Iraqis who once celebrated and even participated in pulling down Saddam Hussein’s statue four years ago when US tanks rolled into Baghdad in a heart-breaking scene for many Arabs and Muslims are now lamenting the good old days under the late president.
“We were happy. At that time we thought everything would get better. In fact, the opposite has happened. There is this insecurity,” Mona Mahmud, a 46-year-old mother of two, told Agence France Presse (AFP) Saturday, April 7.
“Today, when I look at the statue, I feel overwhelmed by sadness.”
Qusay Taha, a customer at an Iraqi barbar’s salon near Al-Fardos Square, also lamented the halcyon days.
“Today we are disgusted by what happened that day,” Taha said.
“The situation today is a hundred times worse. It’s not as if most Iraqis danced in this square that day anyway.”
Saddam’s statue was pulled down by US marines and some cheerful Iraqis on April 9, 2003, in a scene that symbolized the downfall of Baghdad and Iraq.
Saddam was captured ina swift raid by US forces near his hometown of Tikrit in December 2003.
The former Iraqi leader was hanged on December 30, 2006, after being convicted by an Iraqi court of carrying crimes against humanity for killing 148 Shiites in 1982 on accusation of trying to assassinate him. He was taunted by sectarian and racist slurs by his Shiite hangers.
Kadhim al-Jubouri, who personally took part in wrecking the statue at the central Baghdad square of Al-Fardous, had told the British daily Guardian in an interview last month, that he regretted what he did.
“I really regret bringing down the statue. The Americans are worse than the dictatorship. Every day is worse than the previous day.”
The US forces replaced Saddam’s statue by a sculpture representing “freedom” which Iraqis call it a misnomer.
“The sculpture of freedom has no meaning,” said Nabil Ahmed.
“It does not reflect reality. One lives here in constant insecurity. Freedom has no meaning without safety. The situation has gone from bad to worse.”
Taha agreed: “When I see it, I see sadness and desperation,” he said.
“Today there is nobody around (the sculpture) except American soldiers who take photographs as they go by.”
Qais, a barber, said he though that the country was liberated after the downfall of Saddam.
“We thought the fall of the regime would bring freedom, reconstruction but as the days passed we saw it was lies. This new statue, is of injustice, inequality,” he said.
“The fall of the statue is now the broken dreams of Iraqis.”
The country is gripped now by a bloody sectarian violence, with more than a hundred people being killed on a daily basis.
Only last year, more than 34,000 civilians died in the raging sectarian violence that reached a peak in the capital Baghdad.
The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has said that one in eight Iraqis had been forced from their homes because of the bloodshed, warning that the numbers are on the rise.
Disillusioned with their “liberators,” many Iraqis believe that the withdrawal of the foreign troops the only solution to their trauma.
“The Americans must leave, they are responsible for the situation today,” said Mohamed Ali, an employee of the Palestine Hotel in central Baghdad.
“If they go, the situation will become stable in one or two months.”