Beaten, battered and scarred... only unity can save Iraq
Saddam Hussein may have been gone for 12 years, but Iraq is still no closer to finding its place on the altar of freedom.
The fall of Baghdad in 2003 was supposed to mean the end of oppressive governance in Iraq. Yet authoritarianism continues, but now has a strong sectarian flavour.
Some believe that the situation has marginally improved. Many welcomed the fall of Saddam. But the decade of relentless destruction that followed has altered society. On a recent visit to the UK, Iraqi artist Ali Jabar spoke of a population "cheated, spiritless and broken" who nevertheless had an "unrelenting desire to stay alive".
Jabbar said that it was clear from the onset that the promise of a free Iraq was just an old political trick.
Poverty, fear and violence is all that Iraqis got from the fall of the old regime.
The UN says more than 1,000 people were killed and 2,172 injured last month. It estimates that more than two million Iraqis have fled their homes since January last year. The government says it will cost the country $5bn to sort out this churning of the population.
|Poverty, fear and violence is all that Iraqis got from the fall of the old regime.|
Gunfire, abductions and bombings are still some of the biggest killers.
The nationwide trauma runs deep in the country where death stills forms an indispensible part of everyday life.
Even those most in need of mental health services are consistently failed due to the ongoing deterioration of primary care services.
Maha Younis, from the college of medicine in Baghdad, said the mental health crisis affects women disproportionately.
In a report published in January, Younis revealed that out of 900,000 widows created from Iraq's, only 86,000 receive a widow's pension, which even then is just $140 a month.
The fall of Baghdad has left a lasting legacy on education, 13 years later. The days of high literacy rates and an education system which was the envy of the region are long forgotten. One in four Iraqis are now illiterate.
To date, there have been no comprehensive efforts to improve education for children and illiterate adults.
Suadad al-Sahly, an Iraqi journalist, says: "People in Iraq are just living their days without any long-term dreams or plans. Education and health are almost free but because of the corruption the performance is very bad."
The litany of loss suggests that Baghdad is still a long way from being stable, united and secure.
Sahly said that Haider al-Abadi, the current prime minister, was trying on the issue of reconciliation, but said all Iraqis needed to move on to build a new country.
"It looks impossible, but all Iraqis need to believe that they have to forget their grievances to live a normal life."
The need for national reconciliation cannot wait any longer.