Problems persist, even out of Iraq
The dangers are repeatedly mentioned. Iraqis working for Western organizations here face extreme risk of being abducted and murdered. They also cope with the daily unpredictability of getting to work in a city rife with suicide bombings, roadside bombs, mortar fire, militia-run checkpoints and reprisal killings.
As I've learned more about the ordeals of our local staff members, I've at least been reassured by the fact that the decent, Western pay most earn has allowed many of them to get their families to safer places outside of Baghdad. But like most everything else here, even that small consolation is elusive.
Issues haunt abroad
One colleague who moved his wife and children to Syria explained the separation from his family has created a scenario similar to a divorced father with visitation rights.
When he sees his children, he's so overcome with guilt after long absences he can't refuse most of their demands, be it for a pricey new pair of shoes or to stay up past their usual bedtime. The children have learned to play one parent off the other, and his wife has turned into the full time disciplinarian.
He also explained that despite being outside of Iraq, his son has experienced sectarian problems he thought would be left behind once out of the country.
Upon phoning a new Iraqi friend he made in his second grade class in Damascus, the boy heard the friend's father shout "Is that the Sunni boy? Hang up the phone!" His daughters make faces and pinch their noses when referring to "those stinking Shiites."
Parents won’t leave
Meanwhile my co-worker says he's dealing with aging parents who refuse to leave their home in Baghdad. There was an attempt to settle them in Syria, but his father insisted on returning to Baghdad after several weeks. "In spite of what's going on here, it's too hard for them to start over again."
His parents' house has been searched by American forces, the windows recently shattered after a nearby explosion of a roadside bomb, and his father, who used to pray at his local mosque almost daily is now restricted to remaining at home.
As my friend explained, even with the option of escaping, his father would rather risk an early death than lose his connection to his country.
- Life beyond the violence
Suicide attacks and murders due to sectarian conflict continue around Iraq. See how residents live their lives amid the attacks.