Citizens of Iraq See a Bright Future
By Christopher Allbritton

Happy Baghdad residents. (Photo: Christopher Allbritton)
Iraq is a country flat on its back. Thirty-five years of misrule by Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party have left it broken. Rivalries between ethnic groups could boil over if things aren't handled just right. Religious splits between the two main branches of Islam, the Sunnis and the Shi'ites, also could rip the country in two, especially if neighboring countries such as Iran and Syria start stirring up trouble.

But for all of the challenges facing Iraq after the war, many of its citizens are remarkably optimistic about the future.

"Everything will be OK," said Wuria Ahmed Ameen, a Kurdish translator and professor in the northern Iraq city of Arbil. "There is still certain resistance, but even those that belonged to the Ba'ath Party [Saddam Hussein's party] are very, very happy about the situation." The only reason Saddam's supporters backed him, he said, was because they feared him. Now that he's gone, "They will accept what happened....even the Arabs will realize how oppressed they were."

Hoshang Sadraddin, 22, a laborer in Arbil, said Kurds in general were happy. "We want a democratic government, a future," he said. "And all the people to live together in peace. All can live together and it can be peaceful."

Himdad Omer, also 22 and a laborer with Sadraddin, said he looked forward to the "end of dictatorship and the establishment of a democratic government."

Jasim Khidhir, 18, a student, said, "My hope is to travel abroad for tourism," something the Iraqi people have been unable to do for almost 13 years, thanks to sanctions imposed by the United Nations when Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990. "I want to visit Germany and study. I want to be a teacher."

When he attains his dream of teaching a new generation, he said he would tell his students about this time. "I will teach them that there was a dictatorship and America came and ended it. And then we became free."

But as optimistic as many Iraqis are, some admit to uncertainty. "I can't think about anything because the economic situation is so bad and no one can think past the evening," said Freydoon Kamal Hussein, 28, a driver.

"Jobs are the priority," said Hemin Sultan, 28, a translator. "All the people are poor and hungry. They need a house, a home. They need to travel, to get a passport, to get a job somewhere. We choose jobs, not democracy."

And Delshad Fattah, a computer engineer, worried about the coming political battles.

"I can't be optimistic about the future of Iraq, yet not too melancholic," he said. "Just a few days after the liberation of Baghdad, new political parties emerged. This tells me that there is fierce political competition ahead! This political race might lead to a long-lasting fight, chaos, or even a kind of civil war....the heavy heritage of more than three decades of dictatorship and oppression will need many, many years to be overcome and for Iraqis to get an understanding of what is freedom and its limits, and if the Americans keep their current role of being observers standing aside, then things can't get better!!

"We are all looking forward for a fast start to rebuilding the country and have a decent free life," he continued. "That can console us that things may work fine, like a ray of light in this darkness."

But perhaps Wuria Ameen said it best. He wants to go back to teaching and continue his studies in either the United States or England, to take a summer holiday, he said. "I'm 36 years old and have never been abroad," he said. "I've not been alive. With Saddam gone, I will live from now on as if I were born today."