of the day and the night at home because it is too dangerous to go outside at night at about 7pm you must stay at home so you spend many of the night in home.

    KYLE CRAWFORD: Staying inside all day as Faisal explains can cause friction to develop between family members. 

    MOHAMMED FAISAL: So you don’t have power you stay just stay staring at your family your family also just speaki and speak it even makes you bored of your family and also you family bored of you. Cause about 14 hours at home just speaking to them make problem with brother and sister, father and son. All of your family. 

    KYLE CRAWFORD: The heat also makes it difficult to sleep. So to cool down, many Iraqis sleep on the roof.

    The heat and lack of electricity have combined to create high levels of frustration with the government. Earlier this summer mass protests erupted throughout Iraq and the minister of electricity resigned. Rayan explains his disillusionment with the government.

    ALINO RAYAN: Oh, they are really talk and just talk and there’s no actions, like, to be executed. They just talk, talk, talk for years, uh, they promised us power, electricity will be back and we will enjoy our daily life, but that was just, like, a blah blah blah. It doesn’t really get executed. So, it’s like, whatever they say we don’t really care because I don’t see it coming from my individual opinion, I don’t see it coming. I just hear it; I don’t see it.

    KYLE CRAWFORD: For Iraqis, more consistent electricity would mean the ability to power air conditioners and get relief from the heat. However, the reality of the situation is that this won’t be happening anytime soon. The only real and consistent relief will be when temperatures begin to drop in the coming months.

    For War News Radio, I’m Kyle Crawford.