Baghdad Family Struggles with Backdrop of Danger

In noting that the Methboub family of Baghdad "has seen its trials and tribulations," Christian Science Monitor reporter Scott Peterson could be describing any family in Iraq that lived through Saddam Hussein's dictatorship and now the American occupation.

But today, he is telling the story of the Methboubs, a Shiite Muslim family in Baghdad he has been following for three years.

"Their apartment now is as Spartan as I've seen it in the past couple of years," Peterson says. "They are … subject and dependant on city electricity, which is sometimes just a couple of hours a day. So for them, their lives really haven't seen that much improvement."

ABC News spoke with Peterson and the Methboubs for the latest chapter of its award-winning series, "Iraq: Where Things Stand." As it has done before, ABC News teamed up with Time magazine and other partners to look at what Iraqis think about the war, their lives and the United States.

In a rare, nationwide poll of 1,700 Iraqis, ABC News and its partners found 71 percent of the Iraqis saying their lives are "going well," and 65 percent opposing the presence of U.S. forces, though there is no consensus on when troops should leave.

Brushes with Danger

Karima Methboub lives in her "Spartan" apartment with her eight children. Her husband was killed nine years ago in a car accident, so her meager earnings as a cleaning lady in a nearby hotel mainly support the family.

Karima is a brave, determined woman. Last January, she defied insurgents and took her children with her to the polling stations to vote in Iraq's first democratic elections.

Those elections, which chose an interim government, were surprisingly quiet. But the bombings and kidnappings that followed have changed the rhythm of her life. It is a steady violent drumbeat that cannot be ignored.

Just a few months ago, Mahmood Methboub, 11, sold enough Pepsi on the street to help the family and buy a little something for himself.

"The toy of choice for Iraqi children turns out to be a life-sized plastic assault rifle," says the Christian Science Monitor's Peterson. "So you've got this young Mahmood running around the streets of Baghdad with two or three of his friends, all of them looking like an armed unit of guerrillas. And this really creates a dilemma for some of the American and Iraqi forces."

The family says the American troops make them nervous.

"I was carrying the gun," Mahmoud said, "and the American pointed his gun at me. And I threw down the gun and ran away."

The family also had a scare when car bombs exploded across from their home in June -- "a wake-up call," Peterson says.

"The first explosion was light, and I thought that was something that happened every day," says Amal, 16, who writes it all down in her diary. "But the second explosion was very loud and we were all screaming. … The image is in my memory. I cannot forget it."

Election Caution

Now, another landmark day in Iraq approaches, as Iraqis prepare to elect a government for the next four years.

Despite the danger, Karima Methboub still plans to be a part of it, voting in the elections a few days from now. But this time, there will be one change: This time, she will take only her eldest daughter, Fatma. The rest leave the house only to go to school.

"I live in fear and terror if I go out," Karima says.

"They have become increasingly religious," Peterson says. "They have no hope really in their government, in the Americans solving their problems for them."

So Karima prays for change and braves the streets. She thinks she will cast her vote this time for Ayad Allawi.

"My heart starts beating fast, and I keep reciting verses from the Koran," she says. "As soon as I am done voting I go back home."

She will be hoping that, as promised, her vote counts.

ABC News' Jim Avila and Christina Romano originally reported this story for "World News Tonight" on Dec. 11, 2005.

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