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Iraq looms with optimism

Once the fight against ISIS is over, the population expects the reconstruction of the country to begin

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Iraq looms with optimism

The defeat of Islamic State (ISIS, in its acronym in English) in Mosul and recovery of Kirkuk from Kurdish control have meant an injection of morale for Iraq's battered pride. Political and military success has also been reflected in an improvement in relations with its neighbors, beyond Shia Iran. Almost 15 years after Saddam Hussein was demolished, Iraqis want to leave sectarianism behind and hope that government will finally focus on rebuilding country and providing it with infrastructure it needs. The needs are enormous; The difficulties, too.

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Iraq is trying to improve its image. It's complicated because country is dragging bad fame. After years of attacks, sectarian violence and kidnappings, few foreigners risk not visiting country, but even to invest. At moment, in Baghdad, it is possible to take a taxi from airport, sidewalks have been filled with terraces and, despite tensions in north, terrorist attacks have been considerably reduced. Of 65,000 incidents between 2005 and 2016, it has passed to 426 in year, says lawyer Jasim al Fawadi, who elaborates his own statistics and advises on security to Iraqi parliament.

"Here is not going to come international community with aid to reconstruction, it has to be private sector and neighbors with oil," says a Western diplomat. That is why importance of current international trade fair in Baghdad in addition to Iran, US, Japan, Turkey and or European countries (including Spain), Saudi Arabia, who had been away from Iraq for 25 years and ignored regime change that unleashed American intervention in 2003. "Our presence is a commitment to normalization," several participants agree.

To rhythm of generator

The continuous sound of generators reminds that something as basic as electricity is not insured. The state network barely provides eight hours a day. 90% of households complete ir energy needs enganchándose to a private generator of those who have proliferated in all neighborhoods, becoming an opaque business to which many attribute that problem has not been solved.

"Charge 15,000 dinars [about 11 euros] per amp." "We hire five, which allows us to have connected a couple of fans and lights, but not refrigerator," says Ammar, a mechanic from Sadr city. Recently, private companies have been given concessions to provide electricity 24 hours a day. The system hasn't come to your neighborhood. "Anyway, I couldn't afford," he regrets resigned. The situation is particularly severe in summer due to high temperatures.

Also desire to enter a market of 38.5 million inhabitants, which imports 85% of food and consumables, and produces 4.5 million of barrels of oil a day. Once war against ISIS is over, Iraqis expect government to curb rampant corruption and crude oil revenues to rebuild. It is not just Mosul or Fallujah, reduced to rubble by fight against jihadists. In entire country, housing is missing, state electricity network barely generates 8,000 of 15,000 megawatts required, and health and education are in a dilapidated state.

The look of future is seen in half-dozen new malls that constitute a magnet for a population desiring signs of normalcy. The newly opened Baghdad Mall, largest of all, in well-to-do district of Mansur, is an oasis of calm and air conditioning that contrasts with chaos of traffic, broken sidewalks and abandoned buildings in vicinity. Inside, once inevitable security control has been overcome, fast food area is overcrowded. At a table, four law students, two boys and two girls, Tontean after school.

"It's second time we've come, it's nice to have a quiet time," says one of women, who wants to specialize in civil law. His three companions are inclined for criminal because y believe his country needs him. Sectarianism? "Us, he is of Fallujah, she, of Marra and we, of Baghdad, it, of district of Ameriya and I, of Shorja", summarizes more talkative, pointing out key points of a confessional geography that a growing number of Iraqis wants to leave behind. That is, of a Sunni city, one that was scene of brutal Sunni-Shia pulse, a Sunni district of capital and a Shia. The group is, like Iraq, a mosaic. If y had a chance, would y emigrate? "No," y respond in unison.

High rate of unemployment

On or side of Tigris River, at gates of University of Baghdad, Ayah and Zahra, two more modest-looking policy students coincide. The Iraqi milennials, who "opened ir eyes during war" as described by Ayah, know problems, rant of ir politicians, those who strike off as thieves, but noneless y are confident in ir future.

The previous generation, less. Already in thirties, marriage formed by Beech and Malek, teacher of Arabic and specialist in education, respectively, has lost hope. "We graduated a decade ago and we have not yet found a job in our field;" "We have two children, so we can't wait any longer," says Malek, who earns his living as a taxi driver and has just presented documentation for lottery with which U.S. annually hand out immigration permits.

"Each year y leave University of 150,000 graduates and we have no work to offer m," says Basem Antuan, vice president of Chamber of Entrepreneurs and prominent civil society activist. Although it provides 90% of government revenues and 65% of GDP, oil only employs 1% of workforce. 60% of those who have full-time employment work in administration. With 30% unemployment and a third of population below poverty line, Antuan also underscores importance of driving private sector.

However, most new graduates are still waiting for public employment. "Only in public sector do you have job security, paid vacations and a pension when you retire," justifies Taha, a student of agricultural engineering. That is why, says Antuan, it is important that a pension law be approved as soon as possible. and improve infrastructure, combat corruption and sectarian political parties ... list is endless. But for this activist, as for politicians consulted, creation of employment for youth is a priority.

"If a new wave of terrorism and crime is to be avoided, infrastructure must be reconstructed so that [three million] displaced can return to ir homes and provide jobs for young people," warns Kadhim al-Shamary, of Al Iraqiya, only Relevant non-confessional party.

Nothing as worrying as number of unemployed boys who see mselves in towns and cities across country. Nearly half of Iraqis are less than 21 years old, making Iraq one of youngest countries in world. Four million of m will be able to vote for first time in next year's legislative elections.

ISIS ' military defeat has opened a door to hope. However, Mustafa Saadoon, director of Iraqi Observatory of Human Rights, fears that, once common enemy has been eliminated, or problems "such as lack of confidence between populations of liberated zones and security forces or "Random detentions (without warrant)". He is also concerned that elections relive sectarianism.

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