'Waiting in a queue for death'

Approaching the third anniversary of the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, Reuters reporters asked Iraqis: "Is your life better or worse than under Saddam?" This is what some of them said:

    Life remains a daily struggle for millions of Iraqis

    "Every day I feel like I am waiting in a queue for death," said one Baghdad lawyer, who asked to remain anonymous.

    "In terms of security, life before was much better," said businessman Adel Hussein, 45, in the Gulf city of Basra, heart of the oil industry. "But economically, now it's much better."

    "Where is the new democracy? Why is this happening to us?" asked Hamad Farhan Abdulla, 57, a farmer from south of Baghdad who came to the city morgue looking for the body of his nephew, who he feared had fallen victim to a death squad.

    "Life has no meaning at the moment and our fate is unknown," said Na'im Kadum, a 33-year-old unemployed man from Diwaniya. "I don't see any improvement and I am pessimistic."

    "If the percentage of the good life was one percent before, it is zero percent now," Salim Mahmood, 46, said gloomily as he sold tea and coffee near a Baghdad restaurant.

    "It was better under Saddam. Now we have chaos and we have lost our security. Our country is in a big mess now," said Baghdad housewife Kareema Hussein, 46.

    "Security, and life in general, was better under Saddam's regime," said housewife Hameeda Hussein as she went shopping in Najaf, a southern city where Saddam's military used tanks and helicopters to crush a poorly armed Shi'ite uprising in 1991.

    "The ghost of death chases us everywhere" 

    "The ghost of death chases us everywhere," said Thanaa Ismail, a 45-year-old teacher from the mainly Shi'ite southern city of Diwaniya. "I have cancer and need treatment in Baghdad but security has got worse and I've had to skip some sessions."

    "The situation was better under Saddam, at least I could walk at night and go to other provinces. Now, we can't move about freely," said Talib Moosa, 30, as he sold chocolate on a Baghdad street.

    "After the war we were introduced to new concepts like human rights and democracy. But on the ground we haven't seen them yet. We need security," said Abdul Kareem Ahmed, a 50-year-old driver in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

    "Nowadays you're free to live. And free to kill"

    In the northern oil city of Kirkuk, labourer Ali Salman, said: "Before the war ... torture and killing took place in secret. Now it's all in public. The meaning of freedom is different: Nowadays you're free to live. And free to kill."

    "Before, people feared prison. Now people fear everything. Even in your own house you can't feel safe or trust your neighbour," said Basra housewife Um Ahmed, 35.

    "Generally everything was better before. Now there is chaos. Every month there are delays in delivering food rations, fuel shortages, a huge rise in prices and deteriorating security," said Khawla Hachim, 35, a housewife in Kirkuk.

    "No one can guarantee their security when they go out"

    "The situation in Iraq is miserable. No one can guarantee their security when they go out. This didn't happen when Saddam was there," said Najat Hameed, a 32-year-old woman in Kerbala, a Shi'ite city where Saddam is generally reviled

    "Life after Saddam is better," said Imad Ahmed, 45, a technician from Arbil, capital of largely autonomous Kurdistan, which has escaped much of the violence in the rest of Iraq. "Job opportunities have increased for me and for many others."

    "We can't differentiate between friend and foe"

    "Before the war, life was better because all Iraqis, including Kurds, shared the same enemy," television anchorwoman Sara Abdul Wahid, 36, from the Kurdish city of Dohuk, said of Saddam. "Now there is more than one and we can't differentiate between friend and foe."

    "Before, we didn't earn enough to meet the cost of living, but now we have more than enough. Despite the deterioration in security, I think we are better off today," said Ali al-Sharifi, 29, a government employee in Najaf.

    "I used to leave for work without worrying. Nowadays if I get back home with no harm I just thank God for that," said Ali Jassim, a 55-year-old salesman in the Sunni town of Ramadi.

    "What has the current government done for Iraqis? While they have been protecting themselves behind concrete walls, people are bleeding. Saddam was better than these selfish people," said Ahmed Abdul Hussein, 39, a labourer in Kerbala.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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