Basra is a lively place, with markets and restaurants, and little of the siege mentality gripping Baghdad. But there has also been violence – clashes between rival criminal gangs scrabbling for power, and a rise of strict Islam which has seen so-called “honour killings” of women. In Baghdad, a simple, everyday train represented another hopeful sign.
The long-distance line from the capital to Basra was shut down in the chaos following the invasion of Iraq in 2003. This morning, Baghdad’s Allawi al-Hilla station saw the resumption of the service to the south. Iraq is a long way from normality, but every journey begins with small steps like this.