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Last Updated: Monday, 11 April 2005, 08:25 GMT 09:25 UK
After the war: Iraqis face new lives
US soldier stands by toppled statue of Saddam Hussein in central Baghdad, 9 April 2003
Symbolic moment signalling the fall of Saddam and Iraq's new start
Two years after the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled in Baghdad, marking the fall of the city to US-led forces, BBC Arabic.com asked seven Iraqis for their thoughts on how life has changed for them since the conflict.

Here are their stories.


SAAD , 32, BASRA, SOUND ENGINEER

Let me describe our situation before the fall of the previous regime. We were like a sick, weak prisoner under the thumb of a cruel jailer.

Saad
Saad: Iraqis "are breathing the air of freedom"
Then, suddenly and without warning, the gates of our prison were flung open. We were told: "Come on, you are free!"

The previous regime used to tell us what to read, what to watch and what to listen to.

There were no newspapers except the regime's and the Baghdad and Shabab youth radio stations. Even then, Shahab was owned by Uday, Saddam's eldest son.

If you tuned into these two stations, you would hear all about the president's audiences and activities.

On television we had, once again, the Iraq and Shabab stations. And again, the latter used to air the president's sayings and had a very entertaining programme called "Poems about the love of the leader"!

The previous regime used to tell us what to say, what work we could do
The previous regime used to tell us what to say and what work we could do. It would decide how much we earned. Indeed, we did not even get salaries but "gifts" from the president.

Please note that the "gift" my sister - a doctor and a specialist - used to get would amount to only $8 per month.

Then the moment of salvation came. Perhaps I shouldn't use the phrase "moment of salvation", for to do so implies we were expecting such a moment when in truth we were feeling hopeless.

Call it what you will, it happened and it was a magnificent thing.

Iraqis are feeling better. They are breathing the air of freedom. They read, watch and say what they want.

They travel, work and receive a living wage. They use mobile phones, satellite dishes and the internet, which they did not even know before.

The negative side, which is transient, is that some here are trying to force others to accept their way and even using force to achieve that.

As for terrorism, we are now beginning to unite against it and to defeat it.

I say to you: Wait two or three years and you will be pleasantly surprised.

NOURA, 32, BAGHDAD, COMPUTER ENGINEER

As an Iraqi, I see lack of security as the most important problem at the moment.

Noura
Noura says many Iraqis are thinking of leaving the country
I thought Iraqis would seize the opportunity of the fall of Saddam to rebuild a free and well-organised country, but unfortunately this has not happened.

Many Iraqis use their new freedom, which they got suddenly, in a selfish way. Many do not respect the law.

Iraqis should remember the law now is not as it was under Saddam.

Will Iraqis seize this opportunity, or will they let sectarianism and disagreement lead their lives?
They should remember we have a golden chance of freedom, a wish shared by many other suppressed nations.

As a Christian Iraqi, I can say that there is a general feeling of anxiety amongst Iraqi Christians. Many of them are considering whether to leave.

However, I can assure you that many Iraqis, regardless of their faith, are thinking of leaving as well.

Personally, I feel completely accepted and supported. I have no problem in practicing my religion, although I have heard of some extremist groups harassing Christians.

While we lost security after Saddam's fall, we gained our freedom and a chance to build a new society.

The question is: Will Iraqis seize this opportunity, or will they let sectarianism and disagreement lead their lives?

NADA, 32, MOSUL, GOVERNMENT WORKER

We never imagined that the Turkmen community would have a political party representing them in Iraq, but this is happening now. We have our own flag, too, in addition to the Iraqi flag.

Nada (right)
Nada (right) fears state corruption could undermine society
This was impossible during Saddam's era. Had we dared to do any of these things then we would have ended up buried in a mass grave.

We never imagined that the Iraqi media would be free from state interference and that anybody - regardless of his or her origin, political allegiance or religion - would be able to talk freely and express their opinion without fear.

We now have our own satellite television channel in our language and we can express our opinions as Iraqi Turkmen.

We are very happy now. But despite these improvements, we still fear terrorism and violence.

I do hope that women will fare better in Iraq under the present government
These acts make Iraqis feel hopeless, as if living in a state of constant instability.

The other problem we face is corruption within the Iraqi state administration.

This is destroying ordinary citizens' chances to improve their financial situation and their lives.

The theft of public money and abuse of power undermine society and have a serious impact.

There is also the problem of unemployment amongst university graduates. My sister, for example, is a law graduate, but for two years she has not found a job.

The Iraqi government is trying its best to improve the country's situation, but it lacks good planning, knowledge and experience.

My situation as an Iraqi woman has not changed much since the removal of Saddam. I do hope, however, that women will fare better in Iraq under the present government.

KABAN, 31, BAGHDAD, ELECTRICAL ENGINEER

There have been many changes since the fall of Saddam's regime, but the most important change was that we feel free.

Kaban
Kaban: "Everything will be OK for future generations"
Many Iraqis had lived in fear of the regime for years, therefore the first step along the way to democracy and freedom was getting rid of that fear.

This freedom led to breaking the isolation which had engulfed us Iraqis - especially the Iraqi intellectuals - during the Saddam era.

Many people predicted a civil and ethnic war between Iraqis would erupt, but the Iraqis were the first to sense the danger and ensured that it would never happen.

Those who say that security was better in the past are completely wrong
The only thing that worries us is the security situation. However, those who say that security was better in the past are completely wrong.

It is true we did not have suicide car bombings in Saddam's era, but our homes did not feel safe from the intrusion of Saddam's security men, who came in the middle of the night to kidnap, kill or rape.

Our insecurity then was also not highlighted on the Arab satellite television channels as it is now.

Things are now complicated but we, as Iraqis, understand that in the end everything will be OK for future generations.

