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Most Iraqi-Americans Favor Regime Change - 2003-03-15


Iraqi Americans are sharply divided over a possible U.S.-led military action against their homeland. Yet most of them are eager to see a regime change in Iraq. VOA's Faiza Elmasry talked to some of the younger Iraqi Americans who seemed as enthusiastic as the older generation about the change, even though some of them have never lived in Iraq.

Young Iraqi Americans, like young people everywhere, are curious, daring and adventurous. Many of them are active within Iraqi American organizations. Ali Alshemary came to the United States as a student in 1995, and is now a researcher at the Global Peace Center, at the American University in Washington, D.C. Mr. Alshemary says even though Hammurabi wrote the oldest legal codes 4000 years ago in ancient Babylon, - present-day Iraq - modern Iraqis have no real laws or protection of the law.

"Through the 35 years, Saddam Hussein has created corruption all over the Iraqi society, whether it is financially, socially or psychologically," he said. "So, I think most of the Iraqi young generation who were born here [in the United States], or at least have been here for a long time, support overthrowing Saddam and his regime."

Along with other American University researchers, Mr. Alshemary has been working on a paper about the future of Iraq. He is particularly interested in reforming education there. He believes the current Iraqi system instills the Baa'th party's ideology. "We work on how to change the curriculum and infrastructure, building new universities, new schools," said Mr. Alshemary. "And we also work on how to create a new atmosphere for the students and remove what I call the brainwashing that Saddam's regime has imposed for the last 30 something years on the Iraqi student."

Ahmed Alrekkabi, a 26-year-old journalist, believes that reforming the Iraqi media is also crucial. He says that for decades, the state-controlled media has shaped the way Iraqis conceive and evaluate internal and international events. "The biggest challenge we have after Saddam Hussein is changing the mentality," he said. "I believe media is going to be very important in the future to establish security and democracy. Without a properly working media we can not achieve the free Iraq that we're really hoping to see in the very near future. I believe that Iraqis outside Iraq, who were in touch with democracy, will have the important role in changing this mentality."

Along with other Iraqi European and Iraqi American journalists, Mr. Alrekkabi is looking forward to taking part in the coming changes. "I am definitely going back," he said. "I've spent most of my life outside Iraq. In fact, I was born outside Iraq, in Prague and lived in different places, in the Middle East, Europe and even in Africa. All these journeys never changed the direction of my heart. My heart is always living in Iraq and Iraq is always living in my heart."

Israa Neema also loves her homeland and plans to help rebuild it. She is 22-years-old and fled Iraq with her family more than 10 years ago. "I endured and went through a lot of pain and sorrow in my life while leaving my homeland, Iraq," she said. "Now, I am a successful citizen of this country [American citizen], I am working for a company as a manager. Now that I've done everything I needed for myself, I am looking forward to going back and basically helping people rebuild their lives."

Ms. Neema supports a possible war with Iraq, and says she is actually suspicious of countries that call for no intervention. "It gets me angry because they do not see the picture of what is going on," she added. "I think a lot of those countries are concerned more about the oil and the Iraqi refineries than people themselves."

As a member of a group called Women for Free Iraq, Israa Neema met recently with members of Congress, VicePresident Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice. She also wrote to the President of the United States. "I've written a letter to President Bush thanking him for his efforts to free our country and help rebuild it," she said. "So, I just say as an American citizen, we are proud to stand up for our country and if you need us to go and fight or help support our troops in the gulf, we are ready."

Israa Neema admits that other young Iraqi Americans may disagree with her views about a possible war with Iraq, but she believes many of them nevertheless acknowledge Iraq's urgent need for democracy and freedom.