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In pictures: Last bus to Baghdad

Julian Simmonds

In issue #24 of Delayed Gratification, we told the incredible story of the ‘human shields’ who in 2003 took three double-decker ‘peace buses’ and a white London cab from London’s Tower Bridge to Baghdad in an effort to thwart an invasion of Iraq. By stationing themselves at strategically important places, the human shields hoped to prevent coalition forces from dropping bombs on these locations.

Among the passengers were photographer Julian Simmonds and Joe Letts, the owner of two of the double-deckers and the cab used during the trip. Here Letts tells the story behind some of Simmonds’ shots that didn’t make it into the print magazine.

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Julian Simmonds

“This photo was taken at the border between Syria and Iraq. The Iraqis allowed the human shields to import cameras, computers and satellite telecommunications equipment so we could distribute pictures of the carnage being caused – unprecedented helpfulness in a police state.”

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Julian Simmonds

“Human shields asleep at the border post. After an arduous three-week journey, we arrived in the evening and couldn’t pass through until the welcome committee and day shift arrived to process our papers.”

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Julian Simmonds

“Adele Peers, one of the human shields, shortly after crossing into Iraq in the back of the London cab in which she made the entire journey from London to Baghdad. In normal life, Peers was an educator specialising in special needs children.”

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Julian Simmonds

“This photo of my two buses was taken on Saturday 15th February 2003, about 20 kilometres outside Baghdad before our arrival later that afternoon.”

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Julian Simmonds

“Dave Howarth (aka Muppet Dave) and Ubi Evans on the roof of the human shields’ accommodation at Baghdad South Power station, about to start painting the words ‘human shields’ in large letters to notify any warplane pilots of our presence.”

Throughout the bombing campaign, no human shields died, and only one of the sites they had guarded, a telecommunications tower, was bombed – the day after the shields were withdrawn by the Iraqi authorities.

“I think it was the best peace action of the century,” Letts, who visited Iraq again shortly after the invasion, told us. “While the war hadn’t been averted, key infrastructure had remained intact and the initial civilian casualties were much lower than in the first Gulf War.”

Want to find out more about the human shields’s experiences in Iraq? Read our full story ‘Last bus to Baghdad’ in issue #24 of Delayed Gratification, which is available in our shop.

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