News ID: 113228
Publish Date : 11 March 2023 - 21:44

Pain as Iraqis Look Back at U.S. Invasion

BAGHDAD (AFP) – Two decades after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, its war-weary people recount their painful memories, major conflict and years of violent turmoil.
Some talked about the iron-fisted repression under Saddam, others spoke of the traumatic childhoods they endured, marred by bullets, bombs and bloodshed.
They look back at the horrors of the Daesh group and the dashed hopes of a brief anti-government protest movement. Some note signs of progress.
Zulfokar Hassan, 22, was a young child when his mother woke him in the middle of the night so they could hide in the bathroom during a U.S. forces raid in their Baghdad neighborhood.
“The houses around us were collapsing,” he recalled about the battle on Sept. 6, 2007 when U.S. helicopters and tanks killed 14 civilians in the al-Washash district.
The next day, the seven-year-old boy looked around the rooftop terrace where the family usually slept in the blistering summer months.
“There was shrapnel, our mattresses were burned,” recalled Hassan, now a calligraphy student.
Like many from his generation, he tells his story in the detached tone of someone for whom street battles, car bombs and corpses lying on the road were the tragic backdrop of daily life.
“Throughout our childhood we were terrified,” he said. “We were afraid to go to the toilet at night, no one could sleep alone in a room.”
One of his uncles has been missing since 2006. He left in his car to shop for food and never came back.
In late 2019, Zulfokar joined the sweeping, youth-led demonstrations against crumbling infrastructure and unemployment.
“But I stopped,” he said, recounting the crackdown that killed hundreds. “I had lost hope. I saw young people like me dying, and we were helpless.
“Martyrs have been sacrificed, without result and without change.”
Despite this, he said he has no plans to emigrate, like so many other disillusioned Iraqis have. Otherwise, he asked, “who would be left?“
Alan Zangana was the 12-year-old son of civil servants living in the northern Kurdistan region when his family watched on TV how the U.S. forces entered Baghdad in 2003.
“We stayed up until dawn to follow the events,” he said.
Weeks later, they were stunned to see American soldiers topple a giant Saddam statue in Baghdad before rolling cameras for the entire world to watch, recalled the 32-year-old.
And for the past three years, he has produced a podcast on current affairs and history, pushing the boundaries of free speech.
“The Iraqi elite is locked in on itself for fear of the events of the past 20 years,” he said. “There are those who have seen their friends die, those who have been threatened.”
His guests discuss Iraq’s often tense politics, its rich and ancient culture, and the dire state of the economy, but they must often tread carefully to avoid danger.
“There are a lot of red lines left,” he said, “and that’s not healthy.”