by Garland Robertson
At an evening gathering to say goodbye to one of the CPT Iraq team members, I visited with Rajal. He is about twenty-five-years old and works as a technician with a U.S. university here in Suleimaniya. He told us about his recent drive to Baghdad, where he visited his old neighborhood-his first trip back since he and his parents had relocated to Suleimaniya in mid-2006.
He was shocked by the city's change of mood. He already knew of the terribly distressing experiences the residents were forced to endure in 2007, how each new day revealed more bodies lying in the streets. The bloating corpses and foul stench were evidences of brutal, sustained violence.
Now the city is quiet. He believes it is safe from random attacks and intrusive searches. However, only about three of the twenty families who had lived before in his neighborhood are still there. New groups are living in their houses, and in his house. People's behavior is more austere. They seem fatigued and depressed.
The dejection of the population displays itself on the street of Baghdad, where drivers operate their vehicles with aggression and intolerance. They have no compassion, no respect for order and taking turns. They cut off others, fiercely preventing any disruption of their intended journeys.
Rajal will not move back to Baghdad. He will stay in the north. He is planning to become engaged next month, and he and his fiancée will move slowly though the traditional preparations for their wedding, probably about a year away. In spite of the desperate, uncertain conditions, Rajal will try to make a life for himself. He and his fiancée hope to raise a family. He believes such a future is possible.