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Last Updated: Monday, 13 June 2005, 13:30 GMT 14:30 UK
My Day in Iraq: US aid worker
As part of the BBC News website's One Day in Iraq coverage, we heard from people from all walks of life, all over the country.

"Susan", a US aid worker based in Dohuk in the Kurdish autonomous area of northern Iraq, told us about a day spent working with local communities to improve awareness of the burgeoning political system.

It was the second day of a three-day workshop in Mangesh focusing on the Iraqi constitution and elections.

The night before, I stayed at the home of friends near Dohuk. There were 12 of us sleeping in two rooms on mattresses. Luckily, it was a cool night!

We had problems getting people here from Baghdad as the road is dangerous and we didn't have time to organise flights, but locals managed to get here fine. It is much safer where we are.

I was excited about the workshop. The 40-strong group is a good mix of Christians and Muslims, most of whom have never had an opportunity to express their own ideas on the new government.

The people in Mangesh are also very proud of how well Muslims and Christians get along together in their community.

Protecting rights

It was a sunny and warm day, but the breeze at the top of the hill where our workshop hall is located was refreshing.

Participants in constitutional workshop in Mangesh, northern Iraq
Participants of all faiths and ethnic groups took part in discussions
In the morning we talked about how constitutions can protect minority rights and women's rights.

Afterwards, we sat down to a delicious lunch of baked chicken mixed with rice. The women who cooked the lunches live right up the street and had carried food cooked in their home kitchens down the hill to us.

Later in the afternoon we had group work, where five groups discussed the kind of constitution they wanted for Iraq.

They then wrote their own version so that the next day they could go through each group by group and discuss them.

It's a useful exercise and, since we take copies of the constitutions to one of the members of the Iraqi National Assembly after the workshop is finished, it helps them form a part of the constitution-writing process.

When all the participants had received their certificates and gone home, we paid the staff members of the workshop and those who helped make the workshop successful - the women who cooked the lunches, the tea servers and cleaners.

Working together

I finally finished at about 2000, but then was invited to stop by the houses of two workshop participants to finish the day with a light tea or supper.

Local woman in Mangesh
Local women are also heavily involved in the project
I walked up the narrow, steeply inclined street outside the church hall where the workshop took place with the local priest. We got to the mokhtar's [local community leader] house and were treated to homemade yoghurt and bread and some hot tea.

We talked for an hour on the porch of the mokhtar's house as night fell on Mangesh and, even after the electricity went out, we sat in the deepening dusk and continued to talk about how useful the workshop was and how much Iraq needs to be changed so democracy and peace can come.

Later I visited the house of the women who had cooked our lunches - they'd invited me to stop by for supper before I headed back to Dohuk.

The mokhtar walked down the hill with me and visited with the family while I enjoyed more delicious treats, before it was time to head home around 2130.

I drove off through the starry night, enjoying the coolness of the high mountain pastures and the feeling of quietness as I wound through the roads heading back to Dohuk.

When I got to Dohuk, I was tired but happy. Our workshop ended successfully and it was nice to see the enthusiasm of all participants - Christian women alongside Muslim mullahs and illiterate village people working alongside highly educated people.


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