Insecurity, unemployment, a lack of electricity and drinking water, as well as a shortage of fuel are among the many facts of daily life, some Baghdad women say.

The shortage of fuel has made winter especially tough on families. Room heating and hot water are essential in temperatures that sometimes reach zero.

"We get our electricity service for one hour every 10 hours; if we want more than that, we have to pay for private generators. Generator owners cheat us, bully us and use us, but we have to deal with them," Ghada Qahtan, a 38-year-old former translator, said.

"It is the only way to get electricity to heat the house and get hot water in the bathrooms. It is very cold here. Children must have warm water and a warm indoor environment."

Constant threat

Ban al-Obaidi, a 37-year-old secretary, says unemployment leaves families out on a limb.

"Nearly all available jobs are connected somehow with the Americans, and you live under a constant threat"

Ban al-Obaidi,
secretary

"Life has become very difficult in our country. We have to pay a lot of money to secure our needs. To do that, my husband and I have to work, but there is no opportunity for a decent job that is not associated with the US military.

"Nearly all available jobs are connected somehow with the Americans, and you live under a constant threat. I have received many threats from the Iraqi resistance in the past year: leave work or get killed."

Al-Obaidi worked last February for a graphic design company. Her company did designs for an Iraqi printing press that provides the US military and the US-backed Iraqi interim government with designs for cards and letterheads.

No easy options

In the eyes of the Iraqi resistance she was a collaborator, but to her children she was a working mother.

"It is really not my intention to work for the US army, but what can we do if all companies now in Iraq have to work directly or indirectly with the Americans?"

Two Iraqi men push a car as they 
line up to buy petrol in Baghdad

Qahtan says her husband had to leave the family behind in Baghdad and go to Arbil in the northern Kurdish area to work.

"My husband is a civil engineer, and all construction companies in Iraq have work with the US military. He tried to work here in Baghdad but received many death threats, especially
because he is a former Iraqi army officer. They said to him you must fight against them [US army], not work for them.

"So he had to leave for the north where it seems much safer. He visits us every three weeks. It is hard to have him away from me and the kids, but we have to pay the bills," she said.

Pervasive insecurity

The level of insecurity in Iraq has a great impact on daily life. Saiba al-Nawwab, a 57-year-old housewife, says the instability disrupts housework.

Iraqis sit in their cars waiting for
hours to fill up at a petrol station 

"Because they are always bombing oil pipelines, we suffer a serious shortage of fuel. Sometimes I am even unable to cook our food.

"We do not have a car, and the door-to-door fuel trucks and carts we buy from often go absent for days. That means we have to hire a taxi and go to buy fuel, which is not an easy job. It costs a lot of money," she said.

Jinan Salih, 55, retired, has a different view of the situation. She says the income is better than before, but people cannot spend it.

"Before the invasion we used to get a pension of $10, but now we are getting about 10 times that amount. But sadly we are not enjoying it. It is all going to cover extra expenses created by the abnormal situation.

"Why should I pay for private generators? Why should I pay double the taxi fare to do my shopping because all shopping has to be done during the day?" she said.