Iraqis yearn for peace, prosperity in new year despite relentless violence

Xinhua | Agencies
As the new year approaches, Iraqis are cautiously optimistic in their wishes for 2014 as daily waves of violence continue to rattle the nation.

“I wish that 2014 will bring peace, security improvement and prosperity to my people, and I guess that the parliamentary elections in April will be the most important event for the year,” said Sarmad Aziz, 32, a Christian who was decorating a Christmas tree at his house in Mansour district in the western part of Baghdad.

“We fear some violence might target our Christian minority, but still I’m going to celebrate the new year with my family and some relatives in my house,” Aziz said as he put some candles in the tree.

“I couldn’t decorate my tree with lights, because mostly we don ‘t have enough electricity, so I use candles,” he said. “It looks to me more romantic,” He said.

Ali Abbas, 47, a teacher at a secondary school in Baghdad’s southern district of Baiyaa, was optimistic with 2014 which will witness Iraq’s third national elections.

“I wish the new year will bring peace and security improvement to my people, as I believe that the most significant event will be the parliamentary elections that will hopefully draw better future to Iraqis,” enthusiastic Abbas told Xinhua.

“I wish my people will elect the right people for the coming parliament because we have suffered enough by the existing politicians. The ball now is in the court of my people. They must make the change,” Abbas said.

On April 30, Iraq is scheduled to hold its nationwide elections, in which Iraqis will elect a new parliament and then to form a new four-year-term government.

In 2005, Iraq held its first parliamentary elections since the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. The second national polls were in 2009.

Sameer Muhammed Ali, 27, sells vegetables at his father’s stall. He graduated four years ago from the agriculture collage in Baghdad University and could not find a decent job.

“In the past four years, my hope of finding a job for myself has declined. Things are getting worse, peace and stability were just like pipe dreams,” Ali said referring to the relentless political division and insecurity during the past years. “As you see, nothing has changed and my dreams are deferred indefinitely.”

More than a decade of the dramatic change took place in the life of Iraqis after the US-led invasion in 2003, many Iraqis still nostalgically remember those old days, although many agree that they were never been good under Saddam’s dictatorship.

“I can remember that before 2003, celebrations in the new year were very common in houses, restaurants, clubs and even many Muslims took part and thousands of youngsters and families spend their night in the streets until the early hours of the next year, ” Sami George, 35, an engineer said.

“We have some small parties here and there inside our houses, and maybe some streets in Christian neighborhoods in Baghdad, we can still have fun but not like before,” he said.

Many Christian families in the mainly Christian district of Doura in southern Baghdad have left their homes to celebrate the Christmas and the new year in the northern semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan.

“Many of my neighbors left for Kurdistan so they can have peaceful celebrations there, but and some other Christians stay here because it cost much money, I can hardly make a living,” Khalid Bahjat, 44, a stall owner selling slippers in Athouryeen popular market in Doura district said.

On Dec. 25, a deadly bombing targeted the Christian minority in Baghdad as dozens of worshippers were leaving a Christmas mass at a church in Baghdad’s southern district of Doura, killing 38 people and wounding 71 others, most were Christian citizens.

Another attack occurred on the Christmas day when three bombs went off at Doura’s Athouryeen outdoor popular market, killing 11 people and wounding 14 others.

Islamic extremists have frequently targeted Christians since the US-led invasion in 2003, forcing tens of thousands of them to flee the country or to move to the Kurdish region.

Raymond Haddad, 44, a member of the Iraqi Christian minority was unhappy for not having a loud party as he used to do in the past due to the lack of security and because many of his Christian friends had left the country.

“I’m very sad that we couldn’t have peace although more than a decade have passed since the US-led invasion. Instead, we have just buried our family members who died in the Christmas bombing a few days ago,” Haddad said in a coffee shop with his wife and two daughters in Baghdad’s western district of Mansour.

Despite their cautiousness in their anticipation for Iraq’s future, many Iraqis expressed their hope that their country still can be a good place to live in.

“My family and I didn’t surrender. We will wait to celebrate the next new year, and we will exchange hugs and wishes. We haven’ t lost hope in Iraq yet,” Mazin Anis, 52, a government employee from the Christian minority said proudly.

Anis’ wife Zeina, in her 40s, agreed with her husband and said: “yes, we have our fears but who doesn’t? Our love for life is stronger. My wish for the coming year is that it could be a better and a safer one.”

Posted in: Mid-East