An Iraqi Family's Struggle For Normalcy

On the surface, Basheer al Majid's family looks just like any other family anywhere around the world.

He and his wife Ashwaq are bringing up their three boys in a modest house in the south of Baghdad. The two older boys, Mohammed Ali, 12, and Haider, seven, both go to school nearby, while Emir, one-and-a-half, waits at home.

They eat together, play together, and even do homework together.

But Iraq is not a normal country, and Basheer, who is a taxi driver and an aspiring actor, has to struggle every day to shield his children from the violent society they live in.

"There is death out on the streets," al Majid said. "The worst thing in life is to have death as a daily part of your life."

Mohamed Ali and Haider both already know how to differentiate between the sound of a mortar and the sound of a roadside bomb. When Basheer takes his children out to the park, he plans ahead in case something happens.

"I try not to go out …with my whole family -- wife and three children together -- to the same place, in case we all die in one incident," he said.

Instead he will take one of his sons with him, and his wife takes the other two. A couple of years ago there were some security problems near his oldest son's school, so he sent his son across the city to live with his sister, where the local school was safer.

Al Majid acted in a film about the final years of the Saddam regime called "Ahlaam," or "Dreams," which won several awards at festivals in Europe and the Middle East. He hopes to get more roles, although filmmaking in Baghdad is fairly limited because of the security situation. In the meantime, he drives a taxi to support his family and every day's work is a risk.

"Whenever I leave home…I cannot forget the smile of my son as he waves goodbye, as it could be the last time I see him," he said. And whenever he comes back home, he knows exactly how valuable family life really is.

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