BAQUBA, May 27 (IPS) – After more than five years of U.S. occupation, the very dreams of the people of Baquba have changed. For a start, they are no longer about the future.
Today, a shower is a dream. Or that the electricity supply continues just that little bit longer.
“These needs are very trivial for people of other countries,” 43-year-old political leader Saad Tahir told IPS. “But in Iraq, people dream more of these things than of some ambition or success.”
Abdullah Mahdi, a retired 51-year-old trader, says he dreams only of electricity.
“Like millions here, I hope supply gets better to help us to sleep in this hot summer,” Mahdi told IPS. “We have been suffering from this problem since the 1991 Kuwait war, and this current occupation only made things worse.”
Others dream of freedom of movement. “I dream of travelling among the Iraqi provinces freely and safely,” a local resident said. “For more than two years now, I have not travelled to any province of my country.” Lack of security means Iraqis can rarely travel even to a neighbouring area.
Children also seem to have begun to dream differently.
“I dream of a playground in which I and my friends can play freely and at any time,” 11-year-old Luay Amjad told IPS. Children are not allowed to play just anywhere for fear of unexploded bombs, haphazard firing, and a general fear of the Iraqi military. Many children in Baquba and other districts of Diyala province have been kidnapped.
“All families wish to see their children safe, and then enjoying their time,” said a young father. “We know that they currently live in a very closed world. But we put pressure on our children for their own safety. Streets are dangerous, and even gardens may sometimes be dangerous.”
Others dream of a functioning economy. According to the ministry of trade, unemployment has been vacillating between 40-70 percent over the last two years.
“I hope that the trade and economic process will improve,” said an unemployed trader. “I wish Iraq could be an industrial country with a flourishing and luxurious status of living. I want to get back to my shop and have my own customers.”
Teachers dream of an Iraq that can be a centre for education again. “Iraq was one of the countries that paid great attention to education,” a university professor, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS. “Now, breaking the rules of schools is very common, and fake certificates are spread widely all over the country. We dream of a rigorous and successful educational process.”
Farmers simply dream of water, and the security necessary to work in their fields. “I hope I can work on my farm again, and have water to irrigate all the land,” said a local vegetable farmer.
A cleric spoke of bigger dreams. “I dream that all Iraqis will love each other again, as we used to in the past days. We miss hope, a smile, and true love. We hope that cooperation prevails again among people. We hope for killing and displacement to end forever in this once peaceful country. We hope that the sectarian discrimination disappears.”
A political analyst said he dreams of an end to the occupation. “The occupation is the source of all the problems of our people. I do dream of the end of the occupation — no more arrests, no more prison for simple and poor people, and no more suffering.”
(*Ahmed, our correspondent in Iraq’s Diyala province, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who has reported extensively from Iraq and the Middle East).