PATERSON, N.J. April 5 —
The last time Yasin Said spoke by telephone to his parents in
Baghdad, the war was two days old.
Fuel was already scarce and extremely expensive, and little food
could be found beyond what the government distributed. But at least
the water and lights were still on, and the phones worked.
"I begged them to leave Baghdad, but they said it is for God to
decide," Said recalled. "They said `If we live, we live; if we die,
we die.' I felt really depressed. They said the people were afraid
and there was no security."
The next day, phone links to Baghdad went dead, leaving Said and
thousands of other Iraqis living in the United States only fleeting
images on television to be pored over for clues to how their loved
ones are faring.
On March 28, Said saw his brother-in-law's mechanic shop in
television footage of a Baghdad marketplace that was obliterated by
an explosion. Iraqi officials said at least 50 people were killed
and blamed it on a U.S. missile.
"We have no idea if he is dead or alive," said Said, a medical
technician who lives in Nutley. "We know he was there."
Hussein Al-Rikabi, of Paterson, last spoke to his mother in
Nasiriya a few days before the war began.
"It felt to me like it might be the last time we ever spoke,"
said Al-Rikabi, a former Iraqi soldier who surrendered to American
troops in the 1991 Gulf War. "She said she wanted to see me. I told
her I loved her, that I always would love her, no matter what
Rahim Al-Mubalik, also from Paterson, has been trying to reach
his parents, brothers and sisters in Najaf since the fighting
"All we know is what we see on TV, and it doesn't look good," he
He stared intently at television images beamed by satellite from
the Arab network Al-Jazeera into his favorite cafe, where he and
other Iraqi expatriates spend the days smoking and downing strong
"Look, look!" he shouted excitedly as the TV showed clips of U.S.
soldiers using a battering ram to break down a door in a building in
Najaf. He searched in the scene for any buildings or people that
looked familiar, sighed, and lit another cigarette.
In the Philadelphia suburb of Upper Merion, Pa., Safa Shubat last
heard from his sister in eastern Baghdad about an hour after the
March 20 cruise missile attack on the compound where Saddam Hussein
was believed to be.
"They were a little surprised and somewhat disappointed that it
wasn't something that would take care of the situation right away,"
he said. "Having lived through the 1991 bombing, they expected
In the Iraqi expatriate community in and around Los Angeles,
Basam Alhussaini said he last reached his mother and four sisters in
Baghdad the day after the war started.
"I can't even concentrate on working. I sit up all night watching
TV," said Alhussaini, an engineer who fled Iraq in 1987 and now
lives in San Dimas, Calif. He said he calls every morning, but each
time hears nothing on the other end of the line.
Imam Mostafa Al-Qazwini, of the Islamic Educational Center of
Orange County, Calif., lost contacts with his relatives in Iraq
about a week ago.
He said his two aunts could see coalition airplanes flying over
their home in Baghdad.
"There's nowhere safe," he said. "They'd rather stay in their
homes and just face their fate."
|Iraqi immigrant Rahim Al-Mubalik
points to Al-Jazeera television network coverage of U.S.
Marines in the Iraqi city of Najaf last week while he sits in
a cafe in the Middle Eastern neighborhood of Paterson, N.J.,
Thursday, April 3, 2003. Al-Mubalik has been trying to reach
his parents, brothers and sisters in Najaf by phone since the
fighting began. "All we know is what we see on TV, and it
doesn't look good," he said. (AP Photo/Mike
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