<\body> Stories in America: Thriving Baghdad Street is Now Silent and Suffering

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Thriving Baghdad Street is Now Silent and Suffering

"After the war, there was a lot of work. The people went about their business normally. Then we were shocked because fewer people ventured out because of the explosions. Now the restaurant is struggling to pay the salaries of the employees. Our hearts are broken because of what has become of the country. We're psychologically burned out."
-Moustafa al-Hassani, a 49-year-old Egyptian manager of Lathikiya, one of the most famous restaurants on Arrasat Street

These types of human interest stories coming out of Iraq are few and far between:
Even while Iraq languished under crippling U.N. economic sanctions, upscale Arrasat Street thrived. Trendy stores with foreign names brimmed with sexy lingerie and Swiss watches. Mercedes-Benzes and BMWs whizzed past pricey restaurants where Western love songs played.

Now Arrasat is quiet. Too quiet.

"For sale," reads a sign on a closed store. "Huge discounts: 75 percent off," screams another.

Arrasat was Baghdad's fanciest commercial strip under Saddam Hussein, thriving on goods smuggled in under the U.N. restrictions that followed Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. After the collapse of Saddam's regime, it saw a short-lived boom that brought hopes of economic prosperity.

But before long, its fortunes reversed. Car bombings, kidnappings and a general lack of security across Iraq took a toll, turning the street into a shadow of its former self.


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