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Amid bombings, Iraqi family celebrates a wedding and good grades

The Methboub family, which the Monitor has followed for a decade, has reasons for hope after dark days during which a son was wrongly imprisoned and a daughter's marriage collapsed.

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A discussion ensues about who is crazy and who is not. Speaking of another branch of the family, Fatima says, "They are the roots of crazy!" But all laugh that it is Methboub's brood that is often charged with being nuts.

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Hibba's twin sister, Duha, complains that her studies are more difficult than ever this year. She is often up until midnight studying, using emergency lighting when the city power goes out.

"People ask for her hand!" says Methboub of her striking daughter.

"Dozens, dozens!" shrills Fatima.

"But I always refuse because they need to get their educations first," says Methboub. "We want them to stay little girls, and not grow up."

But grown-up they are.

Duha wears a long black dress to go collect food rations from the government – an allotment of nine essential items like rice, beans, and sugar for every Iraqi citizen, which is a holdover from the Hussein era.

The twins both passed their recent mid-term examinations. And older sister Amal is now in her second year at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani.

She is on a five-year scholarship, and has now graduated from the initial English-language portion of the course after a tough first year.

"My studies are going well," she says, speaking by phone from the university, located in northern Iraq. "I am very happy and am working hard."

Soccer-loving son struggles on exams

Only youngest son Mahmoud, now 17, is having difficulty in school, because of his obsession with soccer. He plays on a local team, and Amal says his midterm exam results were poor.

"This will be changed, and he will play less football," Amal says. "We have even talked of cutting football forever!"

The talk turns to the nuptials for Mohamed, a son whose story was not always expected to have a happy ending. During the Hussein era, he was locked up at Abu Ghraib prison after being set up, the family says.

Now Mohamed works with the government on security and wants to shift to antiterrorism work. But his brother-in-law, Abu Fahad, also in the security business, says those who do that job "are assassinated by the terrorists."

Fatima expresses cynicism about the future of her broken country. "The situation in Iraq will never improve," she says, echoing a common complaint as Iraqis continue to grapple with insecurity, power failures, and dysfunctional government.

But all that seems far from the confines of this apartment, where Mohamed's wedding suite is now joyfully occupied and his family can't stop joking. "God loves beauty," says Fatima, with a flash of her eyes. She had a history, before her own wedding, of rejecting marriage proposals.

"Of course," ribs Methboub. "But how do you know you are beautiful?"

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