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The Reality of Iraq

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It’s hard to imagine a time before American troops were occupying the streets of Iraq. Roughly five years ago, this nation roughly the size of California was ruled by a dictator that granted safety but limited the bare necessities of life. “We felt safe from death but we were starving. Now we have the money but we are not safe. We had one enemy [Saddam] and we learned how to avoid it.” said Hayder , 25, of Baghdad, Iraq. However, the citizens of Iraq learned to prevail and make the best of the situation. “Baghdad used to be very beautiful before the war. We had visitors and tourists from all over the world, I met lots of Americans , French, Koreans, and Germans. I can even remember their names. We used to stay up late and go through all Baghdad, play our popular games, and go to restaurants or casinos. Baghdad was shiny and young, but now, Baghdad is like an old widow wrapped with darkness and fear,” he explained.
However, life must go on despite daily hardships. Rita, 15, of Baghdad, Iraq lives with the fear of being kidnapped while attending school. “A lot of my friends don’t go to school because they [insurgents] could enter and kidnap the pupils at any time,” she said. According to Hama, 17, of Duhok, Iraq, they study a variety of subjects. “The subjects I study here are the Kurdish language, Arabic, English, biology, chemistry, physics, math, computers, and Islamic artistry,” he said. Similar to the American school system, Iraqi children go to school for twelve years. “Primary school lasts for six years, then you go to secondary school for three years, and then prep school for three years,” said Hama.

Fun is a previously known luxury in Iraq. “There are sports gyms, places to play pool, and swimming pools, but the current situation effected those fun places badly. It is 75% less used than before because people are afraid to take their families, fiancés, or dates to these places because it is not safe as it used to be,” said Hayder. In northern Iraq where the situation is drastically better, Hama enjoys many of the same hobbies American teens do. “I like to spend time with my friends and go swimming,” he said.

Carrying on with daily life is also affected by the war. “Some teens cannot leave the house,” said Rita. The strict curfew imposed by US troops prohibits citizens from living life past sunset.“ In some neighborhoods you can go shopping but you must get everything done by sunset. After that time it gets really hard to leave your house. All shops are closed before that time, and the streets are dead. Every thing seems dead after sunset here, even the moon looks sad, our day is no longer 24 hours, it’s only day time,” said Hayder.

With the chaos surrounding Iraq, religion remains a solid part of their lives. “ We have shrines of which are very sacred and people keep visiting them no matter what happen. Millions go to these shrines several times during the year and walk hundreds of miles to be there,” said Hayder.

Although the turmoil has caused many to flee the country, many have a strong sense of nationalism. “I’d rather stay here in Baghdad than live anywhere else,” said Hayder. A peaceful future is longed for by everyone, and it is only a matter of time.

*Note* Last names withheld for participants’ safety. Interviews conducted over email.





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