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You British should be proud for giving our children a future

THEY are laughing families enjoying fairground rides and ice creams in a scene familiar to millions of us.

But this is war-ravaged Basra in Iraq, which until last year was one of the most violent places on Earth.

Where a bloody insurgency once raged, shoppers now pack the pavement cafes and busy souks overlooking the River Euphrates.

Like many here, dad-of-three Mohammed Qassim, 35, credits British forces with achieving this cherished new peace.

Tucking into buffalo liver at a floating restaurant on the nearby Shatt al-Arab waterway, he insisted: “I say to British soldiers and their families, ‘Many, many thanks. You should be very proud, you have given our children a future’.”

Speaking over George Michael’s Careless Whisper playing on the restaurant stereo, the executive with Al-Mirbad radio, who earns £540 a month, added: “No one wanted foreign forces to come here — we are a proud people.

“But it was the only way we could get rid of Saddam Hussein. We now have democracy and no one can tell the people who will be their leader.”

Seven miles from the river, across a windswept plain of salt flats and oil slicks, is Basra airport, where Britain’s combat troops are packing their kits ready to come home.

RAF padre John Ellis, 45, spends a quiet moment reading the 179 British names engraved on polished brass plaques on a memorial wall.

A Union flag flutters over the red brick wall which bears the quotation from The Bible: “Honourable age does not depend on length of days, nor is the number of years a true measure of life.”

The squadron leader with 903 Expeditionary Air Wing told me: “Many of us here have friends’ names displayed here.”

Pointing towards polished brass plaques, John said: “I knew him... I knew him... and I knew him. Memories have been made here and people want to keep hold of those memories.”

Nodding towards Basra’s gleaming international airport, revamped with British military know-how, he added: “People want to leave well — and acknowledge things have been achieved.”

British forces rolled into Basra in April 2003, greeted by rapturous cheers from some locals.

This mainly Shiite Muslim city had long been a target for Sunni dictator Saddam’s repression. UK troops then fought against a bloody Iranian-backed insurgency and their roadside bombs.

In March last year the Iraqi army — backed by British and US forces — launched an operation to smash the militias.

Since then there has been an uneasy calm in Basra, though some parts of Iraq continue to come under attack by insurgents, as yesterday’s suicide bombings show.

But university lecturer Dr Juliana Dawood Jousif, 52, told me that, despite the carnage: “The war was worth it. We would never have got rid of Saddam’s regime otherwise.

“I appreciate the British Army changed the lives of many Iraqis for the better.

“It’s sad these people had to come to Basra and lose their lives for something they aren’t responsible for.”

Youth worker Shatha Ibrahim, 32, helps local school leavers find work training schemes. She said: “If you disagreed with Saddam, you were not safe. His guys would follow you until you were dead. Then, under the militias, women were not leaving our homes much.

“In the street and in the markets they would tell us to wear the veil and not to wear make-up or jeans. Now we have picnics by the river and we can wear whatever we want.”

Today there is a housing boom in this battle-scarred city. One home recently sold for 500,000 dollars (around £340,000).

The markets, including the Al Fursi tented souk, are bustling.

Women — most in black hijab headscarf and flowing dishdasha robes — were happy to be photographed as they picked up bargain tight blue jeans and lingerie.

A new five-star hotel will open in the next few months as Western businesses look to invest. British tourists have even returned to this battered city of more than a million people.

But retired archaeologist Bridget Jones, 77, from London, who visited recently, conceded: “It wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea.”

Since 2003 UK taxpayers have pumped £740million into reconstruction and development here. Critics say some of the cash poured into the city was frittered away by corruption.

Mother-of-two Dr Jousif continued: “Corruption here is rife and needs to be tackled. What we need in Basra now is big foreign companies to invest in electricity, sewerage and roads.”

Despite sitting on some of the world’s most abundant oil reserves, the city is still impoverished. Unemployment is 30 per cent, the canals are clogged with fetid raw sewage, electricity is in short supply and few have drinkable running water.

Yet natural gas worth £28million a day is simply burned off because Iraqi firms do not have the technology to tap it.

Development Secretary Douglas Alexander told The Sun: “There is still work to be done but real improvements are being made to electricity supplies, to water supplies and the sewage system.”

Families who fled Iraq during the bloody turmoil are now coming home.

Barber Mozed Muyad, 38, escaped to Sweden after religious fanatics among the militias began butchering hairdressers. One barber was killed with electric drills because the fanatics believe shaving beards to be un-Islamic.

Mozed has been able to re-start his business, hiring two workers, thanks to a business loan from the coalition’s Provincial Reconstruction Team. The barber, who earns up to £80 a day, revealed: “I had to run because they had killed a barber friend of mine. Now I’ve got more than enough work and want to expand again.”

The Department for International Development has earmarked more than £1.3million for a further 1,200 business start-ups.

