Iraqis yearning for better life amid dim hopes

2012-12-18 13:53:20 GMT2012-12-18 21:53:20(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

by Wang Hongbin, Jamal Ahmed

BAGHDAD, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) -- On the first anniversary of U.S. troop's withdrawal from Iraq, one can barely spot any changes in a Baghdad street. Many Iraqis told Xinhua that a lot may have happened in the political arena but the past year saw little change to ordinary people: life remains hard and improvement is not within sight.

Issam Said, a 46-year-old engineer in Baghdad's western district of Karrada, vented his disappointment. "A year ago, I was very happy, proud and filled with hope that at last the U.S. troops were gone. Now I guess I was fooled and not optimistic any more because nothing has changed."

Said attributed the fault to the government's inability to run the economy. "They are selling tons and tons of oil, but where is the money? We, ordinary citizens, haven't seen a penny. Corruption, bureaucracy and nepotism are ruining the country," he said.

Iraq has registered new highs this year for its oil production and export, which brings in an average of some 80 billion U.S. dollars per month. Yet Iraqis complain that the huge wealth is not shared among its people.

Sameer Sabah, 23, sells vegetables at his father's stall. He graduated from Baghdad University two years ago and could not find a decent job.

"After the Americans' departure, I thought things would get better because there would be no occupation to argue upon," Sabah said. "But you see nothing has changed and I am still working in my stall like one year ago."

According to a latest survey by the Ministry of Planning and Development Cooperation, Iraq's unemployment rate is 18 percent. The rate among people under the age of 24 is 30 percent. And some experts believe the actual jobless rate may be much higher.

Smoking Shisha in an outdoor cafeteria, 52-year-old taxi driver Abu Ahmed said, "we haven't seen any tangible changes in our life. The explosions are the same, and political struggles are even worse than one year ago under U.S. occupation. But this is Iraq, we have no way but to accept it and try to enjoy it however hard it is."

Some Baghdad residents, however, are more tolerant and want to give the government more time to revive the war-ravaged country.

Hussein Jasim, a 38-year-old shop owner, said: "although many people are pessimistic of the current situation, I think we have to be patient because Iraq's devastation from the wars is very substantial. We need more time to rebuild facilities, resources and most importantly, confidence."

Political turmoil has engulfed the country since Prime Minister Nouri Maliki sought to arrest Vice President Tareq Hashimi accusing the latter of running death squads. Maliki's opponents then attempted to unseat him but eventually failed. Hashimi was given several death sentences in absentia.

Baghdad's tension with the Kurds was escalated to the extent that a military confrontation was feared to touch off a war.

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