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Iraqi native to speak at CR

By Hilary Corrigan

Triplicate staff writer

Living conditions and the economy in Iraq have improved during recent months, according to a native of that nation who now lives and works in the Eureka area.

He plans to share his experiences living under Saddam Hussein's rule and following the U.S.-led invasion to remove him at an April 19 lecture in the College of the Redwoods' Del Norte Campus library. Haider Ajina's speech and discussion starts at 6 p.m.

Ajina's father works as a consultant to the Iraqi government, advising on the oil privatization process and before that, on garbage, incineration and water projects.

Ajina leads local discussions about Iraq and writes weekly columns, translating reports from Iraqi newspapers in the Eureka Reporter and other venues.

He describes life under Saddam Hussein and the fear of repercussions from speaking against the government. He recalls regular power outages from poor infrastructure.

He also details steps that show a rebounding society since the war's start.

"There's plenty of negative stuff that's put out and I don't need to go over that again," said Ajina, whose relatives still live in Iraq. His uncle and two cousins have died in violent attacks.

In a report this week, the International Red Cross called the situation an ever-worsening crisis with daily violence that breaks international humanitarian law. Failing hospitals and infrastructure also threaten lives, states the report that also calls on nations to help those suffering in Iraq and its refugees.

But the past few months have shown improvements, Ajina said. He pointed to new security plans, a trustworthy police force, more citizens stepping out into public and fewer bombings. He also noted higher car sale counts and stronger business, along with road construction, restored power and telephone connections and repairs to the medical system destroyed in the first gulf war in 1991.

The media, though, leaves out such positive steps, said Ajina, whose reports are quoted and referred to on various conservative Websites.

Ajina pointed to the time needed to build a democracy, including the shift in military philosophy, training and operations.

"That whole culture has to change," said Ajina, who works as the vice president of Wealth Management for Smith Barney. "That's a tremendous task."

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