(With Arkan Hamed)
BAGHDAD - Despite the parliamentary elections last week and temporary ease
in violence, Iraqis remain bitter about the outgoing year, and skeptical of
"As a doctor I usually travel daily from home to college," said Um
Feras, a doctor of physics at Baghdad University who asked that her last name
be changed for her protection. "2005 was a terrible year, and now it has
become unacceptable for me to leave my house to go teach due to the troops,
who always wear sunglasses even on gloomy days, aiming their rifles at everyone
like they are gangsters."
The majority of Iraqis in Baghdad now fear the security forces, as dozens of
people each week are "disappeared" by police and soldiers around the city
and new torture chambers have been discovered recently.
Dr. Feras told IPS that the daily chaos on the streets of Baghdad, such as
closed roads and bridges, always caused her to be late, as well as most of her
"Nothing is good in Iraq now," said the doctor. "Torture, detained
friends, pillaging of houses, seeing neighbors suffering from poverty, no electricity,
no water, and gun fights everywhere. We have no relief from this suffering now."
Electricity in Baghdad remains far below prewar levels, with most houses enjoying
three to five hours per day. Meanwhile, oil exports in December have sunk to
a two-year low while up to 22 percent of the $21 billion set aside by the U.S.
government for reconstruction projects in Iraq has been diverted to security,
according to Dan Speckhard, the director of the Iraq reconstruction management
office, who made the announcement to reporters earlier this month.
Asked about her hopes and expectations for 2006, the doctor says: "I only
want a normal life far away from the interests of those bastards who invaded
our country. I don't care about the elections and politics and the new political
parties, because these are just a small part of the strategy of the invaders."
The doctor began to cry, then added: "My dream for the coming year is
that the invaders pull out, we have Iraqis who love one another to govern Iraq,
we build something related to civilization and have emotions towards our land
and lives in order to get back to the situation where each of us loves the other
and we feel the goodwill of God."
She paused for reflection before saying, "But I can't say this will happen."
Other Iraqis, like 40-year-old leather worker Ismael Mohammed, feel similarly.
"2005 was worse than 2004 because the coalition forces are still handling
everything tightly in their hands and nothing has changed except the faces of
the governors," he told IPS in Baghdad, "They are trying to get everything
they can from Iraq, meanwhile financially it is getting worse, fuel [availability]
is worse, and the roads are worse."
His feelings about the infrastructure are common around Baghdad, as Iraq is
suffering an unemployment rate of over 50 percent, oil exports remain below
prewar levels, and the infrastructure remains in shambles amidst the broken
promises of the Bush administration.
"Democracy? Where is our democracy?" asked Mohammed who said his
best day of 2005 was when one of his cousins was released from Abu Ghraib, "Freedom?
People shout with no one to hear. Everything goes with a bribe now. You want
to be a professor – easy, just give me the money and you are a professor."
Mohammed told IPS he remains sad and perplexed as to why his cousin was recently
killed. "We are Shia. Yet he was killed."
And he asks: "Who profits from this constitution? Because we already had
one. Who is profiting from all of this? Iraqi leather used to be the best all
over the Middle East, but now it even seems as though the rain has stopped falling
in Iraq, as my trade has stopped growing. Now we even have to import leather!"
According to the Institute for Policy Studies, a Washington-based think tank,
the value of Halliburton stock, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's old military
company to which he still has financial ties, has increased 138 percent since
March 2003. Halliburton has been awarded at least $10 billion in contracts for
their operations in Iraq.
Meanwhile, U.S. citizens aren't benefiting from the occupation, either. The
average monthly cost of the Iraq war for the U.S. is $5.6 billion for a total
of over $225 billion thus far, pushing their national debt over $8 trillion,
according to the U.S. Department of Treasury.
For 2006, Mohammed voiced the dreams of many Iraqis.
"To get rid of the invaders and have God give back blessings to the people
of Iraq," Mohammed told IPS. "We want good people in positions of authority
who will compensate Iraqis who have suffered. I would like to see Iraqis work
as one unit, putting the good of the country ahead of divisions between them
and to go on dealing as humans."
Mohammed added: "We need a lot of work to obtain true sovereignty and
to cure the problems brought by the invaders, as independence isn't so easy
that we can get it in one year. Democracy cannot be given as simple as that;
we have to work hard for it and educate people to get it."
(Inter Press Service)