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?God bless this country'

By April Avison

It's a regular day for an Iraqi family – they drink Coca-Cola, check e-mail on a laptop computer and watch the latest news updates on CNN.

But the Ahmedy family of McDonough is no ordinary family. The Kurdish family left northern Iraq in 1994 in fear for their lives. They now show immense gratitude toward the American government for liberating other Iraqi people.

"I got my life back when I came here," said Sarwar Ahmedy, 24. "This is not my original country, but I feel like I'm home and I'm safe."

Ahmedy's parents, Amin and Sabria Ahmedy, don't speak much English, but show hospitality toward their American neighbors. With his son translating, Amin Ahmedy speaks in sincere appreciation of Americans.

"America cares about the people," he said. "(Going to war) has been a very brave thing for the U.S. to do and something unforgettable – Kurdish people are a true friend of the U.S. We will never turn our back to this country."

Sarwar Ahmedy fits in well around his McDonough neighborhood off Ga. Highway 81 West. He is working toward a bachelor's degree in business administration at American Intercontinental University in Dunwoody, and he works at The Pantry truck stop. He has lived in McDonough with his brothers, Soran and Sorkieu, for seven years. His parents and sister moved to Henry County shortly after they fled Iraq in 1998. Ahmedy's sister has two children, 3-year-old Rayan and 4-year-old Zhyno, which means "new life."

"That was her name because she was the first one born here in America," Sarwar Ahmedy said.

Several family members, including Ahmedy's wife, remain in Iraq. Ahmedy is working with Congressman Mac Collins' office to learn more about the immigration process. And he said, one day he would like to return to Iraq.

"I think that's where I belong," he said. "But it's probably going to take five to seven years for the Iraqi people to get used to the changes and establish a democracy. I hope the U.S. people will stay there for a while. Those people have been ruled by a dictator – most of them don't even know what freedom is.

You never know what's going to happen tomorrow. I want to graduate from school and make a better life."

The United Nations has said that Iraq faces severe environmental problems as a result of more than two decades of war, international sanctions and mismanagement. Retired American general Jay Garner, who is overseeing the postwar reconstruction of Iraq, met recently with technocrats and academics in Baghdad to discuss law and order initiatives, and the question of how people would prefer to choose new municipal leadership to fill the vacuum created by the ouster of Saddam Hussein's regime.

"When the war started we were so happy and so afraid of what was going to happen," Sarwar Ahmedy said. "There is an evil Iraqi regime. I hope people realize the Iraqi have a right to live in their country and don't deserve to be treated badly. Iraqi people are good people. This is like a dream come true. We don't know how to thank American people for their support. They're risking their lives to liberate us."

Ahmedy's brother Sorkieu (his friends call him "Sam") said he has faith that the Americans will help restore peace in the Middle East.

"The U.S. government is smart people – they'll take care of our people – we're sure of that," he said. "We still love our country and the people. Iraq is not evil, it is the dictator who is evil."

Sarwar Ahmedy said, because of misconceptions about the Iraqi people, he was afraid of how he might be received by Americans. He said he was pleasantly surprised that he has not known of any American to discriminate against him.

"As a Muslim, after September 11, I didn't know what was going to happen to me or how people were going to treat me. It was hard for me, but what made it easy for me was people were so nice and friendly and open," he said. "The most great thing I ever see is during the war people came to my house to bring cake and flowers."

He went on to say that he supports the American troops in their battles against the Iraqi regime, and he applauds George W. Bush for leading the U.S. into war.

"I came to this country in fear of my life, so maybe I appreciate it more than other people," he said. "The American people who are protesting the war – I don't know why they're not appreciating their freedom. If they lived in Iraq for two days, they would come back to America and kiss the soil and appreciate their freedom. God bless this country."