A Kurdish woman and an Iraqi man living in Japan after fleeing the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, expressed yearning for their home country Friday as the dictatorship comes to an end.
Vian Rahman, 32, a resident of Tokyo, said, "Freedom has finally arrived for the Iraqis and Kurds who had suffered from (Saddam's) tyranny," as she recalled her Middle Eastern homeland.
Kurds are said to be the world's largest ethnic group without a nation. Between 20 million and 30 million Kurds are living in the border zone of Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Thousands of Kurds were killed by Saddam's chemical weapons in 1988.
Rahman is from Sinjar in northwestern Iraq near the border with Syria. Her father is a politician and activist seeking the expansion of Kurdish autonomy. Her family fled to neighboring Iran in 1974, when she was 4, to escape the persecution by the ruling Baath Party. They later emigrated to Britain.
When the Gulf War began in 1991, her parents returned to Iraq. But she remained in Britain to complete her studies. In 1998, she was employed in the financial industry in Japan.
She was shocked when she saw the televised scenes Wednesday of Saddam's statue being dragged down. "At the time, my body trembled and I felt that a democratic age is finally arriving," she said.
"Though I will not immediately return to the Kurdish region, my heart is always with the Kurds. I will be glad if the rights of the Kurds are properly recognized through this war," she said.
Mann Aziz, a 40-year-old trading company employee who lives in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, said, "Nothing is happier than this. This is the start of my new life." Aziz was born in Mosul in northern Iraq. His father ran a construction company, but died when he was a child. His father was survived by two wives and 20 children.
The two women believed that education helps make life better, and 19 of the 20 children entered university.
Aziz graduated from the engineering department of a university in Mosul and began helping to run the family's construction business.
But orders fell under the economic sanctions that followed the Gulf War. So Aziz went to work in the United Arab Emirates, Canada and other countries, and came to Japan in November last year. "Iraq is rich in natural resources, the education level is high and the people are hard workers. Now that the Saddam Hussein's administration has collapsed, we should be able to reconstruct the nation," he said.
"It is best for people to return to the place where they were born," Aziz said, adding that his dream is to start a trading business with Japan in his home country.