DON GONYEA, host:
Amid the daily battle, bombings and bloodshed in Baghdad, many Iraqis struggle to live as normal a life as possible. Some have chosen to do this while also taking the risky step of trying to serve their country.
Last summer, one newlywed Iraqi couple gave up good jobs and relative security to move to Baghdad, where they now work as aides to the Iraqi president.
For several days recently, they hosted NPR's Ivan Watson, who sent us this story about their honeymoon in the Green Zone.
IVAN WATSON reporting:
Newlyweds Hiwa Osman and Ava Nadir wake up and start their days much like professional couples in any other city in the world, with coffee and a quick bite of breakfast before dashing off to work.
Ms. AVA NADIR (Baghdad): You want juice? (Unintelligible)
Mr. HIWA OSMAN (Baghdad): (Unintelligible)
Ms. NADIR: Okay.
WATSON: That is, until the sound of military jets roaring overhead reminds you that they're living in a war zone.
Both Hiwa and Ava commute every morning from their house in a guarded compound to the heavily fortified Green Zone, where they work as staff members to the Iraqi President.
Mr. OSMAN:(Foreign spoken)
Ms. NADIR: (Foreign spoken)
WATSON: To get there, they have to drive a gauntlet down a narrow road jammed with cars all waiting to pass through the Iraqi and U.S. military checkpoints at the entrance to the green Zoe.
Unidentified Man: Good morning sir.
Mr. OSMAN: Good morning.
Unidentified Man: Have any weapons?
WATSON: This area has been hit several times by suicide bombers. Hiwa says he missed one of those explosions by a cigarette.
Mr. OSMAN: Before leaving home in the morning I decided to light another cigarette. And as I was halfway trough my cigarette I heard a blast and I realized later that it was exactly where we are standing now, ten meters from here, a car blew up and killed a few people.
WATSON: It didn't have to be this way. Until last summer, Hiwa and Ava both lived in the relative safety of Iraqi Kurdistan, in the north of the country, where they were dating and working for an international non-profit organization.
When President-elect Jalal Talabani offered Hiwa a job as his media adviser, the couple held a quick, untraditional wedding, and then immediately moved to Baghdad.
Ava says the morning after their arrival, bodyguards burst into their bedroom to take Hiwa to his first day of work.
Ms. NADIR: Actually they opened the door. And they want to enter just to wake up Hiwa, because they didn't know there is a woman inside the room. Because in our culture, you have to do a big wedding, a big news that two couples got married here.
WATSON: Days later, Ava herself began working as an assistant to the President's chief of staff. Sitting in an office, bombarded with the blare of sirens and roaring helicopters, Ava says there was no time for a honeymoon, unless you count their months working in the Green Zone.
Ms. NADIR: I believe it's the most weird, strange honeymoon. Yeah, sometimes we laugh, sometimes we have strong fights. We end up, because we both love this country and love each other, we feel that we can help, we can do, we can be value or help.
WATSON: Amid the chaos and pressures of work, the newlyweds are trying to build as normal a life as possible together. One night, decompressing after dinner on a couch in front of the TV, watching Al Pacino's performance in the movie Scarface.
(Soundbite of movie Scarface)
WATSON: Despite the constant threat of assassination or kidnapping, Hiwa and Ava periodically leave the relative safety of their compound to travel incognito around the city, shopping for groceries, visiting art galleries, or buying furniture for their new home.
Ms. NADIR: We never, ever expect like to live in, okay, with the furniture we don't like, because the security situation is bad.
Ms. OSMAN: Fancy furniture came first.
WATSON: But both acknowledged that blending in with Iraqis doesn't necessarily protect them from terrorism.
Ms. NADIR: All the Iraqi people are a target now, because they want to steal our achievement.
Mr. OSMAN: And this is what makes us more determined that we have to win. There is no two ways about it. We can't afford to lose to these guys.
WATSON: Given the threats, this newlywed couple has made a pact never to go anywhere dangerous without each other.
Mr. OSMAN: See, if anything happens, none of us want to stay alone or to be left behind.
Ms. NADIR: As we accept to take all the challenge and all the materials as a package, we will live together or die together.
WATSON: Ivan Watson, NPR News.
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