Iraqi Kids Answer More Questions
Reported by Cassandra Nelson from Iraq
(February 2004)


Ahmed in Baghdad.
Question: How do you feel about the future of Iraq? How would you like your president to be? Who's in control of your government now?
—Lincoln H. 13, New York

Answer: I am very scared about the future of Iraq. It has been almost a year since the war and things are more dangerous now than before the war. Saddam was very bad, but most of the time things were peaceful. Now there are explosions and fighting every day.

First of all our President should be just and fair between all the nationalities—the Arabs, Kurds, and Turks—and there should be no difference between the Sunnis and Shia [two Islamic religious sects]. Everyone should be treated equally. There should also be a strong central government like before. We want one rule and one regulation for all people.

Right now the Americans control our country. They have appointed Iraqis to serve on a council, but they are not in control. They have to do what the Americans tell them to do. We want Iraqis to run our country, not the Americans. America promised us democracy, but now they won't let us hold elections.
—Ahmed, 10, Baghdad

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Question: What is everyone in Iraq telling you about the United States? How do you feel about the U.S.A? How do you feel about the U.S. troops in your country?
—Sasha L., 13, Maine

Dunia in Sadr City.

Answer: Most Iraqis say the Americans are stealing our oil. We have a lot of oil in Iraq, but sometimes we have to wait in line for days just to fill our cars with gas. There isn't enough fuel for us, but the Americans always have gas and take a lot of it out of Iraq to sell.

I am glad the Americans captured Saddam. I want the Americans to stay and help stop the terrorist attacks, but they should only stay one or two years. They should help teach us how to do things right and then leave.
—Dunia, 14
Sadr City, Baghdad

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Question: How long does a school year last? Is school better now that American troops are stationed there? Did the Iraqi people do anything in honor of September 11? Is school fun?
—Ben S., 11, Texas


Mohammed leans against a ladder in Sulimaniya.
Answer: Our school year is nine months long. It starts the first week in October and ends in June. The Americans don't help our school. They are too busy fighting.

Last September 11, there was a lot of extra security in Sulimaniyah. The Americans set up check points and big tanks and guns everywhere, and closed a lot of the main roads. There were a lot of TV programs that showed what happened in America. We will never forget what happened in America. The Kurds have suffered a lot and feel bad about what happened because the Americans are a victim like us.
—Mohammed, 12, Sulimaniyah

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Question: My name is Erin. I am a 12-year-old girl from Texas and I love reading about Iraq. How is it there? Here, I am a cheerleader for football. Do you know what cheerleading is? Do you have cheerleaders? I hope so. It's a lot of fun. What language do you speak? I speak English. What grade are you in? I am in seventh grade. What is your school like?
—Erin R., 12, Texas


Fatima in Al Amara.
Answer: No, I don't know what a cheerleader is. Girls are not allowed to go to sporting events for men. We can only play sports in school and not with the boys.

I speak Arabic and am learning English. I am in sixth grade. My school is not very good. We don't have many books. After the war they took away our old books because Saddam's picture was in all of them. We got some new books, but still don't have anything to study geography and other subjects.
—Fatima, 9, Al Amarra

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Question: How is the weather in Iraq? How many hours a day are you in school? What is a pastime or a game that you play often in Iraq? What are some of the clothes like that are worn in Iraq?
—Braquel B., 11, Utah

Atheer with his friends in Erbil.

Answer: Right now it is cold. It snows in the winter in the mountains and rains a lot here. But the summers are very hot.

There are two shifts for classes. Morning classes are held from 8 a.m. till noon. The afternoon shift is from noon till 4 p.m. Some days we go in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon.

I don't have time to play games very much. When I am not in school I sell plastic bags at the souk [a big market] to help my family. But my friends all work with me, so we walk around together and have fun sometimes. At night we watch TV.
—Atheer, 9, Erbil

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Safa in Sulimaniyah.
Question: Hello how are you? Do you have volleyball in Iraq? Do you have any professional sports like baseball? Which is your favorite? Do you have any special traditions? What are they?
—Ashlee V., 13, Illinois

Answer: Yes, we have volleyball here. We play it in school, as well as football [soccer]. In school we have one class a day for sports. The girls' class is separate from the boys'. Before the war we would compete with other schools, but this year the school sports competitions were canceled because of security problems.

Boxing is my favorite sport. I play with my brothers.

Iraq has many professional sports—football [soccer], volleyball, basketball, wrestling, and gymnastics are the most popular. We don't play baseball . . . Before, Iraq competed internationally, but now there isn't any money to pay for the travel and no one will come to Iraq to play because it isn't safe. We still have some professional competitions between the cities. And sometimes we have matches with the Iraqis playing against the coalition forces. So far, the Iraqi teams have beat the Americans every time.
—Safa, 11, Sulimaniyah

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Question: Hello my name is Jenna. I have been curious and wanted to ask what do you plan on doing with your life? I also wanted to ask what do you like to do in your spare time?
—Jenna R., 12, Tennessee

Answer: I want to be a teacher. I want to go to Europe or America to study, but then I want to come home to Iraq and teach others. Right now the education system here is very bad. Our English teachers can't even speak English.

I like to play with my friends and watch TV. I especially like jumping rope.
—Zina, 12, Kut

Question: What would you consider your most valuable gifts from your parents?
—Jacob V., 9, Illinois

Answer: Respect. My father is a very strong and good man. He refused to join the Baathist Party under Saddam. We suffered a lot because of it. He couldn't have a good government job and had to go to prison sometimes. But he never did anything just for money. Even though we are poor, everyone respects us.
—Hussan, 11, Numaniyah

Question: What's it like in Iraq? Do girls really have to do whatever men say, even if a young boy tells the mother what to do?
—Rachel S., 10, Ohio

Answer: No. My mother has a lot of power. My brother, who is 10, wouldn't dare to tell her what to do. My father has the final say in the decisions, but my parents usually agree. My father lets my mom work and she even travels to Baghdad for work and to see family. My family is freer than others here. My parents are educated people.
—Rawaa, 10, Khanaqeen


Zina (left) in Kut, Hussan (center) in Numaniyah, and Rawaa (right) in Khanaqeen.

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Question: Are you, Cassandra Nelson, worried about being over there right now?
—Reagan M., 11, Texas

Answer: I have been in Iraq since April of last year and have definitely been worried at times, especially when there are big explosions or gunfire near where I am staying. But I have had the chance to make friends with many Iraqis who are wonderful people and who try to really take care of me and give me advice about where it is safe to go. They tell me when I should stay home and avoid certain places that may be dangerous.

A lot of the time life here can seem very normal. I go for boat rides on the Tigris River, which is right by my home, and have water fights with the fishermen. On these days, all the problems feel very far away.


Cassandra Nelson holding a baby in Al Amara.
But some days, there are violent demonstrations or bomb threats, and I have to stay indoors to be safe. So this always reminds me of the dangers that face both the Americans and the Iraqis who live here.

The sad thing is that most of the Iraqis want peace and democracy and are tired of the fighting. More Iraqis have been killed since the end of the war by terrorists than foreigners here. But a small group of people want to keep Iraq unstable so they can take the power. It is the rest of us—both the foreigners and the Iraqi people—who are suffering because of this.

Personally, I accept the risk of working here, because I believe it is important that people outside of Iraq know about the situation and the problems ordinary Iraqi people face here. As a journalist, I hope my work can help the rest of the world understand these things.
—Cassandra Nelson
Kut, Iraq