Video: Iraqi family lives in fear

By Richard Engel Chief foreign correspondent
NBC News
updated 5/27/2005 7:43:40 PM ET 2005-05-27T23:43:40

Salma Hassan's world has been reduced to a cement courtyard. It's where she bakes flat bread so she doesn't have to go the bakery. And though the Hassan family lives in Karadah, one of Baghdad's safest neighborhoods, the Hassans feel it’s too dangerous to go outside.

So now 18 of members of the extended family are crammed into five rooms with dirty water, backed-up sewers and sporadic electricity. But the biggest hardship is feeling like prisoners of the unrelenting violence.

On Baghdad television, a pool of blood and shattered car -- yet another bombing -- dominates the news.

The Hassans don't dare go out at night, except Subeih, who has to. The $130 a month he earns as a night watchman supports much of the family. Three months ago a mortar killed 12 of Subeih’s co-workers. 

“I was just covered in glass,” says Subeih.

Now Subeih is trying to change his shift to avoid the risky nighttime duty.

Subeih may provide for the family, but it's his wife of 35 years, Faydia, who protects it. How? With her cow, which is now the family's lifeline and insurance policy.

Faydia gives milk to neighbors. It's a precaution in case she needs to borrow salt or flour from them. And she never forgets the police on the corner, in case she needs a favor from them too.

What does the new government do for them?

“There is no government,” says Faydia. “No one pays attention to us. We could be crying and nobody would notice us.”

Subeih is also worried. His 11-year-old niece, Duaa, moved to Baghdad from Fallujah six months ago, to escape fighting there. Now she's his responsibility.

“Some people are sending kids to school with body guards, but I can't afford that,” says Subeih.

So, Duaa walks to school alone. She was at school when a car bomb exploded this month.

"We were crying,” says Duaa. “Some students were running away, and climbing over the school fence.”

"This is not life,” says Faydia.

But it is how the Hassans are living, by making their world smaller, not knowing when it will be safe again for their grandchildren to play outside the courtyard.

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