WALAA, 25, BAGHDAD, SCHOOLTEACHER

We had great hope that change in Iraq would be for the better and that Iraq would restore security, but unfortunately this didn't happen.

I'm sure everyone will agree that we do not feel secure and safe, although the economic situation has got better for people such as civil servants, whose salaries have risen.

We do not feel safe when we leave our homes. Life has become unpredictable for most people because of transport difficulties and a lack of facilities.

Nepotism and favouritism have also hit society across the board.

Sunnis in Iraq do not live in isolation from the political and social circles of life, as many people outside Iraq seem to believe
I want the Iraqi government to concentrate on resolving these serious problems by legislating new laws.

The solution to Iraq's problems, in my view, lies in achieving social justice and equality for the people and in the government monitoring the whole situation constantly.

As for individuals, they should be aware that everyone is equal before the law and that dreams and ambitions cannot be achieved by theft and illegal means, but by working hard and being honest with themselves and others.

From what I have seen, I can say that the Sunnis in Iraq do not live in isolation from the political and social circles of life, as many people outside Iraq seem to believe.

Nothing has affected our relationships with each other - we face the same problems. This applies to Sunnis or Shia, Christians or Muslims, Arabs or Kurds.

Unfortunately, the refusal by some Sunnis to participate in the elections was the cause of some political isolation.

But we have every right to participate as much as the rest, because there is only one Iraq, one land and one history that we all share.

IMAD MOHAMED, 25, BAGHDAD, UNIVERSITY GRADUATE

After the regime change in Iraq, I expected radical changes in Iraqi society. I hoped things would improve.

Imad
Imad: "Iraqis just want normal lives without violence and sectarianism"
This is true in some cases. For example, as an Iraqi, I am no longer afraid that the secret security service will arrest me.

I am no longer afraid that I could be tortured, jailed, or killed simply because some officials do not like me.

I am no longer worried about losing my dignity or my life. And I am also getting a higher income, like most Iraqis.

I have bought a new car - which was a dream for me - and all commodities are available in the markets now, in contrast to Saddam's time.

I hope Iraqis build a new country for this generation and the coming ones
However, public services such as electricity and water supplies have not improved.

The worst problem, as always, is the lack of security. If we had peace and security in Iraq, our lives would be so much better.

Iraqi want to live in peace after long years of wars. They just want normal lives without violence and sectarianism.

I hope that one day Iraqis will overcome all the difficulties they face. I hope they build a new country for this generation and the coming ones.


The following comments reflect the balance of views received.

The points of views expressed by those ladies and gentlemen depict the true picture prevailing across the country. As an Iraqi Kurd, I am really proud of the objective views of those fellow-citizens. I have no doubt that the vast majority of Iraqis share similar vision about the situation in the country. However, there is a small minority from some Saddam loyalists and gangs of criminals who are trying, in collaboration with international terrorist groups and direct and indirect support from some neighbouring countries, to reverse the course of actions. What is pleasing is that most Iraqis are now united to fight those terrorists and that the beginning of the end has already started.
Kamal Dooski, Dohuk, Iraq

It is great to read such optimistic comments. I hope such comments are published and echoed around the Arab world and that pressure is brought on the insurgents to cease their activities and give Iraq a chance to grow. Only if Iraq becomes stable and the quality of life improves can the world judge whether the means justified the end.
Jonathan, Dubai

I am a British Muslim, living and working in Dubai, with my family. We have been in the region for 15 yrs and seen many changes. I have worked with several Iraqis who were unable to live in their own country before. They and their families were in danger from the Baath party system. They are now able to travel home, to meet family and friends who they could not visit before. This composite article is the story that needs to be told now. It is indeed the reality of Iraq - a liberated country where the pendulum of freedom has swung (in some cases) too far in the other direction.
Ali Denton-Cardew, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

I noticed their are no interviews with anyone from the slums of Sadr City or from the destroyed city of Falluja, nor with anyone who was related to any of the 100,000 civilians that have died, or anyone who was tortured or knows someone who was tortured in Abu Ghraib.
Kristina Gronquist, Minneapolis, Minnesota

I am so happy to read the comments here from Iraqis living in the new Iraq. Living free from Saddam's oppressive dictatorship must be a great feeling. All the comments I've read show great promise for the future. And I only wish them well and my best wishes for a speedy recovery. I know our soldiers will be happy when the day comes.
Danny Thompson, Phoenix, Arizona USA

The people you interviewed were all educated. I'm not surprised that they are happy to seem Saddam gone. But are they representative?
Philip Gough, Austin, Texas, USA

Like most of the people in the new Iraq, we have hope for the future. Although things are still bad, we never had hope under Saddam. Whether we like to admit it or not, it's all down to President Bush. If it was not for him, we would not be looking to the future.
Ali, Surrey, British Iraqi

These stories confirm what I suspected to be the case, that life is much better now for the people of Iraq. The news we hear on TV is always bad news, but many more people are living "good news" lives. We need to hear more of these ordinary everyday stories on TV so we can form a more balanced view of what is happening in the world.
Rev Ross Garner, Bredbury, UK

All of the people you interviewed are professionals. How were they able to get such advanced education under Saddam Hussein? Was there not discrimination against women? Weren't the Shia population denied these privileges? How could they afford such education?
Reva Rubenstein, Washington, DC, US

One thing rings true throughout these comments is a sense of hope. I lived and worked in Iraq during Saddam's time. I know the Iraqis have suffered greatly through interference from outside and the system that Saddam imposed. They were powerless to stop this. Now they have a chance. I wish them well, for they all really deserve a much better life. They have a rich culture and heritage. They are educated and able. They do need a strong government of their own choosing and this will be the biggest test of all.
Alan, Warsaw, Poland




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