Science - June 7, 2007

‘Iraqis don’t care about Saddam, they want security’

Iraqi Adnan Koucher was delighted when Saddam Hussein’s regime was overthrown in 2003. But he’s not happy about the recent death sentence given to the old leader. ‘I don’t care about Saddam. There’s a civil war going on in Iraq. It’s not the right time to sentence him. It will only make matters worse.’

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Adnan moved to the Netherlands in 1996 to study for his doctorate degree at the University of Nijmegen. After obtaining his PhD he started work as a lecturer at Van Hall Larenstein in 1999. He has often returned to Iraq to visit his family, most recently last August. But this time Adnan didn’t go to his hometown Mosul. ‘I was afraid to go,’ he says. ‘It’s very unsafe there, not only because of the violence between different groups, but criminal gangs are kidnapping for ransom.’ Instead, he rented a flat in a city in Kurdistan for two weeks, where he met his parents and relatives. ‘I didn’t see my hometown, or my parents’ house. That’s very sad.’

It’s not the ‘new Iraq’ Adnan hoped for at the time the brutal regime was overthrown by the Americans. ‘Most Iraqis were delighted that they got rid of the dictator,’ says Adnan. ‘For three decades there had been no way to overthrow Saddam, because of his brutality and his secret police organisations. Iraq was a state of fear.’ Adnan felt that fear himself when he lived in Iraq. ‘It was exactly like Big Brother watching you. That’s why everybody was very careful, even within their own families. If a child said ‘my father was swearing against Saddam’, next day the father would have disappeared.’

Now Adnan has mixed feelings about the occupation of his home country by the Americans. ‘In the beginning it was important to get rid of Saddam. I didn’t even mind ‘cooperating with the devil’, although I don’t see the Americans that way. Now the scenario has changed. America has made some big mistakes. They sent all the military and police home. This created a power vacuum, which has gradually been filled by extremists, mostly from outside Iraq. It has also encouraged different parties, like the people who supported Saddam, to reorganise themselves and to regain power. All these groups are fighting against the Americans now.’

During the last months the situation has been getting worse, as a result of what Adnan calls ‘a side effect of democracy in Iraq’. ‘Many Shiites see the Sunnis as the cause of the years of oppression. When the Shiites were elected into power, discrimination of all sorts got stronger by the day, ending up in the civil war we have now.’

Most big towns are now divided into a Shiite and Sunni part and the police are not in control. Adnan: ‘It’s very unsafe. The population is living in fear. Due to the power vacuum, gangs have become very active and are kidnapping people to get money.’ He’s worried about his family in Mosul. ‘My father used to go to the town centre every day, but he hasn’t been for months now. It’s too dangerous. People who still go to work don’t know if they will come back at the end of the day.’

Adnan doesn’t care about the fate of the old dictator. ‘Saddam is just a person now; he doesn’t have any influence anymore. To sentence him to death doesn’t solve any problems. It will only create more violence. It’s not the right time to do it. The situation in Iraq is much more important than Saddam. It’s bad now; so many people are dying everyday. I wouldn’t mind if they freed Saddam. If that would bring security back, it would be worth it. Many Iraqis feel it that way, I’m sure.’/ Koen Moons - photo Guy Ackermans

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