For 4,100 British troops, combat operations end in a few weeks. A small force will remain to train the Iraqi army and navy. Locals insist our troops should receive a heroes’ welcome on their return to the UK.

The turbaned imam at the sprawling Moosawi Mosque in Basra’s centre hit out at last month’s protests by extremists in Luton who labelled British troops the “butchers of Basra”.

Standing beside the vast domes of the mosque which can hold 11,000 worshippers, Abdul Al Moosawi, 49, said: “We appreciate the sacrifice British troops made in bringing democracy to our country.

“Saddam had a sick mind but the British and Americans changed the regime for good.

“I thank the parents of these soldiers for the sacrifice their children made and ask God to send their souls to paradise.”

The plaques to the fallen at Basra airport will be dismantled and rebuilt among the tranquillity of the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, Staffs.

And their courage will never be forgotten among the smiling families at the funfair in Basra.

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Added: Apr-24-2009 Occurred On: Apr-23-2009
By: luntyno18
Iraq, Iran, Middle East
Location: Basra, Al Basrah, Iraq (load item map)
Views: 8856 | Comments: 33 | Votes: 2 | Favorites: 0 | Shared: 0 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 1
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  • I wonder how long that's going to last.

    I think there was too much bloodshed to reach this point, and we're not even really anywhere.

    anyhow, many thanks to those that made this a possibility.

    Posted Apr-25-2009 By 

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  • well done boyz. just wish the rest of that country was like that.

    Posted Apr-24-2009 By 

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  • Weapons of Mass Distraction

    Posted Apr-25-2009 By 

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  • Unfortunately, the entire country is far from achieving this level of peace. I'm sure the insurgents will continue to find a way to keep things in turmoil, especially when the troops have left.

    Posted Apr-25-2009 By 

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  • Who is this mexican?

    Posted Apr-25-2009 By 

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  • how many people said it couldnt be done? and the mahdi army got its ass kicked ! the people hate the militias and the death squads ! the u.s. and its allies will be known for the rebirth of iraq ! still people say that if we left iraq today that shit would fall apart, keep doubting ! you will be proved wrong again ! semper fi !

    Posted Apr-25-2009 By 

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    • killers and murderers always try to justify their crimes and portray themselves as nice guys.those western terrorists in uniforms are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands in iraq alone.all i can say is murderers and thugs please dont pat yourselves on the back.semper fi my ass!

      Posted Apr-25-2009 By 

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    • wow, yeah the marine corps goes around killing innocent civilians, sounds like youre running out of logical arguments! how would you know that the u.s. military kills civilians? let me guess... you have been hoping for the u.s. to fail in iraq and it hasnt . get off the band wagon, you are wrong ! the insurgents and terrorists have killed many tens of thousands more civilians much of the time on purpose ! just a few days ago, it happened again with suicide bombings killing innocent people, More..

      Posted Apr-26-2009 By 

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    • we dont kill,we dont torture,we dont nuke cities,we dont fire bomb cities,we dont rape,we donrt make necklaces out of ears and noses of viet congs,blah blah blah. facts are stronger then just simple believing. buddy if you still believe in all those fairy tales about american forces going around the world and helping peopke and spreading democracy,then my advice is to PLEASE GROW DE FUK UP! santa doesnt exist and the aint no tooth fairy either.GOod luck with dealing with reality whe More..

      Posted Apr-26-2009 By 

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  • The problem isnt with what the insurgents do, it's with how they think. What they do is a biproduct of what they think.
    If less and less people are born into extremism then it will eventually die down - which is why the 'war' in Iraq will be won in the minds of the Iraqi people only.

    Posted Apr-25-2009 By 

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  • just for your information:I have 1 iraqi friend who just came back from iraq:situation is extremely fucked security nothing but you just dont hear it on tv anymore.
    the only reason for the relative peace and tranquility in basra is that you idiots gave iraq to iran,and basra was always the iranian stronghold,FOR THE TIME BEING its not in their interest to fight.
    but dont worry like the recent days have shown in iraq the moment they decide and push the button country goes back to violence More..

    Posted Apr-25-2009 By 

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  • title itself made me laugh let alone the whole post. hehe

    Posted Apr-25-2009 By 

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    • whats with the gay pathetic laugh at the end there batty boy? almost as pathetic as your religion. what?...cant take it when real Iraqi's like freedom?

      Posted Apr-25-2009 By 

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  • Im sure the fall in fatalities proves that the situation is getting better. My brother just came back from Iraq. he told me in the seven months he was there. six motars fell on their location. no small arms no rockets not even a stone.

    Posted Apr-25-2009 By 

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  • This is bad news to the libs

    Posted Apr-25-2009 By 

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  • hearts and minds, I keep both of mine guarded and it doesnt require a military.


    Posted Apr-25-2009 By 

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