Join the mailing list

Click here to read our privacy policy


Subscribe to emel's RSS Feed Subscribe to emel's RSS Feed


Iraqi Voices

Iraqi Voices

Issue 1 Sept / Oct 2003

Parvez Akhtar listens to the views of the global Iraqi community - those who left the country and are now living in the United Kingdom. He asks a cross-section of British Iraqis to give their view on recent events and what their hopes and fears are for the future of an Iraq, post Saddam Hussein.

 Mohammed Al Hilli 24, was born in Baghdad but left Iraq in 1980 when his father was imprisoned by Saddam's regime for nine months. His father escaped to Britain while his grandfather, who remained in Baghdad, had his possessions confiscated. He was forced to leave Iraq for refusing to give the whereabouts of Mohammed's father, and went to Iran as a refugee. Mohammed is a pharmacist in London.

 "The Iraqi community agrees that Saddam brutalised and haunted his people for a long time. I am relieved, overjoyed in fact, that the war was successful in toppling him, but at what cost? Iraq has been depleted since 1991. First Saddam's own madness, then the UN imposed sanctions and now the military strikes on the country and its aftermath - innocent Iraqis are always the biggest sufferers.

 I am afraid at what is happening to our people inside the country. The coalition should have done more to prevent the looting and lawlessness after the fall of Saddam. My father, who was tortured by Saddam, is now in Iraq and tells me the situation in Baghdad is not at all good and life is very difficult for the people. Yesterday, the Ministry of Information was set on fire while US soldiers did nothing. In other places like Najuf and Karbala, the locals have appointed religious and community leaders to take charge, and there has been little looting as a result. As much as I am glad to get rid of Saddam, I do question the motivation for the war - nobody trusts America. Many suspect oil is the real agenda, but I think it is only a small fraction of the equation. The main reason is definitely control of the Middle East and the protection of Israel. Saddam has been a criminal for 30 years but it is only now that he was challenged. Why now? The motive has to be, to get a stronger grip on the Middle East and as far as the war on terror, I doubt any links between Saddam and Al Qaeda exist. I am not convinced by that argument at all.

 I have heard the Americans are obstructing attempts by Iraqis to bring about their own interim government by slowing down and complicating bureaucracy. For instance, the Iraqis organised themselves in Baghdad, and drew up lists of all the people who had been executed by Saddam in an attempt to catalogue and record atrocities by the regime. As soon as the Americans became aware of what was going on they stepped in, saying it was not permitted to do this and took away the documents.

 I am keen to go back to my country and feel the freedom that I have only imagined. We need to re-inspire a whole generation, to stop them feeling frightened and submissive in the way Saddam demanded. Dr. Farooq Al Ani, 52, was born in Ana, Iraq, near the Syrian border. He moved to Baghdad aged 12 and remained there until 1978, when aged 26, and having completed a BSc in Chemical engineering at Baghdad University he came to Britain to do his PhD at UMIST in Manchester. Dr. Al Ani has extensive family still in Iraq. He is a Sunni Muslim and member of the opposition Iraqi Islamic Party. "The war was wrong. It was illegal and immoral. There was not enough reason for it to happen, and the case had not been made for why the war had to happen now. Where are these weapons of mass destruction that were used to justify the war? The only certainty that we take from this is that many innocent people perished.

 In addition, we saw the systematic destruction of all the sites of historical and cultural significance in Iraq. Museums were looted and items of great value to our people were destroyed, as the Americans stood by and watched. They [the West] brought the current Ba'athist regime into power and supported it for a long time. They now want to bring in another. They made their deals long before the war because they are desperate to get their hands on Iraqi oil.

 I have always been in opposition to Saddam's regime, but also against those people who want to colonise this area. Like many Iraqis we want to change our country ourselves. The Americans have been in touch with the Iraqi Islamic Party of which I am a member, but they were talking absolute nonsense. They said, 'Yes we're willing to help you' but I feel it is all about them and their interests, they are not interested in the Iraqi people. I am not against America or the West, as we would like to co-operate with all the good people who want to help us achieve a democratic and free government. However, we will not accept those imposed on us by the British and American governments, either.

 The Americans and British have known about the Iraqi regime's practice for over 30 years so why have they not done anything before, you have to ask 'why now?' They could have helped 12 years ago but they did not, instead they turned their backs on those fighting for a democratic Iraq.

 The Americans will bring in a puppet leader who they can manipulate just as they have done in Afghanistan. There will not be a democracy in Iraq for a long time."



 Rana Jafar, 21, was born in Baghdad. She was one when she came to Britain with her family. Rana's father is a Shia Muslim, while her mother a Sunni Muslim. Rana is a Middle Eastern Studies student at Manchester.

 "I believe the prospects for the future are generally depressing. The Iraqi people have seen three major conflicts in one generation. First there was the war with Iran lasting almost a decade, then the first Gulf War and recently this one.

 The crisis was not a question of good versus bad because either way it only means one thing: that is even more death and suffering or the Iraqi people .

 War was inevitable for many months - the US and the UK tried the diplomatic route of a second resolution but gave up when they realised that they were not going to change the views of the Security Council. So they decided they would do it their own way and use France as a convenient scapegoat to blame for their own failure. The US actions are driven entirely by their own interests. he future of Iraq is perilous because all stability has gone. Something had to be done, I accept, but Saddam ruled Iraq for 30 years, and that was all the Iraqis knew. The people are tired. They used to be eloquent and educated but now they just want to talk about food.

 My dad visited family and friends before the war began because he knew that there would be civil chaos after the war ended, as the country tries to comprehend what has taken place. My dad will not be able to visit Iraq for a long time because there is no law and order.

 Those who were working with Saddam are experiencing payback at the hands of those who have suffered most from the regime's activities. There is no security in Iraq at the moment. It was a terrible situation when Saddam was in power but now it is a bad situation for different reasons."


Rawaa Al-Abbo, was born in Baghdad and has been living in the UK for 24 years. She recently returned from an aid mission to Baghdad organised by Human Appeal International.


"The mood of the people is not good. The war was not worth this destruction. We have changed from being ruled by a dictator to occupation, and the people are extremely poor. Baghdad has been plunged into the dark ages with very little water supply, limited electricity, no petrol, we cannot drive our cars, no television, nothing. It is very hot and there is no air conditioning, and very little clean water whether to bathe with or to cook. In Basra, 17 people died from cholera because our sanitation systems have been destroyed by the war. It is not good. Workers have received no salary, nobody can access their savings and there is no business activity at all. Those who worked in the army or civil service are immediately considered suspects by the Americans so many people would not be allowed to go to their usual job anyway.

 Baghdad was a modern city and now people are living in a way they never believed they would have to live. Everything is so expensive. The money the Americans allow each adult is nothing so people are not eating properly. Only the basics are affordable such as flour, rice, lentils, tea and sugar. It is not safe in Baghdad, due to crime and also due to unexploded bombs. The hospitals are receiving many casualties as a result of weapons that were left over from the war. Many of the schools are closed, even though students need to sit important exams. But, the teachers are not being paid and it is not safe anyway.

 In other parts of Iraq, the Iraqis are beginning to create a new administration but in Baghdad nothing can be done without the permission of the Americans. People are very frustrated by this, and also frightened and in shock, because they do not know what is going on. Some Iraqis demonstrated against the US presence but American soldiers fired shots at the crowd. That is not what I understand to be democracy."


words: Parvez Akhtar

images: Elena Paz

Bookmark this

Add to DIGG
Add to
Stumble this
Share on Facebook

Share this

Send to a Friend
Link to this

Printer Friendly

Print in plain text




Leave a comment


Sign in or Register to leave a comment