Saddam's fall from power thrills Iraq natives in F-M
Michael Kakaie received a long overdue call Wednesday. It was his daughter, Amal, calling from her home in Iraqi Kurdistan. She gleefully described the scene in Erbil following the apparent fall of Baghdad from Saddam Hussein's control. People da...
Michael Kakaie received a long overdue call Wednesday.
It was his daughter, Amal, calling from her home in Iraqi Kurdistan.
She gleefully described the scene in Erbil following the apparent fall of Baghdad from Saddam Hussein's control.
People danced in the streets chanting "Thank you America and President Bush," Kakaie said. American and Kurdish flags flew side by side.
"I wish I was there right now sharing with my people," said Kakaie, a Moorhead resident and former Kurdish newspaper reporter who left Iraq in 1997.
When asked how significant he thought Wednesday's events were, he said, "It is like July Fourth for the Americans. It's a great day in our history, and it's a great day in the world's history. We got rid of a great threat."
Since he fled Iraq in 1975, Yassin Barwari has been dreaming of the day Saddam would fall from power.
He watched that happen -- at least symbolically -- when U.S. Marines pulled a statue of the Iraqi leader to the ground.
"This is the happiest day of my life," the Fargo resident said. "Minute by minute I see this regime is getting weaker and closer to the end. I am getting happier and happier."
Iraqis jumped and stomped on the statue, which had been erected a year ago to celebrate Saddam's birthday, and then pulled the head through the streets.
"That was great," said Barwari, born in Iraqi Kurdistan. "People can finally express themselves. They welcome the American forces as a liberator, not an occupier. I knew it would happen."
Awatif Abdullah, an Arab Iraqi, grew up in the southern city of Nazaria and has a home and family living in Baghdad.
While happy to see Hussein's regime collapse, her thoughts Wednesday were of family members she has not been able to contact since the war started.
"I have no idea (how they are)," she said. "That is what frustrates me. It is hard to watch TV and not know whether your loved ones are alive or dead."
Abdullah said she hoped the jovial images she saw on TV Wednesday remain.
"I hope this happiness is not going to turn into chaos and the Iraqi people are not going to kill each other," she said. "All Iraqi people need to be united with each other for the benefit of their country."
Hussein Weled, Michael's cousin, predicted there will still be tough fighting ahead as coalition forces move toward Hussein's birthplace of Tikrit.
"It was an important day today, but it is not done," said Weled, who attended a police academy in Baghdad in 1971.
But once the remnants of Hussein's regime are gone, establishing a Democratic government will be possible, he said.
"We'll need help until we can control the situation," Weled said. "But the Iraqi people are an educated people. We have oil. We can take care of ourselves."
Kakaie said before talk of a new government begins, coalition forces most provide humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people.
Barwari, Weled and Kakaie said they would be willing to return to Iraq to help rebuild the country, if needed. Many of the 4 million Iraqis in exile would be willing to do the same, they said.
"I thank God for this moment," Kakaie said. "I see my people get freedom. If I die, never mind, because I've seen my people free."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Baird at (701) 241-5535