Reporter Fariba Nawa talked with young people during a stay in Baghdad, Iraq, this summer. She asked them about their lives today and about their hopes for the future.
Ali Munther lives on Palestine Street in a middle-class neighborhood in Baghdad. The seventh-grader's father works as a merchant and often travels abroad. He hopes to be a doctor when he grows up. He says his day-to-day life has not changed much for him since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. But many people are better off.
"Life is better now, because we have a lot of food and we have peace of mind that the government will not come and take people in our house without any reason," he told Scholastic News Online.
Ali goes to school each weekday at 8 a.m. He takes exams and returns home at 10:30 a.m. to study. He has lunch at home at 2 p.m. and takes a nap at 2:30 p.m.
"We have a generator [for electricity] so I can sleep until 4 in the afternoon," he said. "After that I go out and play with my friends."
The kids in his neighborhood play soccer until about 6 p.m. Ali then returns home to watch TV. Dinner is served at 10 p.m. and he is asleep by 11 p.m.
"I wish all the best and safety for my country," Ali said. For himself and his family, he wishes success in life.
Ali Khalaf, 14
Ali Khalaf lives in Hitunis, a middle-class neighborhood in Baghdad. He says life in his country is much better without Saddam Hussein in power.
"Saddam was cruel to people," Ali said. "Life is better now. Nobody files a report if you talk badly about them. I feel my parents are safer in that way."
For Ali, school begins at 7:30 a.m. He returns home at 9 a.m. to begin studying. He is allowed to play at 11 a.m.
"Since there is no electricity, I can't sleep in the afternoon," he said. "I practice some karate in my spare time."
Dinner is served in his home at 10 p.m. He watches some TV and goes to bed by 11 p.m.
The eighth-grader hope to be a doctor when he grows up.
"I want the best health for my family and myself," he says. He also hopes Iraq will soon be rid of Saddam Hussein's Baathist Party.
Ahmed Adel, 9
A third-grader from Hitunis, Ahmed Adel wants to be an officer when he is grown.
"I would like to have a new President and establish a government for Iraq," he told Scholastic News Online. He also wants a PlayStation. "The best there is in the market," he said.
Ahmed doesn't have to be at school until 10 a.m. He returns home at noon to study and have lunch.
"I sleep if there isn't electricity," he said. "I wake up at 5 p.m. and study until 10 p.m. and then I go to bed."
It is often too hot to go out and play in the afternoon. Electricity, for some, means TV and sometimes even air-conditioning during the heat of the day.
Mostafa Ghani Hassan, 11
Fifth-grader Mostafa Ghani Hassan's has been supported by relatives since his father died. He believes life under Saddam Hussein was better.
"There was stability and safety," he said.
The leader's removal from power has not changed his daily life, however. He is in school by 9:30 a.m., returning home at noon. He studies until about 2 p.m. and then breaks for lunch. He studies again until 7 or 8 p.m., when he can go outside and play. Bedtime is 11 p.m. He hopes to someday be an engineer.
"I would really like for us to establish a government and feel safe again," he said. "And I want my family to get a satellite dish."
Farah Ali, 8
Farah Ali is in third grade and lives in the Hitunis neighborhood. Her father works as a pharmacist. She says she felt much safer when Saddam Hussein was in power.
"Life under Saddam was better," she said. "Now, if I go on the street, I might be kidnapped."
She hopes to do something good for Iraq when she is older.
"I'm too little to do anything for Iraq now, but when I grow up, I will do something good," she says. "I wish the best for my country."
Farah begins her school day at 9 a.m. She is at home again at 11 a.m. where she plays until 2 p.m. with her friends.
"We play mostly inside the house, as I'm too scared to go outside," she said. "It's too hot to sleep. Otherwise I would sleep in the afternoon."
Instead, she studies, using the same books as before Saddam Hussein's fall. "The pages about Saddam Hussein we skip," she said.
In the future, she would like to move to Lebanon. She also wants to be a pharmacist "so I can make money and give it to people who need it." She says the situation in Lebanon is more stable, "and I have more fun!"
Amna Karim, 11
Fifth-grader Amna Karim lives in Thawra, the poorest neighborhood in Baghdad. Her father works in a cigarette factory. She says Saddam Hussein was cruel to people in the slums, where she lives. His fall from power has done little to change her life, however.
"My life hasn't changed much because I rarely used to go out before. Our area has never been that safe," she said. "But life is better now because Saddam Hussein was holding up democracy."
Her school day is from 8 to 10:30 a.m. After a lunch of kebabs (her favorite), she sleeps for two hours. After waking up, she devotes several hours to studying. She is in bed for the night by 9 p.m. She hopes to someday be a doctor.
"I don't go out of the house because I'm scared," she said. "I watch one hour of cartoons in Arabic."
Anna is happy with what her family has now, but wants more for her country.
"I want happiness and safety and all the good things in the world for my country," she said.
Alaa Ali, 11
Alaa Ali is a fifth-grader in Thawra, the slums of Baghdad. Her father works as a technician at the airport.
"Our lives are better now because we don't have to be scared of Saddam Hussein and his cruelty," she said. All their fears have not vanished, however. "My parents are scared of the lack of security in the country."
Alaa attends school daily until 10:30 a.m. She wants to be a doctor. It is usually too hot to sleep, so she studies. "I try to play but ther's not much to do," she says. "So I sleep earlier at night, about 8 or 9 p.m.
She hopes to someday see peace in her country. "We have had too many wars,"
she said. "For my parents, I want them to be content. I'm content with
what we have in life. We don't have much, but things don't make you happier
in life. Peace is the best thing for happiness."
Sabrine Zegum, 14
Sabrine Zegum does not go to school. She lives in Mahmoudiah, some 40 miles outside of Baghdad in the countryside. Her father is a veteran of past wars and a gardener. Her family lives off the land.
"Life was better under Saddam Hussein," she said. "We had more safety."
Her day begins at 7 a.m. She eats buttermilk and bread for breakfast and then works the farm milking cows, picking tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchinis. She also bakes bread in a mud oven.
"I'm one of two girls in a family of nine children and I do most of the housework," she said. "We eat dinner around 6 p.m. and then we sleep early about 9 p.m. When I have a chance, I play with my brothers and sister. One of my brothers has AIDS. I wish he would get better."
Their farm was very close to the bombs and tanks during the height of the war. "That scared me, but after that, I'm not so scared anymore," she said. "But my father fears that we will get kidnapped.
For her country, she would like to see "stability, safety, and justice.
She hopes to be a good housewife someday. "We live in a clay house now,
and I wish that we have a house that's built with bricks. I also wish that brother
feels better," she said.