Day to Day Realities of Life in Iraq
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Debbie Elliott. The third anniversary of the war in Iraq has been marked with protests around the world and policy debates like the one we heard a few moments ago here in the U.S.
To get a sense of what life is like these days for people in Iraq, we called Dr. Akif Alousi. He works at Al-Kindy Teaching Hospital in Baghdad and lives with his family in the northern part of the capital. Dr. Alousi is in the Sunni minority in Iraq, yet he was not a supporter of Saddam Hussein. I asked him whether he supported the U.S.-led invasion.
Dr. AKIF ALOUSI (Physician, Baghdad Al-Kindy Teaching Hospital): No, it was a dilemma. I was very much against Saddam Hussein, but I also like to keep my country sovereign. We were born in a sovereign country. It was hijacked by a tyrant, and then you are asked to give up your sovereignty to get rid of the tyrant. This was a very difficult decision.
ELLIOTT: Can you tell us what your life was like before the war when Saddam Hussein was in control and the country was living under sanctions?
Dr. ALOUSI: It was easier than now, but it was a hopeless situation. There was no hope in change in the future. The main issue we had was that there was somebody splitting up the country, playing everybody against each other to dominate the country, to dominate all our minds. I cherish my freedom and my family's freedom much more than anything else.
ELLIOTT: Do you feel like you're free today?
Dr. ALOUSI: In a lot of aspects of life, yes. I can communicate, I can plan for the future, but there are different challenges now. We are now faced by a free country but with no institution to preserve the law, to keep up the order of things. It's dangerous to live in such a country, in such a situation.
ELLIOTT: The hospital where you work cares for many of the city's war casualties. Have things gotten worse since the sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiia has worsened?
Dr. ALOUSI: Casualty-wise, yes. In the last three weeks, we saw a lot of casualty. Most of the casualties we receive are as a result of the terrorist operations towards common civilians. For instance, one day we receive 100 casualties, very severely injured, in two hours and which stretch our capacity to the limit.
ELLIOTT: What about your neighborhood there in Baghdad? Do you feel safe where you live?
Dr. ALOUSI: It's relatively safe. I live in an old neighborhood. All my neighbors are my friends and they have lived here for generations. I knew their parents and my, they knew my parents. It's a relatively safe place. Although it's an interface between two different, Sunni and Shiite, religiously different groups, a lot of them are business partners, and they are also joined by marriage.
ELLIOTT: So there are Sunni and Shiia there who have been getting along for decades, but has the war changed that relationship at all?
Dr. ALOUSI: The incidents after the war and the lawlessness is leading to sectarian violence. There is no government to protect you, no law to protect you, so when one retreats to a sect or his tribe or probably his family, and this is the difficulty we're seeing.
ELLIOTT: Dr. Alousi, I'd like to get a sense now of your typical day. All of us, no matter where we live, have certain things that we have to take care of every day. We have to get to work, we have to buy groceries and prepare meals, we have to keep our laundry clean. How do you go about trying to manage daily life in a war zone?
Dr. ALOUSI: Time in Baghdad is now compressed because of the curfews, because of the lawlessness, because of the violence, so you have to finish your work very fast and come back home. Most of the chores are outside the house is my duty. Taking care of home is my wife's duty. Without her I could, I could never survive such a difficult situation.
ELLIOTT: Now, you all have five children. The youngest is still a baby, six months old, and I'm gonna ask you a personal question now. I hope you don't mind, but...
Dr. ALOUSI: No.
ELLIOTT: ...how did you all decide to have another child during these turbulent times in your country?
Dr. ALOUSI: Because of the hope we have for the future. I mean, it's turbulent times, but life has to go on. We can't stay still and wait for things to happen. We learn to adapt. It's a gradual process which has grown upon us for the last three years.
ELLIOTT: Do you ever think about leaving Iraq?
Dr. ALOUSI: Now I'm really considering it when there is a real risk of sectarian violence. I would not like my children to grow up fighting each other. I'm not so much afraid for my own safety. I will adapt like I adapted to the Iraq-Iran war, through the years of the sanctions, and now through this lawlessness, but I'm afraid for my children very much.
ELLIOTT: Dr. Akif Alousi works at the Al-Kindy Teaching Hospital in Baghdad. Thank you so much for speaking with us.
Dr. ALOUSI: You're welcome very much.