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Baghdad eyes.

ABIR ABID Faisal Al-Sahlani was forced into exile from Iraq when she was just one year old. She studied and lived as a refugee in Yemen, Syria, Bulgaria and Sweden. During all those years, she dreamed of going back home.

Because he voiced his opinion about Saddam Hussain's regime, her father spent a decade in Abu Ghraib prison, under threat of death. Years later, he was granted amnesty.

When the US overthrew Hussain's government in 2003, Abid Faisal and her father returned home, despite warnings from family and friends. Today Abid Faisal's father is an MP in Iraq.

There is currently 70 per cent unemployment amongst Iraqis and such basic necessities as water, electricity and medicine are scarce. Many civilians in Iraq feel they are experiencing a military dictatorship with a new face--the US Administration. Though Abid Faisal is surrounded by violence, she faces danger with courage and refuses to accept any military occupation of her country, whether by rebels within or by foreign superpowers.

As many Iraqis did not have access to information about the constitution on which they were voting in last October's referendum, Abid Faisal worked to inform them, and continues to do so with the current legislation. She is also involved with the National Democratic Alliance as well as Al-Amal, an organisation in Baghdad that promotes women's empowerment. 'There is a peaceful opposition going on as well,' she says.

Abid Faisal's multilingual skills allow her to understand the local Iraqi and the foreign soldier, the scholar or the diplomat, facilitating communication and understanding between them. On September 2005, she attended the People's United Nations, held in Perugia, Italy. Hearing her speak was mesmerising.

The windows of her fiat have been shattered twice from nearby bomb explosions. 'When you don't know if a car bomb will go off while you're walking to the supermarket, it's hard to live a sane life. It's also hard to have a social life.'

Her eyes bleed with the pain of insecurity and they scream with the passion and dedication to make things work. She confesses, 'I carry a pistol with me so that I can take my own life if I am kidnapped. Let them rape me when I'm dead.' What keeps her going is the hope of seeing her country outlive injustice. Her work is not easy and she is often questioned. 'I am working for the Iraqi people--not for the government--and that is my crime'.

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Title Annotation:Abir Abid Faisal Al-Sahlani
Author:Mizrahi, Monique Helene
Publication:For A Change
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Feb 1, 2006
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