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Iraqis in San Diego Cheer Saddam's Death

The death of Saddam Hussein is bringing elation to many San Diegans with direct ties to Iraq. El Cajon is among the nation's largest communities of Iraqi refugees. After the former dictator was hanged

Iraqis in San Diego Cheer Saddam's Death

The death of Saddam Hussein is bringing elation to many San Diegans with direct ties to Iraq. El Cajon is among the nation's largest communities of Iraqi refugees. After the former dictator was hanged early Saturday morning, KPBS reporter Andrew Phelps spoke with local Iraqis at the Ali Baba restaurant on Main Street. All of these residents fled Saddam's rule at least a decade ago, searching for a tolerable life in San Diego. Here are their thoughts on the execution in Baghdad.

Othman Kalasho: My name is Othman Kalasho. Killing any person is, you know, it's not something make a person happy. But this guy, I think he deserved to be killed. I mean, what he have done for Iraq and for the area there -- I mean, the war between Iraq, Iran, invading of Kuwait, you know, poisoning the Kurdish people. I think it's gonna take maybe long time before the people will realize they have to think differently about themself and their country. They have been raised and taught all these years to be nothing but a slave of Saddam Hussein to stay alive or to make a living and take care of their kids. Everything has to come through Saddam Hussein. It's gonna take maybe years before people can realize there is a different world. There is a different life. There is a different hope.

Sinan Shathaya: My name is Sinan Shathaya. Well I'm personally, I, you know, I support the execution to serve justice for thousands of innocent, you know, young Iraqis that were executed by same person. A lot of you know mothers and fathers who now, when they hear that Saddam finally got, you know, executed, I think they were happy to see that at least now justice has been served. 

Hikmet Pauls: Hikmet Pauls. Yes, I think it came even late, because the suffering that all Iraqis went through, through decades, cannot be balanced with just executing him. They were waiting to torture him, actually. A lot of them. Because they were tortured. They were -- they have suffered a lot. So, I think this is a good end to a dictator, and it should be an example to all dictators around. The irony is that the execution of Saddam Hussein happened in a time that Iraq didn't get better. So this is the irony that happened. We wished the new time after Saddam brought peace and prosperous and a real democracy to Iraq. What happened was a little bit of chaos. It's actually a lot of chaos and a lot of violence.

Shathaya: Now everybody is getting killed. The innocent -- any body you know, could get killed. Only the people that were against Saddam, you know, they were getting killed, because they had different opinion, right? But now it's just any innocent. It's the worst era, I think, Iraq has ever been through, so...

Pauls: Yeah, to be honest with you there is no one Iraqi that has one point of view only. We have all mixed ideas about what's happening now.

Those are the voices of Othman Kalasho, Sinan Shathaya  and Hikmet  Pauls at the Ali Baba restaurant in El Cajon. For KPBS News, I'm Andrew Phelps.