In the last four years, more than 50 million people have joined the ranks of the free.
-- George W. Bush, January 18, 2005
DATING is a dangerous game in Baghdad. Ali Ilhiam knows that holding hands with his teenage girlfriend could cost him a beating--or worse--from militant extremists.
"Boys can't be seen walking and laughing with their girlfriends any more in the new Baghdad," the 21-year-old university student said, glancing over his shoulder to make sure that he was not being watched. Friends of his have been dragged from their cars, imprisoned and threatened with death by self-appointed moral guardians for daring to link arms with their girlfriends in public.
Mr. Ilhiam recalled that holding hands with a girl was permissible under the regime of Saddam Hussein, but he expressed concern about the growing puritanism that is being enforced by both Shia and Sunni militias.
"This country has expired," Murwa Majid said, nervously twisting a gold necklace that spelt out her name. "No matter what our new Prime Minister says, my generation is pessimistic. Life will not improve any time soon. This is not living."
"Girls don't walk the streets alone any more. We used to shop, go dancing, have parties, until a few months after the downfall of Saddam, and bit by bit, every day, we feel more repressed."
-- The Times