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Voices from Iraq


BBC News Online speaks to six Iraqis about their lives, fears and hopes.

Mam Rostam is a veteran Peshmerga, or Kurdish fighter. He is from the predominantly Kurdish city of Kirkuk and is gearing up for a US-led attack on Baghdad.

I was born in Kirkuk in 1955. I became a Peshmerga at the age of 20 when I joined the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. I have the honour of being a member of the first revolutionary unit that fought the Baghdad regime in 1976, one year after the collapse of our previous revolution in 1975.

I spent most of my time between 1976 and 1991 in the mountains fighting the Iraqi Government. We have been calling for – and fighting for - "regime change" for the past 30 years.

To our surprise, when Saddam Hussein flew his helicopters to crush us, Mr Bush turned his back on us and went fishing. I hope his son is not going to do the same
In 1991, we came down from the mountains into our cities after hearing the first President Bush saying that it was up to us to take matters into our own hands. We attacked the Iraqi Government in the Kurdish cities and managed to force them out of the cities of Sulaymaniyah, Arbil and Dohuk. It was an amazing day. At long last we saw the end of the tyranny.

The most memorable day in my life was when we liberated my city, Kirkuk. It happened on 21 March,1991 – our National Day, Nawroz. We attacked the Iraqi military, security and intelligence offices from all sides. The surprise was spectacular for them. They didn't know what to do. The people of Kirkuk joined us. We managed to liberate more than half of the city.

Anger and hysteria

People, especially those whose relatives were killed by the government, were very angry. They killed all the security and intelligence personnel and other figures of Baghdad's repression in the cities. We could not stop the people. They were hysterical.

While all this violence was taking place against the regime's cronies and henchmen, about 100,000 soldiers of the Iraqi army who surrendered to us were shown respect. I remember sharing my meal with two of them throughout the time they were with us. We became good friends. This was a clear example that the people of Iraq have nothing against each other. We later gave them all to the Red Cross to give them back to the Iraqi Government.

When Saddam retaliated, our situation was desperate. Millions of us had to once again flee to the cold mountains. People were dying by the thousands every day
We were very confident. We thought that Mr Bush was going to help us and protect us from Saddam Hussein. To our surprise, when Saddam Hussein flew his helicopters to crush us, Mr Bush turned his back on us and went fishing. I hope his son is not going to do the same.

When Saddam retaliated, our situation was desperate. Millions of us had to once again flee to the cold mountains. People were dying by the thousands every day. When the allies came and the safe haven was established we returned again to our homes and we regained control over the majority of our region - apart from my home city, Kirkuk.

Talk of war

With all the talk about an attack against Saddam, all my relatives and every other Kirkuki I know is are very excited and they have all joined the Peshmerga army to take part in liberating their homes.

My fighters and I fear that if Saddam is attacked, he will retaliate by attacking us. And it is very likely that he would use chemical weapons against us. We Kurds fear that we might be once again left to the brutality of Saddam Hussein.

Despite the fact that our weapons are very basic, our morale is high. The Iraqi army's morale is low… they tell us that they have no intention of fighting another war against us
Look around you. The Israelis have protection. The Kuwaitis have protection. The Iranians, the Turks, everyone else has protection apart from us. And we were the only victims of Saddam's chemical weapons. It is good to hear George W Bush reminding people of Saddam's crimes against us, but he is not doing anything else. We need protection against chemical weapons.

Despite all this, and despite the fact that our weapons are very basic, our morale is high. The Iraqi army's morale is low. They contact us on a daily basis from the front lines – Iraqi soldiers and officers. They tell us that they have no intention of fighting another war against us. In fact, they sell us their weapons all the time. We can buy anything from them.

If we can get decent weapons and have some protection against chemical weapons, we will do wonders.

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