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A New Day for Many in Iraq - 2003-04-10


Many in the Iraqi American community watched the events unfold in Baghdad. Betty Van Etten talked with one Iraqi American and his friends and family. Here’s her report.

Ali Al-Attar is a doctor in the U.S. Until the age of 17, he lived in Iraq. Then he says, his family was forced into exile.

DR. ALI AL-ATTAR
“The government of Saddam Hussein took against the Shiite business people and business families and they put them in exile to Iran. They didn’t allow us to take anything with us.”

His only possession from Iraq is this picture.

NAT SOUND REPORTER ASKING “HOW OLD WERE YOU THEN? DO YOU KNOW WHEN THAT WAS TAKEN?”

DR. ALI AL-ATTAR
“I think 8 months”.

NAT SOUND PEOPLE GREETING EACH OTHER

Wednesday evening Dr. al Attar invited friends to his home to celebrate the news the world had witnessed, the collapsing of the regime of Saddam Hussein.

DR. ALI AL-ATTAR
“It was a moment unbelievable. Words are not enough to describe my feelings, you want to laugh you want to cry you want to do all these things together. It’s a different day, this is a day we were waiting for a long time. I consider this the birthday of Iraq.”

It was a sentiment echoed by his mother visiting from London.

MOTHER of DR. ALI AL-ATTAR (English over Arabic)
“I’m grateful to the Iraqi people and I thank God for helping us to get rid of Saddam’s injustice. But at the same time, I feel partly sad and happy because we don’t have any news about the rest of our family. Are they alive or dead? We will be fully happy when we know if they are safe and healthy.”

Samira Al Attar, a friend says it was news that spread quickly to family members.

Samira Al-Attar
“I am very happy that we get rid of Saddam Hussein and I think it’s the happiest day in my life.”

But leading up to this day, there were mixed emotions. The war in Iraq Dr. Al-Attar says was one many in the Iraqi community didn’t want to happen.

DR. ALI AL-ATTAR
“We were hoping that this could be done without war and bloodshed and we tried hard to support all the efforts to try to get him out of power without war. Once the war erupted, we did not have a lot of choice because in my opinion I couldn’t support but to remove Saddam.”

The civilian causalities he says were heartbreaking.

DR. ALI AL-ATTAR
“On the other hand this is war and that’s the only way we can get rid of Saddam and he put us in that corner.”

The attention of Dr. Al- Attar and his friends and family is now on the future of Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN
“I hope that the Iraqi people wants will benefit from the natural resources to rebuild the Iraq and became prosperous, build the schools and hospitals instead of buildings and military institutions.”

Dr. Al-Attar participated in a working group coordinated by the U.S. State department to help plan for the public health needs of a post-Saddam Iraq. He is also part of a Department of Defense task force that will go to Iraq soon.

DR. ALI AL-ATTAR
“Team of five for the health, and we decided four of them will go and one of them will stay. And the choice was me to stay. I’m going to stay to coordinate the work between the team and between the Department of Defense, and the HHS, and Veterans Affairs and UN and all this.”

But he says he will go back to Iraq one day.

DR. ALI AL-ATTAR
“Absolutely yes. I feel part of me is still there, I am not complete here. I have to go there and fetch my lost parts and reunite myself.”

It is a new day for many in Iraq and for many in the Iraqi American community.

DR. ALI AL-ATTAR
“But in the same time put on our shoulders a lot of responsibilities. We have plenty of them. One of the responsibilities is to rebuild Iraq and put that country back on the track of civilization as it was the cradle of civilization. It is a huge task, but we will do it with great joy and pride.”

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