by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) Dec 16, 2012
Abu Mohammed loudly laments that problems in Iraq, from violence to unemployment, have not improved since US forces departed a year ago, as he displays a grey jacket to customers at a Baghdad market.
"Whether the (US) occupation was here or not, for us, nothing has changed," said the 59-year-old who sells used clothes from a cart in the crowded open-air Bab al-Sharji market of central Baghdad.
"During the occupation, there were explosions and today there are explosions. Unemployment is still the same, the situation is still the same," Abu Mohammed said.
The Americans' "treatment of Iraqis was not good, Iraqis were like slaves for them," he said. "They only left fear inside Iraqis. What do we remember about them? Nothing good."
The last in a convoy of American armoured vehicles rolled across the border into Kuwait on the chilly morning of December 18, 2011, marking the completion of the US withdrawal from Iraq.
A US-led coalition invaded Iraq in 2003, toppling dictator Saddam Hussein and beginning a conflict that cost the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis, thousands of Americans and hundreds of billions of dollars.
Almost 10 years later, many Iraqis still lack basic services such as consistent electricity and clean water, and though levels of violence are down, insurgents continue to carry out bombings and shootings almost every day.
In Khilani Square near Bab al-Sharji, 48-year-old Mahmud Yassin, who sells tyres and vehicle batteries, expressed satisfaction that US forces are gone.
"I walk and I see no Americans; that makes me feel better," he said. "Who likes to see occupation? Any patriotic person will not accept foreigners in his homeland."
"We Iraqis are known for our pride; we do not accept occupation."
But aside from the satisfaction of having the US gone, Yassin said there is little else to celebrate: "Nothing changed since their withdrawal," except that "the situation went from bad to worse."
"We are two states in one state," he said, hinting at the dispute between the federal government and the autonomous Kurdistan region in the north, which are at odds over issues including territory, oil and power-sharing.
"Security might be better if the Americans were ... controlling the situation more, but despite that, their departure must be permanent," Karim Gata, a tailor specialising in military uniforms, said in his small shop in Bab al-Sharji.
"They did not understand us, and we did not understand them. They came for special interests, and oil is the most important," he said.
Abed Alayan, 47, was seated surrounded by cardboard boxes holding clothes and other goods on sale on the side of a street near Khilani Square.
"Our aspirations and wishes are very simple but they were not met," he said.
"I say to the American occupation that when the English occupation was here in the 1920s ... they built new bridges and streets for us, but you did not build us anything," Abed Alayan said.
"You took everything and went, and left pain and suffering for us."
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