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Iraqis Optimistic About Future Despite Daily Attacks - 2004-06-27

Just days before the U.S.-led coalition hands sovereignty over to the new Iraqi interim government, acts of terror continue throughout the country. Despite deep concern over the issue of security, many Iraqis are very optimistic about the future of their country.

Car bombings occur in Iraq almost daily. Late Saturday, a bombing south of Baghdad, in the predominately Shi'ite city of Hilla, killed dozens of Iraqis and wounded many others.

Insurgents have also stepped up their campaign of terror by kidnapping and beheading foreigners.

A 72-hour deadline was issued Saturday by terrorists who said they will behead three kidnapped workers from Turkey unless Turkish businesses in Iraq shut down.

Political leaders in Iraq remain under threat of assassination. Insurgents bombed the local headquarters of Iraq's interim Prime Minister Ilyad Allawi north of Baghdad Saturday, in the city of Baquba.

Electricity in Baghdad continues to be interrupted several times a day and traffic has grown progressively worse with the closure of several key bridges and roads for security reasons.

But, despite living with daily fears and frustrations, many Iraqis remain optimistic about the future of their country.

Political science professor Abdul Jabbar Ahmed Abdullah teaches at Baghdad University. Security, he says, remains his number-one concern. But, despite the continuing terrorist attacks throughout Iraq, Professor Abdullah says there is no question that life has improved since the fall of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

"I think the life is much better from Saddam Hussein," he commented. "Now, we enjoy the right to speech. We enjoy to democracy, limited democracy. I do not mean the American democracy, but now the citizen in Iraq start to express freely. Now, we are living and moving freely. There are no limitations. Therefore, I think that the life is much better now than from the government of Saddam Hussein."

Police stations across the country have been among the main targets of the terrorists. Hundreds of Iraqi policemen have died as the result of suicide car bomb attacks. Even so, the police commander of Baghdad's al-Karrada district, Colonel Mahdi Humoudi, is optimistic as the transfer of sovereignty approaches.

The police commander says he expects there will be great prosperity in Iraq's future. He says, without comparison, life is much better than under Saddam Hussein. He says Iraqis have made many sacrifices and he hopes a modern and civilized society will emerge.

Similar sentiments were shared by 25-year-old engineer Zaid Ahmed, who was shopping at a Baghdad grocery store. He says he now enjoys freedom of speech and freedom to go where he pleases. But, he said he still has mixed emotions about how the Americans have been dealing with Iraqi citizens.

"Americans, at the first time they came, all the Iraqis clapped for them because they finished this bad authority about Saddam Hussein. And, day after day, they did not know how to deal with the Iraqi people. They are sometimes good. They are sometimes bad. Sometimes stupid, sometimes smart," he said.

Mr. Ahmed says he believes the Americans are beginning to learn how to deal with Iraqis and, he says, he is excited about the future of his country. Once the issue of security is handled, he says, Iraqis will begin to experience a level of freedom they once could only dream about.