St. Cloud State professor finds poor security back home in Iraq
St. Cloud, Minn. — (AP) - A St. Cloud State University professor who's back in his home country of Iraq says security concerns have kept him from seeing his family.
In a letter to friends and colleagues, Abbas Mehdi said that he had yet to connect with his family after being in Iraq for nearly three weeks.
Mehdi, 56, a professor of sociology and anthropology, returned Sept. 10 as an adviser to a group helping the government rebuild Iraq's infrastructure and government.
According to the St. Cloud Times, which published parts of the letter Wednesday, Mehdi wrote that he lives in a "very secure" location but it's too dangerous to travel elsewhere, and that's kept him away from his family.
"The security inside my compound is great, but going out is another story," he wrote. "I have been almost 20 days in Baghdad and have not been able to see my own family yet. Every time we go out of the compound for business meetings, I have to wear bulletproof protection and a helmet.
"I need to notify the security about my trip at least 48 hours in advance; they must approve all outings. Sometimes they cancel trips at the last minute. When I leave the compound, there are at least three bulletproof vehicles and 12 guards."
The professor's group is in the initial stages of its work, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. They're introducing themselves to U.S. government officials in Baghdad, Iraq government officials, and international donors and organizations such as the United Nations and World Bank, he wrote.
"Iraq is a war zone and the security is very bad. We are truly living in a war, and whatever you see and hear in the media about Iraq represents a very small part of Iraq reality," he wrote. "Sadly, everyone is in danger here, and every day hundreds of innocent people are dying."
Mehdi came to America in 1982, moved to Minnesota in 1988 and became a citizen in 1995. He said before leaving that he wasn't sure how long he would stay in Iraq.
"I feel very happy to be in Iraq and to be part of everything," Mehdi wrote. "I am making personal assessments on my options and plans. The security situation, however, will be a determining factor for my future plans."
(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)