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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

SLUG: 4-0088 Iraq's Democratic Reformers.



TITLE=Iraq's Democratic Reformers


BYLINE=Pat Bodnar




Inserts are available in Dalet - SOD/English News Now/Reports

INTRO: This week marks the first anniversary of the war in Iraq and the end of Saddam Hussein's regime. An interim constitution was signed March 8th and the country has a new transitional administrative law. Despite continuing attacks against U.S.-led coalition forces and civilians friendly to the coalition, Iraq's 25 million citizens appear to be knitting together a new post-Saddam society. On a visit to Washington this week, two representatives of the Democratic reform movement spoke with VOA about the changes they perceive and their hopes for the future.

TEXT: It is clear that change is taking place in Iraq since the end of the war. More than five million Iraqi students are back in school. The Iraqi Ministry of Health reports some 100,000 health care professionals working in 240 re-opened hospitals and 1,200 clinics. Iraqis from all walks of life are now free to voice their opinions about their lives and their country's future.

Haidar Hassan Aboud is Dean of the University for Humanitarian, Scientific and Religious Studies in Hilla, Iraq. He says his own university could not have existed during the rule of Saddam Hussein, because it practices religious and cultural diversity. Speaking with VOA through a translator, Mr. Aboud said that the democratic reforms that led his university to open its doors to all students also brought concerns. He said members of extremist political parties now challenge the government and the university's administration. But he says the new freedom that citizens feel, should be exercised.

/// Aboud ACT 1 ///

(Begins in Arabic) While these new acts in fact are based on the fact that there is no distinction between freedom and democracy in the minds of many young people, we consider this a very good reaction and a healthy atmosphere. The people who suffered under tyranny for 35 years, would not be able in ten months to absorb these new concepts.

/// END ACT ///

Dr. Maha Hamid Al Sakban is a pediatrician in Diwaniyah, Iraq, and manages the Women's Rights Center there. She says freedom of expression was not possible a year ago under Saddam Hussein. Dr. Maha says since the war in Iraq ended, one of the biggest changes she has observed has been on the personal level.

/// Dr. Maha ACT 1\\\

You can see people feel safe, express their feeling, sleep nights safely. They are not afraid that someone will knock on their door to say they are wanted.

///END ACT\\\

On a national level, Dr. Maha says the critical health problems plaguing the country, such as malnutrition, anemia and disease have begun to be addressed.

/// Dr. Maha ACT 2 ///

Food is available, vaccination and immunizations are available, good quality drugs are available. So these diseases are starting to be overcome. Cases are not as (severe) as they used to be.

/// END ACT ///

Dr. Maha and Dean Aboud are cautious, but optimistic about the future of their country. It's a feeling that they share with many Iraqis. A recent poll (ABC, BBC) reveals that Iraqis are optimistic about life after liberation. Fifty-six percent of Iraqis said they feel their lives are better today than they were before the war, and 71 percent say they believe their lives will improve over the next year.

. I'm ___________.


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