Ahmed Taha for NBC News
Raf Raf Raisan working on a story with NBC News in Baghdad as a translator.
By Translator
NBC News
updated 3/19/2004 9:52:41 AM ET 2004-03-19T14:52:41

I was still studying in college when the war happened.

For me life was so normal. I studied in the morning and in the afternoons I worked in my family's stationary shop.

I have many friends. We did a lot of things together like dances, shopping, and just hanging out. Everything was going fine.

All of a sudden there was the talk of war. Most of my friends were worried about how to finish our studies and how our future will be changed. I was so worried about both my family and my friends. But I was also happy because for the first time in my life I thought that I'm going to have a future.

My family and I survived, but I was sad to know that some of my friends suffered injuries and even death.

Back to school
After the war I went back to college to finish my studies and graduate. But the college was different.

We had to be careful about what we wanted to say and to whom we should speak. We didn't know who to trust or who to consider good or bad. I was troubled by religion, which I haven't had any problem with before.

Also I was afraid that Saddam might come back. I was suspicious about the American government's intentions to help us. Now I felt even worse because my troubles had increased.

In the past I wished that I could be a lawyer. But under the old regime that was not possible for me.

In Iraq the government used to determine what college students can study based on their grades, and for me it was English Literature. At the same time I really wanted to meet foreigners, so I decided to become a translator. I was lucky to find a job as a translator as soon as I left college.

As for my family, my mother was very worried about my sisters and brothers' future. She did not want them to get hurt if they went back to school because the streets were no longer safe. But my father was saying that now is the time for learning and they can't just sit at home. So they going to school again.

I prayed for this war to happen because I wanted to have the freedom to study, to travel, to work, and to be myself. But things got worse.

I was afraid during the war because I thought a missile was going to kill me any minute, at any time. All I was concerned with was how to survive. I did survive.

But I have lost other freedoms. I'm not able to move around by myself. No more hanging out with friends. No more going to dances and no more shopping with my girlfriends. I feel very disappointed.

I'm now really worried about my future. Every day when I leave home for work I tell my mother I might not come back again and she has to expect the worse to happen.

At this point I can't see things getting better any time soon and life is getting harder. Still it is my fate and I have to continue no matter what the future brings.

Raf Raf Raisan is translator in the NBC News Baghdad bureau.

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