Relaxed lifestyles show Baghdad extremists waning

Engineering student Haifaa Salman has discarded the Islamic head cover she started wearing two years ago after militants threatened to “punish” her if she kept showing up at college with her hair uncovered.

“I was forced to wear it,” the 22-year-old says, recalling the day in 2006 when two men on a motorbike stopped her outside campus to deliver the threat. But, she adds, “It’s different now. Life is normal again. College women wear what they please. The extremist groups are gone.”

By HAMZA HENDAWI, Associated Press Writer

People walk through the bustling Shorja open air market in Baghdad, ... 
People walk through the bustling Shorja open air market in Baghdad, Iraq, on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2008.(AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

The decision by some women to shun the Islamic head cover, or hijab, is just one of the signs that Baghdad residents are growing increasingly confident in the past year’s security gains.

Children with backpacks can be seen walking to school. Sidewalk cafes remain open after dark. Families stroll through parks in the sunset.

But after five years of violence, many people are hesitant.

“Things are much better now,” said Ziad Mohammed, a 49-year-old government employee who lives in Karkh, a mainly Sunni Arab district on the west bank of the Tigris.

“But fear is still inside me,” he added. “I want to get rid of it. Maybe it will happen next year.”

For now, Mohammed continues to escort his children to school and picks them up because he fears they could be kidnapped.

Baghdad remains a very dangerous place, and much of the capital looks like a city at war.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081029/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_
iraq_baghdad_today;_ylt=AqAxnbFHokgkhgz0ovUNCuys0NUE

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