Gulf & Middle East
Iraq's security woes four years after Saddam statue fell
Apr 9, 2007 - 1:42:42 PM

Baghdad, April 9 - Four years after a statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled in Baghdad's Firdous Square, Iraqis bear with daily bombings and sectarian violence as well as decapitated or tortured bodies.

Layla al-Saigh, a housewife in her 30s, said: 'I was happy when I saw the fall of the Saddam statue four years ago, but now I realise it was the start of security deterioration.'

On April 9, 2003, the US forces broke into central Baghdad and pulled down a large statue of the former Iraqi leader - in Firdous - Square - who was executed in December.

Four years on, Iraqi people are disappointed, as their hopes for prosperity have become castles in the air.

Abu Samir, a 50-year-old teacher in Baghdad, said he was happy when Saddam's statue was toppled but was now filled with nothing but regret.

'At that moment, I saw the statue as a symbol of dictatorship and tyranny. Now I want to say the Americans and those who came with them are much worse than Saddam,' Samir said.

Firdous Square is no longer a symbol for the dictator of Iraq. It is now nothing but a square surrounded by police and army checkpoints, said Muhammad Dafir who worked at a nearby Sheraton Hotel.

A monument symbolising freedom was set up in the statue's place. But Dafir said most of Baghdad residents know nothing about its meaning except for some US soldiers who come to take pictures.

'I am really disappointed because I know there is no freedom without security,' he added.

A 24-hour vehicle curfew will be imposed on Baghdad on Monday, the fourth anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, to avoid attacks in a capital that witnesses persistent violence despite the presence of tens of thousands of US and Iraqi soldiers in a major security crackdown.

On Sunday, thousands of Iraqis came to the holy city of Najaf to demonstrate against the US presence in Iraq.

Said lawyer Salam al-Ani, 60, 'Iraqis are much more eager for security and stability than ever.' He complained that there was no water, no electricity, no jobs and no future in Iraq.

'From the beginning, I realised that those who celebrated the occupation will not enjoy their happiness forever because I know the US' promise of building a new Iraq was only an illusion and even a deception that some Iraqis believed,' he added.

More and more Iraqis chose to flee the violence-plagued country amid miserable living conditions and deteriorating security situation.

Two million Iraqis have left Iraq to nearby Arab countries and Europe since the bombing of the revered Shia Askariya mosque in the town of Samarra in February 2006, sparking a wave a sectarian bloodshed that engulfed the country.

Some Iraqis believed that the fall of Saddam's statue was the beginning of a long way of building democracy in Iraq.

'Despite the hardships after four years of the fall of Saddam's regime, I feel grateful to the Americans who helped us get rid of the dictatorship that ruled Iraq brutally for 35 years,' said Haider Saadoun, a college student.

'I believe that building a free nation is a hard task and needs sacrifices,' the 23-year-old added.

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