Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Among the 'Best and Brightest,' Rami Won't Vote in Iraq Election

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Among the 'Best and Brightest,' Rami Won't Vote in Iraq Election

Article excerpt

Facing the Iraq election, a budding playwright-actor wants a more optimistic role - such as living in another country.

In the soft light filtering in from the shattered windows of the Baghdad Fine Arts Institute, Rami Hussein raises his hands to direct his fellow students in a thoroughly modern and anguished adaptation of the world's oldest story - an adaptation of the Mesopotamian epic Gilgamesh.

If suffering helps the creative process, the students have had more than their share. A suicide car bomb at the appeals court next door in December broke all the glass and sent furniture flying, wounding more than 80 students and teachers.

Rami and the four members of the theater troupe who weren't wounded returned the next day, climbing over piles of rubble to rehearse, but not telling their parents where they were.

He and his friends are among the best and the brightest - and among the most disillusioned.

"The government lies to us," he says. "They give us promises they don't intend to keep." The biggest lie, he says, is security, including checkpoints where Iraqi security forces don't do their jobs, and allow anyone to go through. On most days, he says, there's no point in voting because all the politicians are corrupt. Other times, he leaves open the possibility of voting if he were to find someone sincere and honest enough. With a campaign that was delayed until less than a month before the March 7 elections, there's been little opportunity for any but the best-known of the 6,500 candidates to reach out to voters.

Rami's family is poor - his father died in 2003 and his younger brother was killed two weeks later by a rocket during the US attack on Baghdad. The family doesn't believe he can make a living performing, and he reassures them by saying he's not serious about it and plans to pay a bribe to his teachers rather than put on a class play to graduate. Privately, though, he says he can't live without the theater.

On a good day, Rami, 23, overflows with confidence that his passion and talent will allow him to make a difference: "Of course I will be a star."

On a bad day, as in shortly after the bombing, he has a much bleaker image: "I can't see a good future. …

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