Iraq Poll: Field Interviewer Notes

March 19, 2007 -- -- Field work for the ABC News/USA Today/BBC/ARD poll in Iraq was conducted by 103 Iraqi interviewers who traveled to 458 sampling points across the country. While many completed their assignments uneventfully, others witnessed incidents of violence, including bombings, shootings and a mass kidnapping.

Some of their field notes follow.

Feb. 25, 2007Province: Ninevah

When I went to this specific region for the survey I have noticed that there was a mourning ceremony, and I think that it was the last day for it. It was by coincidence that my work took me to this house. When I asked to do the questionnaire with one member of the family, they asked me about the reasons behind my visit and selection for their house. I told them that their house was selected according to the random rules of the survey and I told them that we have a project about the opinions of citizens concerning the general situations in the country. The process of the interview was very difficult with them, and I learned that their son had been an officer in the former Iraqi army and that he was killed by an armed militia. They don't know the reasons behind killing him and they said that this is the destiny of former Army officers because they receive threats and are killed.

Feb. 25, 2007Province: Wasit

I went to the assigned region to conduct interviews, and during the field work the supervisor was taking pictures when suddenly we realized a police patrol in the region was following us. When they reached us, they started asking us about our work and whose side we are working for, then they took us to the police station. The supervisor is a member in the local council and has many good relations, so he was able to deal with the situation and solved the problem. He convinced them that our work is for the benefit of the public and aims to share opinions of the people. He told them we are working for a formal company and it is permitted by the Iraqi government. After showing the papers of the company we were able to leave the police station without any problems and return back home safely.

Feb. 25, 2007Province: Najaf

I went with the supervisor to the sampling point where we should perform our survey, and when we tried to take pictures of the location before starting our work, a police patrol approached us. They took us to the police station and they started asking us about the reasons behind taking pictures and what we were doing. We told them that we are conducting a survey of citizens in order to find their opinions about the general situation in Iraq. They asked us to show them the documents of the company, and all our papers were in order so we were able to leave the police station safely.

Feb. 26, 2007Province: Diyala

Two bombs exploded in front of the public market and destroyed it, then dead bodies spread everywhere in front of us in a very awful way.

Feb. 26, 2007Province: Baghdad

I saw national guard forces catching some young people and they beat them violently and put guns to their heads and took them to an unknown place.

Feb. 27, 2007Province: Anbar

The Americans have broken into houses in search of armed individuals as they claim and they violated the sanctity of those homes and arrested tens of young men in the U.S. base (nearby).

Feb. 27, 2007Province: Baghdad

The region was attacked by members of the national guard and special forces of the ministry of interior affairs, and they arrested and beat young and old people in front of us. They took them to the intelligence headquarters in the city. This incident took place in front of me and I learned more about what happened to them through talking to their families.

Feb. 27, 2007Province: Diyala

I saw a school manager killed with his son in a very awful way.

Feb. 27, 2007Province: Irbil

I started working in Irbil in the assigned neighborhood. I didn't face any defects or problems with citizens and it is normal for them to ask about our work and whether our company is related to any side, if it is official or not, but usually we can convince them to participate in interviews. In one house, I got their permission to perform the interview. I started writing their names and dates of birth, then according to the rules of our work I selected one of the girls in the house due to her birthday being the one with the date that matches our procedure. I asked to make an interview with her but the father of the family refused and he asked me to make the interview with him. I told him that this can not be done, these are the rules of our work, and I tried to convince him but I failed. I left the house without doing the interview.

I noted that the services in this region are average, but there is a shortage in electricity and it is not available before noon. Electricity comes for 3 hours only and there is no hygiene drainage (sewer) in the region.

