A message from a twentysomething dental student in Iraq

A few weeks back, American forces in Iraq pulled out from Iraq’s cities. There are still 130,000 U.S. troops in the country, but the move was seen as the first step towards a full withdrawal at the end of 2011. A friend of mine in Iraq, a 23 year old dental student named Saif, sent me an email today about how his country (and he) feels about the American decision.

I first met Saif in the summer of 2006 in the streets of Ghazalyia, a Baghdad neighborhood that had been devastated by sectarian violence. In April of 2007, during the worst of the civil war, his school was attacked by a sniper. The next morning, the bridge he usually walked over to get to school was blown up. Since that time, he and and his family have had to move to other neighborhoods on four separate occasions because of death threats.

Amazingly, he persevered in his studies, graduated from college, and entered dental school. He’s now in his second year of training. He’s managed to keep up his high spirits and sense of humor– and, as you’ll see, he also has something of the romantic in him. He writes pretty good poetry, too. His email, which he said I could share, is below.*

Dear Mike,

The American pull-out from the Iraqi cities was a very hectic matter of discussion almost everywhere inside Iraq. Colleges, houses, streets, the simple coffee shops and even the barber shops were very busy analyzing the events of the pull-out and the way it will effect the Iraqi future.

The most common thing the one will hear most of the Iraqis saying is that the pull-out is just a showoff business, just for show. Most of the Iraqis believe that nothing will really change after it and everything will just remain the same. One of my friends said that he would never believe that the Americans will stay out of our cities for long . “You will see,” he said.  “Soon we will see them crossing the roads and waving to us. ‘Viva the pull-out, they will say.”‘ I remembered what my friend said when I heard in the news that the Americans appeared in the city of Dialya last week.

The other day I was talking to my senior dental instructor about the American pull-out from the cities. I asked him if he has one specific word that may describe his feeling about it. “Bye” was the word. I wasn’t surprised that he didn’t say “Thank You.” Damien Rice was singing “Rootless Tree” in my MP3 music player that day. “Let me out … let me out … of this hell when you’re around,” Damien sang. The senior dentist smiled and said that he wanted to sing that song to all the American soldiers in Iraq.

I’m not sure if any of the people I know are nervous about the pull-out news, but what I’m very sure about is that my brother was very nervous when he heard that it would be a curfew on that day. “My friend’s birthday” he said, “Damn it . We were planning to celebrate it in a restuarant near Karradah…”.

Talking about that pull-out thing, the girl I used to love and write romantic poems to decided to make a complete pull-out from my life. Her pull-out didn’t want to take the full responsibility of my security! ” A good guy with a new fast car” is what she wanted, not a poem from Saif!

Now as a rotatory dentist in Al-Nasiriya city “130 Km south of Baghdad,” I have a few goals in my life. Some of them might be effected by the whole situation in Iraq… The worries about another period of sectarian fight… The worries about the coming elections and the effect of the results on my country… But it’s not something new. Iraq has always lived in a series of worries. Iraqi people are used to fitting their lives around that worried life. As soon as those worries come true, goals change.

“The life here is anything but stable,”  a taxi driver said.

Best regards,


*I edited the email slightly, mainly to formalize the punctuation.


About michaelhastings

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One Response to A message from a twentysomething dental student in Iraq

  1. Brian In NYC says:

    Nice email, I take exception to the window dressing remark however.

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