DEARBORN, Mich. April 10 —
Without fail, for 17 years, Zahra al-Jafer wore only black
Her wardrobe choice was to honor her husband, executed by Saddam
Hussein's security forces after he defected from the Iraqi army. His
family was forced to watch as he was killed.
On Wednesday, the black gowns were cast aside for brighter
Iraq's liberation seemed to be at hand, bringing with it new hope
for Zahra al-Jafer and millions of other Iraqis.
"Today, my father has been born again," said her son, Salah
al-Jafer, as at least 1,200 people took to the streets in
celebration of what appeared to be the imminent demise of Saddam's
Southeast Michigan is home to about 300,000 people of various
Middle Eastern ethnicities; nearly 30,000, or 30 percent, of
Dearborn's population claimed Arab ancestry in the latest
As images flashed on television of U.S. Marines and Iraqis
toppling a 40-foot statue of Saddam in the center of Baghdad, many
Iraqis in communities across the United States celebrated.
In El Cajon, Calif., home to about 6,000 Iraqi Kurds, about 150
people rejoiced in the streets. And in Everett, Wash., hundreds of
jubilant Iraqi immigrants danced and chanted, car horns blaring.
"This is a burst of happiness after 30 years of misery and
torture," said Bassim al-Montasser, 40, of Dearborn. "How can you
describe such joy when all you and your countrymen have known is
A minor scuffle was reported at the rally in Dearborn's Hemlock
Park when a Washington D.C.-based Al-Jazeera television camera crew
appeared at the rally. Police separated the crew and held the crowd,
apparently upset about the networks' coverage of the war, at
In Bridgport, Conn., Kurdish residents were huddled around their
TV sets, watching images of people dancing in the streets of
northern Iraq. One man, Hekmat Musa, wore a sweat shirt that read
"Land of the Free, Home of the Brave."
"That's my country," he said, pointing at the screen. "I'm happy
Saddam Hussein is gone."
But not all Iraqi-Americans shared those feelings. Hadi Jawad,
vice president and board member of the Dallas Peace Center, said he
sees coalition forces not as liberators, but as subjugators of
Iraq's people and resources.
"They have resorted to war, to violence, to killing thousands of
Iraqi civilians," he said. "The means they have resorted to to
accomplish the removal of the regime is unconscionable. It's a
For others, the changes in Iraq were a blessing.
Rodwan Nakshabandi, who opened Babani's Kurdish Restaurant in St.
Paul, Minn., six years ago, fled the Iraqi army in 1982, shortly
after being drafted and ordered to drive a tank during the Iraq-Iran
"I believe a dream has come true," he said, sitting at a table in
his restaurant. "I strongly believe everyone should celebrate the
joy the Iraqi people are having now. There have been so many years
of manipulation, of human rights abuses, of ethnic cleansing."
About 150 people celebrated outside the Kurdish Human Rights
Watch office in Dallas. As young people danced and others waved
Kurdish and U.S. flags, a group of older Kurdish men chatted a few
One of them, Saleem Yusuf Haji, said through a translator that he
fought as a Kurdish "freedom fighter" from 1961 to 1975 for what
became the Kurdish Democratic Party. The 71-year-old came to the
United States in 1991 and said he has long awaited Wednesday's
"I feel like I'm reborn again," Haji said.
Jabbar Al-Roumi, a former Iraqi soldier whose knee was maimed by
a bomb during the Iran-Iraq war, was already thinking of returning
to his home in Basra.
"The future is better now," he said while drinking strong coffee
in a downtown Paterson, N.J., cafe frequented by Iraqi expatriates.
"I will go back, get married, work again and be in love. That's it.
On the Net:
|An Iraqi flag is waved alongside
a U.S. flag during a rally at Hemlock Park in Dearborn, Mich.,
Wednesday, April 9, 2003. Decades of fear and frustration were
set aside Wednesday as hundreds of Michigan's Iraqis took to
the streets in celebration at the apparent end to Saddam
Hussein's regime. About 1,200 people, according to police
estimates, gathered at in Dearborn, celebrating the news. (AP
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