Thursday, 27 March 2003

Wave of fury sweeps Middle East

Fuelled by graphic television pictures of wounded Iraqi civilians and text messages on mobile phones, a tidal wave of fury against Britain and America is sweeping the Arab world.

In Jordan, traditionally the most moderate and tolerant of Arab countries, people are leaving work early and paying obsessive attention to al-Jazeera, the Arab satellite channel.

Its coverage of civilian casualties inflicted by the air raids on Baghdad has struck a particular chord. Pictures shown on Tuesday night of a wounded child have made an indelible impact.

"The whole British and American aggression against Iraq is evil, but the thing I can't get out of my head is the picture of the little boy who died in Baghdad," said Khalid Ramadan, 48, an engineer in the Jordanian capital, Amman. "The picture of that child resembles the bloody hands of Bush and Blair."

Newspapers are echoing these sentiments across the Arab world. The Algerian daily, el-Kha, said young men were rushing to volunteer to defend Iraq. Beside a front-page picture of Saddam Hussein, el-Kha carried the headline: "The American and British forces become bogged down in Iraq."

Technology has fuelled the passage of emotive messages about Iraq's plight. In Jordan, text messages are being constantly transmitted. In the space of yesterday morning alone, one Jordanian journalist received three messages.

One sent under the name "Baghdad" read: "I don't ask you for bread or guns. I only ask for your grief, because I am burning."

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