physician Sam Morayati, who was born in Baghdad, was a guest in
Janna Anderson's Reporting class in February. Morayati discussed
life as a boy in Iraq and the pride he feels after participating
in the recent Iraqi elections. He answered questions from the Reporting
students and from Media Writing students who were also guests at
He put his
work on hold and traveled on two roundtrips to Baltimore in order
to vote; one to register and one to cast his ballot. "I was very
excited to come back and show off my finger that still had a little
bit of ink on it," said Morayati, who practices nuclear medicine.
"It is wonderful to share in the progress."
to the United States in 1980 after growing up with 11 brothers and
sisters in Baghdad, where his father owned a candy business close
to the downtown area. He was in high school when the Baathists and
Saddam Hussein came to power in 1968. The following year, Morayati
witnessed the execution of 50 opposition leaders in Baghdad's main
square by Saddam's forces.
"A half million
people were forced to leave their factories and schools and watch
these 50 poor souls hanged with hoods over their heads," Morayati
said. "People got the message that if you don't follow the system,
this will be your end."
Eight of Morayati's
family members, including his mother, still live in Baghdad, and
he said he can sense a new spirit in his family's voices when he
has telephoned them after the Jan. 30 elections. "For the first
time in years, they could speak their minds," Morayati said. "It
was really a refreshing thing."
2004, Morayati was one of 40 medical specialists invited to a conference
in Baghdad to share medical advances with their Iraqi counterparts.
He said he was appalled by the conditions in Iraqi hospitals and
clinics. "It was sad to see that most health providers in Iraq were
in the dark. Things were still the same as they were when I left
Iraq in the '80s ... no advances." The only exception, Morayati
said, was Ibn Sina Hospital, the private hospital for Saddam Hussein.
"It had CAT scan and the latest medical technology, when other hospitals
in the country lacked basic syringes," Morayati said.
democracy will not be an easy system to implement in Iraq because
citizens have no experience with it. He added that he thinks democracy
will eventually thrive in his native country, though it may be modeled
differently from the United States.
"It's too naive
for us to impose a democratic system like ours on Iraq or Turkey,"
Morayati said. "But freedom of speech and freedom of expression
are ideals that can be adapted to other cultures."
As for Saddam
Hussein, Morayati said he has no doubt the former Iraqi leader committed
atrocities against his people on a daily basis. He said he believes
Saddam will receive a fair trial. "I have no doubt that he will
have a just trial - a lot more just than what he subjected his people