BAQUBA - Life has been bad enough in Diyala province north of Baghdad after
prolonged violence, unemployment and loss of all forms of normal living. What
could be worse now is the loss of hope that anything will ever be better.
In Baquba, capital city of Diyala province 40km northeast of Baghdad, it's
all about staying alive. Most people have abandoned all projects and activities
to sit at home in safety.
"The Iraqi government achieved nothing, just death for this poor province,"
Hadi Obeid, a now idle trader in Baquba told IPS. "If you look for rights,
you will find death."
"People of this province are dead," says resident Luay Amir, who
returned to Iraq in 2004 after living 16 years in Austria. "There is no
sign of life to be seen. Faces are pale and lifeless, the city is desolate."
People in the city, he said, "have no ambitions, no dreams. When they
see each other, they greet one another saying, 'good to see you safe'."
The lack of electricity, clean water, security and jobs is clearly taking its
"People are deprived of everything in this province, and it's a miracle
that life still goes on amidst this deprivation," Abdul-Ridha Noman, an
employee in the directorate-general of statistics told IPS. "People here
have no goal except to move from today to tomorrow."
Noman added, "But they are afraid of tomorrow because it might only bring
death or loss."
Many people have fled the violence, but also the hopelessness. According to
the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at least 1.5 million Iraqis
have fled to Syria by now. Many have gone from Diyala.
"They sold their properties to live away from terror," Abdullah Mahjob,
a 51-year-old schoolteacher in Baquba told IPS. "And they spent their savings
to make their children safe."
Ahead of the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, people in this city had
dreamed of a better future for them and their children. Now, that's a broken
"Life is destroyed by the occupation and its corrupt government, and people
have reached a point where nothing means anything to them any more," local
dentist Mudhafer al-Janaby told IPS.
"People are concerned about electricity because they see that the children
need light because of the examinations. They search for fuel for kerosene heaters
in the cold winter, and for their cars," local farmer Iman Mansour told
"They are concerned how they will find medicines for the sick. They need
to find work and then get to it, but there is a curfew, and the militants are
everywhere. How can an individual plan for a future while surrounded by all
Rather than save for the future, people are selling what they can to survive
right now. Many have begun to build shops in their homes; some simply rent their
outer walls to shop owners.
"These very simple shops are a substitute for the big market at Baquba
city," says local resident Abdul-Latif Farhan. "Some people left their
shops in the central market and opened these because of the militants and the
absence of security."
Some with larger houses are dividing them into two or three to get rental income.
One way or another, people are extracting all they can from their own resources;
the world outside has little to offer.
And, most blame the US-backed government in Baghdad.
"The government can easily reduce the suffering of these people by providing
fuel and other necessities," grocer Fadhil Abdullah told IPS. "But
instead, we all continue to suffer. There is no future for us."