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Last Updated: Friday, 21 March 2008, 15:39 GMT
Iraq lives: Schoolgirl in Baghdad
Noor Salman is 16-year-old Iraqi girl living in Baghdad. She writes about her experiences of life in the five years since the US-led invasion.

LOST LIVES

The last five years have passed by so quickly and so much has happened. I can't believe it's been five years since this all began.

Noor at her father's grave
Noor lost her father in a militia raid on their home in August 2006
Baghdad has changed so much and so has my life. Up until two years ago we had a big house and had plenty of money and my father looked after us.

Now we live in a small rented two-bedroom house with my mother, my brother and his wife and my seven sisters.

But my dad is no longer with us. In August 2006 a group of militia men got out of a car and forcibly entered our home.

I cannot describe these people, they are not human beings. They broke the front door of our home and stormed into the house and kidnapped my dad.

They pulled him while aiming their guns at him. When he tried to defend himself they knocked him unconscious and put him in the boot of the car.

I was very frightened and I lost faith in everything and everyone. I wish they had taken everything, our car, our home, but left my father alive.

The next morning we were informed by the police station that they had found his body, it had been dumped in a side street with his hands tied behind his back. He had been shot in the head.

I could not believe that I had lost him forever. Many other teenagers like me have also lost their fathers in Baghdad, killed for no apparent reason.

REFUGEES

My dad used to do everything for us. He used to turn on the generator so that we had electricity at home and he would do all the hard jobs.

Even to this day we only have two hours of electricity a day so we need to get the extra energy from the generators. Now that my dad is gone we have to do these things ourselves.

Noor's father
After my dad was murdered the violence meant we had to leave our home
In early 2003, when I was in school, everyone was talking about the possibility of war. As school children we did not understand the implications.

The day Baghdad fell, I started to understand. We saw many of our relatives and friends getting displaced. Many fled to neighbouring countries.

My dad, however, was adamant. He said he would never leave his country and would prefer to die here rather than for us to live as refugees in another land.

After my dad was murdered the violence meant we had to leave our home and we became displaced and other people came and squatted in our house.

I lost my home, my childhood memories, my bedroom, my toys and my beautiful garden with all its flowers.

My dad used to call me Dr Noor when I was young - he wanted me to become a physician. I am still hoping to fulfil his dream.

Our city is not what it once was and studying is not easy. Walking to school became a dangerous journey, although recently things are better.

I wonder, how many school children in the world have to go to school fearing they may not make it home. That's what we had to do.

I'm so happy that things are better on that front - but we are all aware that they could easily change again.

COPING WITH FEAR

Noor Salman at home
She says children have had to live with bombings and destruction
Today I had Dolma, one of my most favourite dishes, it's basically stuffed vegetables, it's a very traditional Iraqi dish.

After the war began, getting food was very difficult and people were living off the basics. Even to the go to the market was very difficult.

It's only recently that people feel it's a bit safer to go to the markets - there have been bombings in these places and that makes people think twice - but you have to live.

After the fall of Baghdad Iraqi children learnt very quickly the meaning of destruction and war.

I remember at dawn time, instead of hearing the call to prayer we woke up hearing the noise of blasts.

Baghdad became like a ghost city. There was no law and order and an increase in crime so people were afraid to go out.

We learnt to cope with fear and after time we started going back to school.

We got used to living in a city were violence was everywhere and random bombings could happen anytime and in every place. We experienced the brutal nature of this new Iraq when my father was murdered.

Noor Salman is sponsored by the charity Islamic Relief



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