Is life for Iraqis improving?
Five years after the US invasion, some see flickers of hope.
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Muwaffaq's brother-in-law, a nuclear-energy engineer, was executed in 1982 for suspected membership in Dawa, a conservative religious party that was working with Iran to overthrow Hussein's secular Baath Party regime. Today, Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki heads the Dawa Party.Skip to next paragraph
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But religious freedom doesn't pay the bills or keep their families safe. Muwaffaq and his brother Khaled are struggling to keep open the business started by their late father in 1931. Before the war, they had four printing plants and hundreds of employees. Today, they have two plants and 42 employees.
A brother kidnapped
Their darkest days came three years ago. Their brother Fahim, another partner in the business, was kidnapped in December 2004. He was killed by his abductors even after the family paid a ransom of $120,000.
That same year, two employees and several associates were also kidnapped for ransom. The family paid large sums of money to militants and criminals to get back supplies stolen on the road between the Jordanian border and Baghdad.
Since 2003, thousands of Iraqis, particularly middle-class professionals and business people, have been kidnapped for ransom and were either killed or freed. More than 2,200 doctors and nurses have been killed and more than 250 kidnapped since 2003, according to official Iraqi sources cited by the International Red Cross Committee (ICRC) in a report released Sunday. Of the 34,000 doctors registered in 1990, 20,000 have left the country, according to the ICRC, contributing to the crisis in the country's already crumbling health-care system.
The pace of kidnappings has slowed, but it continues in major cities.
Last week, the last remaining neurologist in the southern Iraqi city of Basra was found dead after he had been kidnapped. And the body of Iraqi Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was found in Mosul after being held for two weeks by a group that demanded a $1 million ransom. Christians and other minority communities in Iraq have been hit particularly hard over the past five years.
Iraqis also continue to be killed, maimed, or wounded, often in the crossfire between insurgents and coalition troops. But the greatest loss of life has been blamed on Al Qaeda in Iraq, seen as the source of most of the suicide and car bombings at public places such as markets and mosques.
Some 24,000 Iraqi civilians died in 2007, an average of 66 per day, according to Iraq Body Count, a group that compiles its figures using public records and media reports. But security is improving. So far this year, the groups says that Iraqi civilians are dying at less than half the rate of 2007.
Getting their families out
In January 2005, following the kidnapping and murder of their brother, Muwaffaq, his parents, and 11 siblings along with their families fled to Amman, Jordan.