Accessibility links

Iraqi-Americans Work to Improve Business Landscape in Iraq - 2004-07-28


The volatile and dangerous situation in Iraq has made it difficult for people trying to do business in the country. Some Iraqi-Americans are trying to overcome the situation and remain optimistic in spite of the obstacles.

Doing business in Iraq these days is difficult and dangerous, but Aziz Khudairi and his son, Subhi have a special bond with the country. They live in Houston and maintain an office there, but they also spend time in their homeland trying to manage family-owned plants and negotiate contracts to import construction equipment.

Their concerns are many. Aziz Khudairi says political insurgents and terrorists are only part of the problem. He says criminal gangs are also taking advantage of the general breakdown of law and order.

"Kidnapping is common now in Iraq for business people and professionals," said Mr. Khudairi. "A businessman needs to be extremely careful walking around in Baghdad. I have my own body guards. I have my own driver. I do not walk in the streets alone. I have guards at my home and I have people guarding my installations in Baghdad. I am trying to be careful because it is rather common."

His son, Subhi Khudairi, who just returned from several weeks working in Iraq, says average Iraqis are struggling to maintain their hope for a better future amid the violence and insecurity.

"The anxiety is building up on them," he said. "The power outages are taking a toll on them physically and psychologically.

"The experiences they have had of knowing somebody or having a loved one being killed in a crossfire or having that loved one die because there is not a good medical facility nearby, or because of a power outage, that does take a toll on a lot of these Iraqis," continued Subhi Khudairi. "It is an uphill battle the coalition is working with. Time is of the essence. I think the sooner we can fully reconstruct Iraq, the quicker the Iraqis will be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel."

He says that while most Iraqis are happy to be free of Saddam Hussein and his repressive government, many resent the presence of foreign troops and remain suspicious of the new interim government.

"I think some groups think they are not as authentic as they should be because, in one way or another, they are backed by the U.S. government," he added. "But, no matter how they got there or who picked them, they are still going to be working for the best interests of Iraq."

Subhi Khudairi says his experience living in the United States gives him a special perspective. He appreciates the values of his Muslim religion and Arab culture, but he also sees the benefits of western democracy. He believes Iraq now needs to develop a government that is both representative of the people and strong enough to maintain law and order.

"Personally, I am cautiously optimistic and hope that there will be a strong Iraqi government in place that will crack down on these insurgents and really impose on them a strong form of law that will establish stability in the country so that businessmen can trade freely and political parties can speak out freely and people can move around freely throughout the country," he said.

Another perspective is provided by Aziz Khudairi, who has done business in Iraq for more than 30 years, through periods that were, in some ways, even more difficult than the situation today.

"It is a challenge. It is a major challenge," he said. "It is not easy, however, we have worked in Iraq always under difficult conditions. I started business in Iraq in the early 1970s, when Saddam Hussein took over, and we always had a war or a bombing or sanctions or lack of power, electricity, or lack of a telecommunications system."

Subhi Khudairi, building on his father's experience and knowledge of Iraq, says he is excited by the opportunity he sees to develop a new and more prosperous nation.

"It is absolutely a country with great potential," he said. "Not only does it have incredible natural resources to help it prosper, but it is geographically located in the heart of the middle east and it has an educated body of people. It is a country of great opportunity."

Subhi Khudairi is now enrolled in Rice University's Masters of Business program and will start attending classes for the fall semester, which begins late next month. His father, Aziz, plans to continue traveling to Iraq where he hopes both his business and the prosperity of the nation will continue to improve in the months ahead.

XS
SM
MD
LG