Baghdad native shares
insights with students


Burlington 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 the session.

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."

Morayati came 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."

In February 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.

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 to."



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Last Modified:  2/11/05
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