BAGHDAD, July 29 — Sitting at a rickety desk with only a ceiling fan to cool Baghdad's searing summer air, Sajida hopes learning English will help her talk to the U.S. soldiers she sees as saviours.
It could also save her life.
She and the four other students in her beginners' English conversation class at Baghdad's Mamoun language institute are trying to gain an upper hand in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq -- where the streets are largely ruled by U.S. soldiers.
Few soldiers have a command of Arabic and misunderstandings have been blamed for more than one fatal checkpoint shooting.
But Sajida has other aims in learning a language she feels will open up a world previously closed to her by Saddam.
''If I have any information about Fedayeen or Saddam's followers, I must tell them. We must make friends with the Americans. I see them as angels. I call them God's army,'' said Sajida, a Shi'ite Muslim who says her two brothers were killed by Saddam...
At Mamoun, around three dozen students hope the barely audible decades-old language tapes they are using will help win them jobs at U.S. companies they expect to pour into Iraq.
''Saddam Hussein made us backward,'' one student said. ''We didn't learn the computer. We didn't learn English language very good.''
Asked if they feel anything other than gratitude toward U.S.-led troops who have occupied Iraq for more than three months, the students clam up and avert their eyes.
But when pressed, they say they are less than satisfied though keen to get along.
''The electricity is not very good. The water is not good,'' said Jaafar, a student trained as a maths teacher who said he was denied work under Saddam.
''We have not seen anything from the United States of what they promised,'' he said. ''I want to help them help me.''
You know what brother? We can work with that.
Tuesday, July 29, 2003
"I WANT TO HELP THEM HELP ME"