By Anna Reed
It was the year of 2003, and no one knew of or how the lives of thousands of people were going to change in just a matter of minutes. The United States and Iraq were known to be hostile with one another, due to multiple reasons. These reasons are why the United States launched out a plan, and this plan proved to be fatal in many ways. After explosions had been seen and heard going off in Baghdad, Iraq, President George W. Bush announced, “At this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.” (“War in Iraq Begins”). The reason for concern was due to President Bush and his administration team who thought that under Saddam Hussein’s rule, he possessed or was in the process of building weapons of mass destruction and had ties to terrorism that was happening around the world. The threat articulated by the Bush Administration was that an Iraq with nuclear technology could pass destructive weapons onto Islamic terrorists, who could use them to commit another 9/11, or worse (“Remembering”). Due to this, the United States along with Polish and British soldiers invaded Iraq. Baghdad was the main target simply because it was a hot spot (“Remembering”). The reason for this invasion was to overthrow the government of Saddam Hussein, which was successful, but the aftermath of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was not at all pretty.
Imagine being young and living in a world of violence and hatred, well for Hanin Sarhan, that was the life that was lived. Hanin resided with her family in an apartment in the capital city of Baghdad, Iraq. Hanin and her family were happy, and they lived just like any other normal family would. The only difference was what her and her family had to go through every day due to the Iraq War. There were two phases to the Iraq War, the first phase being the invasion and takedown of Saddam Hussain and his government officials, and the second phase being the after violence due to the taken down of Saddam Hussain and his government officials. As stated by Hanin Sarhan, “When the war started, we rarely left the house. Leaving your own property was a dangerous game because of the possibility of death being ever-present. If a stray bomb or airstrike didn’t get you, then the gangs roaming the streets would”. Hanin also remembers going through some pretty difficult circumstances during this horrid time of violence. “They started kidnapping, killing and stealing from anyone who was not Muslim. After Saddam Hussain’s overthrow, one of my mothers cousins was torn to shreds on the street and delivered to the family in a box (in pieces of course) and my own immediate family had to deal with a couple of thieves who broke into our house and nearly slaughtered un in the night. The only reason we escaped is because my family paid them all that we had, and even then, they warned us that we ought to leave within the week or else they would not spare us”.
The overthrow of Saddam Hussein was an accomplishment but was also the start to a long and dreadful time for the families who dwelled in bad areas, such as Baghdad, Iraq. As stated in the first paragraph, Hanin Sarhan dealt with a lot of violence during this time. Looting in Baghdad and other major cities had destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure and there was also high unemployment, and this was made worse by the disbandment of the previous regime’s army (Mason). Across Iraq, the fighting continued as the violence seemed to just get worse by the day. When a person is in a state of constant worry and fear, sometimes it can feel as if there is a hole that constantly consumes them, well, for Hanin Sarhan, she did a few things to keep her young mind occupied so that she was not consumed by that lingering worry and fear. “As a child I found comfort in cartoons and toys, I also attended a kindergarten type class” stated Hanin. This was a huge aspect that lifted just a little bit of weight off Hanin Sarhans shoulders. Hanin also dreamed of being happy, she wanted to be something besides another statistic, but besides the war there was also the norm that families were suspected to live by, and the war did not make this any better. “Women stayed in the house, cooked, cleaned, and had children. The norm was that you should not pursue any sort of education (as a woman) and many girls often dropped out before high school. You had to be covered going out (otherwise you would be likely tracked and raped). Among other things, had I grown up there I would be a weak, torn down, pathetic version of myself” said Hanin. The men of the home would serve time in the military while the women of the household took care of the chores and bared children. This was always an ongoing thing for these families, and to them it is normal.
As time went by and things did not seem to be getting any better, Hanin Sarhans parents realized they had to make a move, and do it fast. The war had caused thousands of Iraqi civilians to be killed, injured or forced to leave their homes as the violence kept on getting worse, reaching its peak in 2006 (“36 Interesting Facts”). During the year of 2007, Hanin and her family had packed what little belongings they could bring with them and said their final goodbyes to their family members who remained in Baghdad, Iraq. This was the last time Hanin ever saw her childhood home. As time went by and Hanin and her family made it to the United States, they still had to overcome several challenges. Forced displacement is a headache that no one should deal with, but because of the violence that was going on back in Hanins hometown, there was no way her and her family could go back to Baghdad, Iraq. The challenges Hanin had to face when she moved to the United States were of course scary and mindboggling. “My biggest barrier, besides language of course, was the culture shock. I was still fairly young when I arrived (8 years old) and so it did not take so long to get used to things, but there were a lot of things that I had never seen before, such as unmarried women with children” states Hanin. As time progressed, Hanin soon became familiar with her new surroundings and home. She made new friends, was able to do certain things that would be prohibited in Iraq, became comfortable in the environment, and most of all was finally able to be truly happy.
While Hanin and her family did manage to get away from the terroirs of the Iraq War, thousands of people sadly did not make it out of that hell. Unfortunately, the Shia-Sunni separation still had the potential to start trouble, and it would be the violent put down of Sunni protests by Shia Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that would help support ISIS from some Sunnis in Iraq (“Remembering”). For the US, though, the Iraq War officially ended at the close of 2011 when the United States had taken out the last of its troops (“Remembering”). To this day, Hanin Sarhan is glad that her parents made the decision that they made. She no longer has to worry about not being guaranteed safety, and she knows that in the United States she is a million times safer than if she were to still be in Baghdad, Iraq. She can get the education she wants, live on her own, and live the life she has always wanted. Hanin also mentioned that she can now achieve her dreams, such as earning her PhD in Neurogenetics, and learning to become the independent and self-sufficient person that she wants to be. Hanin is building the life she thought she would never be able to build. “I am not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday, and I love today” (White).
12:14pm, 9th March 2017 at. “Remembering The Iraq War: Key Facts And Figures.” Forces Network, www.forces.net/news/feature/remembering-iraq-war-key-facts-figures.
“36 Interesting Facts about the Iraq War: FactRetriever.” Interesting Facts, www.factretriever.com/iraq-war-facts.
“I Am Not Afraid of Tomorrow, for I Have Seen… – Quote.” AllAuthor, allauthor.com/quotes/110524/.
Mason, Amanda. “The Important Facts about the Iraq War.” Imperial War Museums, www.iwm.org.uk/history/the-important-facts-about-the-iraq-war.
Sarhan, Hanin. Personal Interview. 26th Oct. 2019.
“War in Iraq Begins.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 24 Nov. 2009, www.history.com/this-day-in-history/war-in-iraq-begins.