BAGHDAD: As Iraqis celebrate their first Eid in 35 years without Saddam Hussein at the helm, safety is a concern, with the incidences of gunfire, and road side and suicide bombs occupying their thoughts.
Petty trader Khalid Hadi Abud said many people have been stopping by his shop to buy fireworks to celebrate. But their wish list for the occasion includes getting the US troops to leave occupied Iraq “today not tomorrow”.
“We have to make the US get out of our country. We have to make Iraqis manage the country and put the rule,” said Khalid, who enjoys good business these days because of the higher pay Iraqis are getting.
“My wish is to have security in the country once more and for the bombs to stop. I want happiness for the people and for them to be able to visit places and not to worry about the situation and whether it is safe to go out,” he said.
One person who is not going out much these days is law student Nadia Sayed. Although relieved to be rid of Saddam, she longs for the days when she can walk the streets once more without fearing whether she is going to be kidnapped or killed.
“We girls cannot go out of the house alone even during daytime because it is not safe. Last Id, we were very happy. We would all go out, have a good time and get home in the middle of the night. This year, we are all going to stay home.
“Even the boys will stay home. Although they can get out at night, they wouldn't feel safe either. I am sad because this is not Id to me,” she said as she finished some last-minute shopping with her sisters and two nieces.
Her wish for the Id?
“For Iraq to be a rich country. We have to be like the other Arab Gulf countries,” she said.
She wants the Americans out now because it saddens her to see Iraq occupied.
“Why should we go back to the past? Where is civilisation?” she asked.
Sports teacher Muhammad Ali thinks it is a good Id for Iraqis this time around because we have “good freedom”.
“But I wish to make America get out of the country today not tomorrow. I hope to live in peace without the Americans.
“They came to give us freedom but they failed. It is the fate of America that we make them get out of Iraq now,” he said.
Muhammad says this although he is now drawing in a salary of US$180 (RM684) a month. Before the war, he was making only 20,000 dinar (RM32) a month.
He points out that Iraqis used to be rich before the 1990/1991 Gulf War. And that as a teacher, he was earning a monthly salary of US$400 (RM1,520). That was 15 years ago.
Back then, one Iraqi dinar was worth US$3 but after the Gulf War, the dinar plunged. Today, the dinar is virtually worthless. One US dollar is equivalent to 2,000 dinars.
“So we need to take back our country and get our old glory back,” he said.
Dr Dhuha Alsami was at the supermarket for some last minute shopping. Eight months ago, she earned 3,000 dinar (RM11.40) a month but today she is happy to earn 200,000 dinar (RM380).
That money goes a long way because her husband, who used to be an engineer in the military, is currently unemployed and sitting at home thinking about his options.
This Ramadan has been a sad month for her.
“In the past, we were out in the streets until 2am or 3am because it was safe. So deep down inside, there is no Id for me because there is no safety,” she said.
She said many Iraqis are out shopping these days because generally Iraqis like to shop and there are so many choices in the shops because people now have money to spend.
But not everyone. Dr Dhuha said families of the former armed forces members are crying and suffering because the men are out of jobs and have become something of misfits.
“The men built themselves all their lives around giving orders. And now, they can't do any other work because they can't deal with civilians.
“There are so many of these people. I have many military friends and their families are crying and suffering,'' she said.
Dr Dhuha's wish for the Id is rather modest.
“I am a cardiac anaesthetician and I am 34 years old. My husband is 40 and an engineer and all these years, we have been renting a house. How I long to be able to afford my own home.
“That I think is the dream of most Iraqis,” she said.
In Iraq, a strange situation has come about along with the rest of the lawlessness that has been going on. Some people started celebrating the Id yesterday while for others the Id is today.
Hussein, an Iraqi who was on his way to Sheraton, was caught by surprise at the small number of cars on the road as he came in to work yesterday and asked the taxi driver about it.
“The taxi driver asked me: 'don't you know it's Id today?'.
“It's so strange. I didn't even know. I thought it was tomorrow. There was no announcement,” he said.
Despatches from Baghdad by Shahanaaz Habib
Propensity to buy with better salariesLawlessness just getting worse in BaghdadMines expert unfazed by blastWake-up call from a rocket which hit 16th floor of hotelIraqi cops resent US presenceTension high in FallujaNo Raya joy for unpaid IraqisConditions at Baghdad hospitals lead to violence
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