Life in Iraq: Tales of a New World

Published September 26, 2003

| FoxNews.com

With Saddam Hussein (search) out of power, normal Iraqis are experiencing something different, something liberating.

Fox News' Steve Harrigan visited with Iraqis in their homes, at their places of work and worship, and as they made their way through the streets of Baghdad (search ) and Iraq's other cities. What he found in a four-part series was a country and a people happy to be free of Saddam Hussein's rule.

Part One: 'America Now Like Father'

"We taste something. We can't recognize that taste," said Talib, an Iraqi who works for the state tobacco company. "We [are] happy ... because when we switch on the television you never see Saddam Hussein. That's a big happy for the Iraqi people."

The price of the factory bus ride is the same as it was under Saddam ... free. Women sit next to women, but they are not forced in the back.

The tobacco company used to work around the clock. Now it's open just six hours a day, when there is electricity. There are eight men assigned to Talib's 30-year-old packing machine, but just two do any work.

America pays the salaries of $60 a month -- in part, to keep the 2,000 workers quiet. But the future of a state-run monopoly with outdated machinery and no government to protect it is uncertain.

"America now like father," Talib said, "Iraqi people child. They want anything from that father he must give him, 'til that child grown and be a man to feel what that father do for his child."

Talib's story is just one of many explored by Fox News' Steve Harrigan in his series Life in Baghdad airing this week.

Click here to watch Part One.

 

Part Two: A New Army

Five months ago Salah was trying to kill Americans. Now he takes orders from them. For a man who says he loves Saddam Hussein, it's not easy.

"My heart was bitter. I was not able to deal with it. But I have to, I have to live. There is no work. I have to have a clean job and the rest is up to God," said Salah. 

Push-ups and sit-ups in the dirt are followed by a run along the Tigris. Then a fan-cooled classroom in mid-day desert heat. Today's lesson: Do not surrender. The new recruits, almost all of whom surrendered to U.S. forces, take notes.

Salah is among the 42 Iraqis who enlisted in the Civil Defense Corps (search ) in Tikrit, Saddam's hometown, for a starting salary of $120 per month.

The American instructors are armed. The Iraqis have rifles but no magazines. "Sometimes we worry. But we have to trust them," said U.S. Army Sgt. Jeffrey Allen. "Because if we ever want to get out of here we have to train them to take our place. We can't leave this country without an army."

A new army, where for a few moments, on the banks of the Tigris River, old enemies have a chance to be friends.

Click here to watch Part Two.

 

Part Three: Wedding Day

The hair is pulled, poked and prodded with a curling iron that is truly flaming hot as 20 Iraqi brides get ready for the big day.

Not war, not blackouts, not military occupation -- nothing can stop them. The atmosphere is heavy, not just with hairspray, but with hope.

"Our Iraqi people continue in their life because the life not stop because the war," said one bride, Anham.

Like many Iraqi brides, Anham prefers a heavy spread of white makeup, to make her skin appear fair. Sisters, mothers and children oversee the three-hour process, which includes a $50 rental dress.

Since the fall of Saddam, Baath Party approval is no longer required for marriage. Anham's schoolteacher salary was $3 a month under the dictator. It is $120 a month under coalition forces. Not enough for a limo, but it does get her a taxi.

Missing from the gathering are three brothers killed in the war Saddam started with neighboring Iran. Anham's father and sister are glad the dictator is gone, and that coalition forces are here. The bride is not so sure.

"We suffered under Saddam, after Saddam. In the future, God knows," Anham says.

But even without electricity, it is a day to dance. The party spills out into the courtyard, as the groom pulls up in a rented BMW with a band in tow.

One of 12 children, Anham's dream is to have a small house and children of her own.

Click here to watch Part Three.

 

Part Four: A New Generation

Somewhere in between Iraqis too young to understand dictatorship and those who have lived their lives in fear of one is a generation still trying to figure things out.

Fifteen year old Hanan likes tight black jeans but she can wear only long skirts. She'll fix her hair for an hour then have to cover it with a scarf. She can't call her girlfriends, because the phone lines are down.

And she's afraid. She has not left the house where she helps her mother teach nursery school for more than a month.

She is scared of kidnapping and gunfire beyond the classroom walls. But not afraid of American forces, or the helicopters they fly overhead. "I wave to helicopters," she said in English.

Saddam's war with Iran took her brother. His war with the U.S.-led coalition has nearly bankrupt the family business.

But the war has opened up some things that used to be illegal.

Satellite television, with 306 new channels, is shattering a picture that was static for 30 years.

"When we watched (Saddam) on TV we thought he was good, but after the fall of Saddam we saw something we didn't see before. We believed in him, that he is our president and loves his people, but when the war started, he was the first to run away," she said, speaking this time in Arabic.

Saddam's face is gone from the television, gone from the gate out front, from the walls of the classroom. It is an image that is being reconsidered in the minds of a new generation -- the first in Iraq with a choice.

Click here to watch Part Four.

 

 

 

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