Mustafa Abdul-Muta'al, Iraq "We couldn't even get a single chair to remind us of the good old days"

RAMADI, 28 May 2007 (IRIN) - Mustafa Abdul-Muta'al, 42, says he cannot bear seeing his nine-member family live as displaced persons. He blames his plight on the government which did not compensate him after his house was destroyed two years ago in an insurgent attack in Ramadi.

Abdul-Muta'al says he is tired of hearing promises that his compensation will soon be paid. With his wife suffering from cancer and two sons seriously malnourished, he is desperately trying to find a way to win his rights and take his family back to a safer place.

"We had a prosperous life and for years we lived in our house with full security. After an attack in my neighbourhood in Ramadi, my house was totally destroyed and one of my sons died during the assault. He had remained behind in Ramadi to look after the house while we had fled to Baghdad to escape the violence in our home city.

"Of course, the tragedy that took my son's life is the worst, but I couldn't believe it when I saw my beautiful house that took me years to build with everything inside destroyed.

"We couldn't even get one single chair to remind us of the good old days because everything was burned. When we fled to Baghdad we didn't take with us more than a few clothes and some food. When we returned to Ramadi we found we were not only homeless but had lost everything in our home.

"The government promised to compensate all families who lost property during the attacks but two years have since passed and all I hear is that they intend to pay soon, and that because of a shortage of funds, some families will be paid later.

"It is not a matter of money but my family is homeless. They sleep in tents in a camp for displaced persons on the outskirts of the city suffering all kinds of humiliation. They are terrified of the constant clashes near our camp between government forces and insurgents.

"If the government had shown that they are people of their word, we would have been back in our house by now. I cannot work because I'm the only older man in the group and I cannot leave the women alone under such dangerous circumstances. We depend on aid delivered by local NGOs [non-governmental organizations] to survive.

"My small shop in the centre of Ramadi was also destroyed in the attack and no compensation has been paid for that yet. The children are not in school because the nearest school is very far away and we don't have a car or money for daily transport to school.

"I had dreams of seeing my sons study and become good professionals but the war has destroyed my dreams. All my savings are finished and I don't think that we will be able to afford such a prosperous life as before.

"Sometimes I stop and try to find the democracy that was promised by the government and US forces. During the former regime [of Saddam Hussein] our children were studying, our wives wore good clothes and more importantly, we had a house to sleep in and good food to eat. I thought that was democracy but they have given it a different meaning now."