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Two Iraqi-Americans Look Ahead - 2003-04-17

Iraqi’s living in the United States are keeping a close eye on developments back in their homeland. VOA-TV’s Chris Simkins introduces us to two friends who are looking ahead - optimistically - to a post-war Iraq.

Ghassan Makki and Younis Khodair are optimistic about the future of Iraq. The two grew up in and around Baghdad, and now have fond memories of their homeland. They left Iraq to settle in America in the 1980’s, but their paths didn’t cross until they both ended up living in the Washington, D.C. area.

Ghassan, who has many relatives back in Iraq says he believes his family and other Iraqis will have a better future now that Saddam Hussein’s Regime is no longer in power.

“My hope is to have a democratic Iraq. To have the freedom to vote and the right to choose who you want and maybe a system exactly like here (in the United States) or in Europe where people can say what they want to say and feel free to go anywhere they want without being stopped by anybody.”

Younis actually worked for the Iraqi government beginning in 1980 when he was 17 years old. In 1986, he was assigned to work at the Iraqi Embassy in Washington. It was then that Younis decided he’d had enough of Saddam’s government so he defected to the United States. A short time later he married his wife Regina and became a U.S. citizen.

He says he’s glad that people in Iraq can now try to experience the freedom he enjoys in the United States. But he believes Iraqis will need help from the United States and Britain before they can benefit from their newfound freedom.

“Now a lot of people especially the young they think, he (Saddam Hussein) is gone and now I am free. Democracy, that is how they look at it. Freedom nobody will tell me anything. That’s how they think a democracy is. They need someone to educate them to teach them what democracy means and what the freedom means which I believe will take two to three years.”

Ghassan agrees and says the determination of the Iraqi people will get them through this tough transition period.

“They are survivors and the Iraqi people are happy people even when the situations are really bad. They are kind of unique, they laugh about things and if you see them on TV you see them smiling they joke around it is a culture thing that they are always alive and they don’t let themselves down.”

Ghassan says he would like to return to Iraq to work with one of the American companies that will soon begin the task of helping rebuild the country.

As for Younis, he sees a bright future for his homeland; a place he hopes will return to the way it was when he was a young boy.

“I believe in 10 years from now Iraq will be the best place in that region area. I believe a lot of business and companies will go there and a lot can be tourist too. And I think a lot of Iraqis who live overseas they will go back some of them maybe can go back for good some of them can go back for a visit.”

Both Younis and Ghassan believe in the next few months things will start to get back to normal in Iraq. In the meantime, they are just thankful knowing that all of their relatives are safe.