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A Proud Iraqi This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     On September 9, 1987, I opened my eyes for the first time to my family and Baghdad, my home. I was named Hasan after my grandfather who died a month before I was born.

In 1990, there was the Gulf War. I saw fear through my family’s eyes but nobody would tell me what was going on. My family and I moved to my cousin’s house in Al Halla, one of Iraq’s 18 provinces. I was happy because I could play with my cousins but also worried because I knew something was wrong. Now, I realize that my parents were right not to tell me because they didn’t want me to get scared and have nightmares. I don’t blame them.

My cousin, Zahraa, and I both got ducks during the war. I loved my duck very much and when I found out that she died, tears formed in my eyes. My parents reassured me that they would get me another but they never did.

One night, a high-pitched noise pierced my ears. I opened my eyes and got up. What was going on? My mother told me it was nothing. I didn’t believe her and stayed awake all night, my heart pounding as fast as it could. Why wouldn’t anyone tell me the truth? If I hear something disturbing, it stays in my mind for days. Yes, I have nightmares. But who doesn’t? I was living in fear in Iraq. And I wasn’t the only one. I was definitely not the only one.

The war was finally over but Iraq wasn’t the same. It had changed for the worse. What happened? Why Iraq? As I grew up, my questions were answered. When the truth was revealed, I felt like a butcher knife stabbed me in the heart. My country was once rich, but not anymore. The poor want to live, so they steal and murder to survive. I was shocked and disturbed, and I wished that it would stop. It didn’t.

The Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, was unleashing hell. He murdered, tortured and did other terrifying acts to those who disobeyed him. I hated him because he planted fear inside all Iraqis, including me.

My family lived in fear for the next few years. Then they decided to leave Iraq for Canada. They didn’t want my sisters and me to live unsafely. And that was what happened. We left Iraq on my eleventh birthday. Tears filled my eyes as I waved good-bye to my country. In the airplane, my heart was pounding. I was excited and nervous at the same time. What would Canada be like? I knew it was safer than Iraq, and had a better government. When the plane landed in Vancouver, I greeted Canada with a smile.

My feelings were right; Canada was safer but, of course, it was hard for me to communicate because I didn’t know English. The first few years were tough. People considered me different, and I guess they were right.

"Where are you from?" someone would ask. A surprised expression would appear on his or her face when I answered.

"What’s wrong? Why are you surprised? I am Iraqi and proud to be. Iraq is not bad. Iraqis are not bad. Saddam Hussein is bad. He’s the one destroying Iraq. He is the one who deserves to burn in hell, where he belongs. I hope you forget the bad things you hear about Iraq. What you see in the newspaper is not completely right."

"Do you like Saddam Hussein?"

"No, I hate him. Why would I like the man who tortures and kills my people?"

"What do you think of your country?"

"I love my country! To me, it’s the most beautiful place in the world. It’s rich in oil and dates. All of my fathers were born there."

A smile would appear on the person’s face and they’d concede, "I guess you’re right. From what you say, Iraq sounds beautiful. You should be proud of your country. I always feel proud of mine."

Iraq is beautiful and does not deserve to be destroyed. I have come to some shocking realizations, though. If I’d never left Iraq and were there for this second Iraqi war, I would have sacrificed my blood and soul for Iraq. I hope and pray that the Americans and British retrieve the beautiful and rich Iraq of old.

I will never forget my experience. I will tell my children and grandchildren that I was in Iraq during the Gulf War. I will never be ashamed of my nationality, and will tell everyone, "I am Hasan Abood. I was born in Iraq and I am a proud Iraqi."

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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