Feb. 27, 2007Province: Irbil

I started working in Irbil in the assigned rural village. The people there say that the government of Kurdistan doesn't work correctly and is not interested in the problems of villages. They said that if the situation will remain the same in villages no one will remain in them and all of the people will move to cities because the price of fuel is very expensive. They complain that their harvests are being sold at prices that are too low because of the presence of vegetables and fruits from all neighboring countries of Iraq. They say it is because there are no obstacles or taxes for these fruits and things. People told me that most young people join the Peshmurga (Kurdish militia) in order to get salaries and they don't work with their parents on the farm. Also, there are few services. The people were somewhat fearful to participate and answer our questions. They asked us not to record their names or publicize their pictures on TV or in newspapers.

Feb. 27, 2007Province: Maysan

I went to the assigned region in Maysan to conduct the survey and before finishing my work the supervisor called me to say he will come to visit me to check my work. I waited for him for a long time, but he didn't come. I learned that a police patrol had arrested him after seeing him taking pictures. Because of the efforts of our field manager for this region, his telephone calls, and his personal relations with people in this governorate, the supervisor was released and returned back home safely.

Feb. 27, 2007Province: Muthanna

We moved to our sampling point in the center of the assigned district in Muthanna. We visited houses of respondents and most of them are poor people; throughout our path we didn't face any obstacles and the way to the sampling point was open. We entered the region without obstacles. There was a delay but not related to security reasons, but rather it was caused by blocking the way by the visitors of Karbala who come from the southern regions. The situation of the neighborhoods we visited is bad. There are concerns with services and electricity, there are garbage piles and building debris along main roads. There are no land-line telephones in the neighborhood where we worked.

...People didn't like the questionnaire when we knocked on doors and asked them to participate, so we called one of our friends in the region to identify us to citizens in the neighborhood as safe people. After that we did our questionnaire in the usual accurate way but respondents refused to take pictures with us. We didn't face any threats from citizens and we had no security problems in our sampling point.

Feb. 28, 2007Province: Diyala

A group of employees in the educational directorate were kidnapped from their workplace in a way that frightened us. No one intervened to save them and their destiny is unknown.

March 1, 2007Province: Baghdad

I saw a bomb exploding against a police patrol and the burning bodies of policemen. The strange thing is that there were other patrols nearby but they didn't intervene to do anything for at least half an hour after the first explosion. This is because they fear the probability of another explosion to take place. During recent times, explosions have taken place one after the other in order to achieve the maximum amount of casualties.

March 1, 2007Province: Irbil

When I went to a district in Irbil and I visited the selected neighborhood to conduct an interview in the required sampling point, a few people accepted the survey in a good way, but many of them didn't accept to be interviewed. They say that we have no permission from the government of Kurdistan, the forms of the questionnaire are not stamped by Kurdish authorities, and we ourselves have no official badge in the Kurdish language. Those who refuse to participate say that they fear participating because they don't know to which party this company belongs and they don't like to be involved in problems with the security forces. We told them that our company is civilian, independent and doesn't work for any party. We told them that we work for the sake of Iraqis and we record their opinions anonymously.

The situation of the neighborhood was good as services are available, but there is no electricity line and there are only private electricity generators shared by people. There is a shortage in fuel and it is very expensive, so people bring cooking and car fuel from the Iranian borders.

March 3, 2007Province: Basra

I visited the researchers in their sampling points in Basra province and during an interview with a citizen from the assigned sampling point at about 12:30 in the afternoon, there was a clash between two groups. One armed person came over to us when he saw we had a camera and papers. When I told him that we are conducting interviews with citizens and that we are taking pictures to mark the event, he started to fight with us and then he took our camera and broke it. In order not to expand the crisis and to keep the continuity of our work we presented our apology to him for annoying him. We left the region quickly after finishing our last interview. The main reason behind this problem is the unstable security situation in this area, especially if we realize that the business of private research is new for Iraqis who are not familiar with such things. Many people believe that we are doing something against them and that we work for foreign interests.

March 5, 2007Province: Diyala

In front of me, an explosive went off under an American patrol and the other American patrol started randomly shooting, which almost got all of us killed hadn't it been for the mercy of God Almighty.

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