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Iraqis losing optimism - affecting everything eve marriage

Posted By Ahmed Abdullah

August 3, 2007

Another alarming poll related to the Iraqis’ dilemma was recently released by USA Today, ABC News, the British Broadcasting Corp. and the German Network ARD. The survey, which interviewed 2,212 Iraqis, proves that their so-called American-led rescuers made their lives worse. With schools closing everyday, jobs being lost and deaths spreading on every street, Iraqis described the deterioration that the war-ravaged country experienced in the past 16 months. This poll comes as an update to an earlier survey that was conducted in November 2005, when 70% of Iraqis were optimistic and said their lives were considerably good. This percentage experienced a significant decrease to 39% at the time of the new survey.

The current situation is affecting everything even marriage as 29-year-old Ziad Hisham, a Shia engineer, explained how his wedding was postponed because he was unemployed. “You worry about everything. When I go out, my family calls me every five minutes or whenever there is an explosion — there are many — to see if I am still alive. Its worry, worry all the time. You can't see your future, and you can't even try to put an outline for your future,” he told USA Today.

It’s even more ironic that Iraq’s Shia population, who suffered the most during Saddam Hussein’s era, are suffering even more after the American invasion. However, they are said to be better than Sunni Arabs, who are currently living in a desperate zone. 

But both Sunnis and Shias are suffering the most in Baghdad, where none of the 429 interviewed by USA Today feel safe enough to go outside on the streets. Things are believed to be better in other areas, where one-third of the residents interviewed called their neighborhoods safe; two-thirds said they weren't. Outside the capital, 38% said they often avoid leaving home; and 42% stay away from markets. 

The survey also found out that Iraqis now are more careful about things they say in order to protect themselves and their families. According to USA Today, more than two thirds are careful about what they say about themselves to other people, while 55% try to avoid passing by public buildings and 54% stay away from crowded areas.

Of course these dramatic changes to day-to-day life can affect Iraqi’s mental health, including the increase of depression and anger. Even the simplest things can not be done in Iraq. For example, changing a car can mean losing your own life, Nadeem Ahmed, 31, who hides the fact that he is employed, explains. “I haven’t changed my car despite wanting to badly, but people were killed when they started to have new cars and showed that they were well paid”, he said.

With bombings and kidnappings reported in the war-torn country every day, many Iraqis prefer to lock themselves up in their home. “I can say that my house is like a police station now," said Samer Jaleel, 22, a Sunni student. "The outer wall is 2.5 meters (just over 8 feet) high. We changed the doors into higher and stronger ones. Not only us, but all the houses in the street did the same. Before, we had a very nice street where you could walk and see the gardens. Now it looks like many small jails in one street." 

The Iraqis do not only fear insurgents, many of those interviewed reported that they have experienced violence at the hands of U.S.-led occupation forces. According to the poll, 44% said that American troops have been involved in unnecessary violence, while three in ten reported that they have snipers crossfire occasionally close to home. 

“I don't feel safe even at my home," says Munaf Mahmood Lafta, 35, a Sunni taxi driver. "My brother was taken from his house by people wearing Iraqi commando uniforms. That was on Jan. 12, 2006, and we don't know where he is even now. My mother died from her sadness. So where is the safety you speak about? No safety at all and no security — not in our neighborhood, nor in my house."

The survey also found out that changes of jobs and schools are so common now in Iraq, as 13% of those surveyed have changed jobs and 15% have moved. It also showed that 18% of those who have children have changed their schools. 

However, those who change their children’s school are considered lucky as many who fear for their children lives prefer keeping them safe at home. Zina Abdulhameed Rajab, a Shia doctor, is so alarmed by the number of children who have been injured on their way to school that she is keeping her 2- and 4-year-old sons at home. Her mother has moved in to help babysit. "Whenever I watch my kids laughing or playing, I can't be so happy from inside my heart because I don't know what the next day will bring," she said. "I really regret the birth of my kids here."

Post-war Iraq is so bad; even the citizens who used to complain about abuse under Saddam’s rule are now striving for one of these good old days. "I miss those good old days," said Jasim Mahmood Rajab, 60, a Shia businessman. "I had my work and my social life, and now — nothing. I'm ready to pay everything I have to sit at Abo Nowas Street and eat fish at night."

Overall, according to the survey, Sunnis are the most pessimistic about their future and the future of their children. Location wise, people surveyed from Baghdad are the least looking forward to the promised better future. 

Many wish they can leave their own country hoping they can ensure a better education and social life for their children and themselves. This only makes sense as the 64% who expected things to be better for themselves in a year decreased to only 35%. Who can blame them!!

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