Iraqis View Egypt Protests As Exciting, Bittersweet As with many things in Iraq, the reaction to the uprising in Egypt depends on whom you ask. Some are glad to see others looting in the midst of chaos. Others say it's bittersweet to watch the Egyptian people rise up, in light of a failed uprising against Saddam Hussein 20 years ago.
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Iraqis View Egypt Protests As Exciting, Bittersweet

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Iraqis View Egypt Protests As Exciting, Bittersweet

Iraqis View Egypt Protests As Exciting, Bittersweet

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

NPR's Kelly McEvers says TVs in offices, cafes and homes in Baghdad are all tuned to live feeds from Cairo.

KELLY MCEVERS: Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)

MCEVERS: In the middle class, mostly Shiite neighborhood of Karrada, Iraqi guys sitting around and smoking water pipes say they're excited about what's happening in Egypt.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHATTER)

MCEVERS: Unidentified Man #2: They were criticizing us, accusing us of being Ali Baba, which means thieves. So they were accusing us, but right now they are doing the same thing.

MCEVERS: Down the street, we find some older, perhaps wiser men playing dominoes. When asked about Egypt, journalist and writer Sabah Hassan says it's bittersweet to watch the Egyptian people rise up against a dictator. The Iraqi people did the same, he says, 20 years ago, after the first Gulf war, when protests swept the south and north of Iraq.

SABAH HASSAN: (Through translator) Iraqi people did fight Saddam, long time ago, it was them. But the issue, there was no media to cover everything. There was no media to talk about it, just like nobody knew what was happening in Iraq.

MCEVERS: We walk up to a street stall where they're cooking hamburgers, Iraqi-style. That means the meat is lamb and the french fries go inside the bun. Owner Jassim al Hilli says it's galling to watch the Egyptian people do the job of toppling the strong man, when in Iraq, it took an invasion to bring him down.

JASSIM AL HILLI: (Through translator) Most of the Arabic countries, actually, all the Arabic countries, they like freedom and they like to do it by themselves. They do freedom for themselves. It's not like someone else would come and do it for you.

MCEVERS: That said, there are things that unite both sides: anger at continuing electricity shortages - which brought both Sunnis and Shiites to the streets last summer - unemployment despite rising oil revenues, and the ongoing lack of security.

IBRAHIM SUMYDAI: I think maybe we will face increasing calling for good services. But all the Iraqi people feel they are guilty because they brought this level of politicians in power.

MCEVERS: And they can take them out of power, if they want. This, he says, is a privilege the Iraqis have now, a privilege the Egyptians want.

SUMYDAI: We have elections. We have free elections.

MCEVERS: Kelly McEvers, NPR News, Baghdad.

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