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Squatters eke out living, look back fondly at Saddam era

BAGHDAD—Displaced farmer Darahm al Jabar says he sold his bed to buy stale bread for his 40-member clan. They are squatters in the rubble of an abandoned military base in southeastern Baghdad.

Al Jabar's and his two brothers' wives and daughters grind up the bread, add dirty water and bake it again to feed their family members, ages 2 months to 65.

They sleep in clumps of eight or more in rooms where the window frames are filled only with bricks that don't keep out the winter wind. They cook and warm themselves over smoky fires of green wood.

When the al Jabars moved in in August, "We thought the Americans would give us palaces, beds, jobs," Darahm al Jabar said.

Now, in part because they're nomads without official papers, they get no relief, al Jabar said. Cronyism in aid distribution is a factor, too, he said.

To his surprise, he remembers fondly the Saddam Hussein era, when his family lived under the protection of a sheik who sometimes won aid from the regime.

"Before, if you sent a note to Saddam, maybe he would send you some money," said al Jabar.


Chip Somodevilla is a Detroit Free Press photographer working in Baghdad.


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): usiraq+squatters