“We still have a hope…” : Abdullah in Baghdad, Iraq
This is the story of a man I skyped who is currently living in Baghdad and works with the Ministry of the Interior within the Iraqi government. I refer to him as Abdullah and not by his real name for security reasons.
Q: Describe Iraq to me before and after the US invasion.
A: “The Iraqi people were afraid of the dictatorial regime[under Saddam]…the dreams of the Iraqi people were restricted, the lifestyle was very limited. After the invasion, people were very careful between each other. Due to the security situation, the killing increased in the streets. We still have a hope that the situation will get better…we believe it is not only the invasion that has changed Iraq, but also the neighboring countries who do not want good for the benefit of the Iraqi people”
Q: Can you elaborate on the role of neighboring countries in the violence in Iraq?
A: “These neighboring countries start to arm these small groups and they start to call them insurgent groups…these are just groups of terrorists that killed the Iraqi people, they did not really fight the US military. They killed the Iraqi people with the name of Jihad…and Jihad does not say to be killing any persons because killing people is not from Islam.”
Q: Do you see any benefits from the US invasion?
A: “There is some positive things, everything has two faces–a positive and a negative. The invasion helped the government of Iraq to get out of the embargo…the invasion changed the Iraqi economic situation in general, the invasion brought a lot of technology, the invasion between the Iraqi people and worldwide became very good.”
Q: What could the US government have done to prevent sectarianism in Iraq?
A: Well the invasion made it[sectarianism] very deep, that invasion made it very clear. Mr Bremer…supported , in the beginning especially in 2003, supported the Shiites to control the country. I would like to say there were a lot of mistakes from two sides. Iraq was not a familiar environment for the US army, there was a lot of tradition in Iraq, a lot of tribes in Iraq…dealing with these groups needs a specific type of knowledge missing with the US military”
Q: How would you describe the change in government after the US invasion?
A: “For sure, the government changed by force, and it should come by elections. “For the last 9 years, the Sunni majority had been leading the country and the Sunni were approximately 35% of the country, and this is against the democracy. For Sure when this happened [Shiite majority government took power in Iraq] the people that belonged to the previous regime did not accept that change. They start to resist not only the Americans, they start to resist the new Iraqi government, by killing the majority of the Iraqi people, the Shiite…and this is not the right way to be part of the government. The people who was controlling the situation before, they came from a Sunni background, they was believing that the Shiite like their slaves. And that changed after the invasion because the Shiite are came in power, so this make the Sunni believe that they were losing…You [Sunnis] have your share from the government, you are 35% of the population so you have to accept your percent: So this is what’s happening…the Sunni keep wanting more and more because they believe there is no real share for the Shiite, their brother in the nation, their brother in Islam”
Q: How did this political change affect the division between Sunnis and Shiites?
“This is the situation of the government in Iraq, before it was just one Baath party controlling the situation, but now we have several political parties in the government. People were not thinking I am an Iraqi person and I have the capacity to control the country. I am Sunni, I have a part in the government. I am Shiite, I have a part in the government. This condensate the feeling of your ethnicity. This condensate the feeling of your background.”
“The competition between politics not because of your nationality or patriotism, it became according to your ethnicity.”
Q: What is Iran’s role in all of this?
“Iran is not thinking about the Shiite in Iraq, Iran is thinking about their own benefits. If their benefits meet with the Shiites in Iraq they will help the Shiite, if their benefits meet with anyone else they will support anyone else.”
Q: How would you say women’s rights changed, if at all, in Iraq before and after the US invasion?
A: “Before the invasion there was a good women’s rights, especially in the civilian or domestic law. The women in the first government had 25% of the governmental positions. It’s true now there are some religious parties that try to control the field, but if the woman wants do anything, she will not hesitate to do it, because the level of freedom for the women is very high”