News: Saving Samarra
SAMARRA, Iraq (June 30, 2006) - One man is trying to improve every aspect of life for the people of Samarra, no matter what the personal sacrifice.
Samarra's City Council President, Asaad Ali Yaseen , has taken a holistic approach to healing his hometown. The 53-year-old businessman has become a viable link between Coalition Forces, Iraqi
Security Forces, local and provincial governance, and his constituents by serving in the local leadership position and providing goods and services to the town -- at his own expense.
"I have a big heartâ?¦ I'm almost like a bank for the city," said Yaseen. "I try to provide them with whatever they need."
His contributions to this predominately Sunni city read like a laundry-list. When Samarra's hospital needed climate-control and ambulance repairs, Yaseen pulled the money out of his pocket. With monies earned from construction and imports, Yaseen has been able to publish a local newspaper; the first post-Saddam era publication the city has seen.
The list doesn't stop there. In an era when traveling in Iraq means taking your life into your own hands, Yaseen has made multiple trips to the Sulaymanyah province in northern Iraq, attempting to establish a city welfare system. He also makes regular trips to Tikrit to work with the provincial council, ensuring Samarra receives funding for slated reconstruction projects like upgrades to the city's water, sewage, and electric systems.
As part of his plan to give the urban youth an alternative to the all-too-common violence in the streets, the local legislator plans to sponsor 3,000 children by providing them with soccer balls, uniforms and shoes. Teams will compete on one of 20 soccer fields he plans to construct, fields that his own family won't be able to enjoy"at least not yet.
"I had to send my wife and children away," explained Yaseen, "There were just too many death threats and assassination attempts."
He said his family will return to Iraq when he feels they are free from danger.
These days, the city council president's downtown mansion looks more like a fortress. When visitors pull up to the high-fenced compound, they are met by some of his personal-security personnel"whose salary he also pays out-of-pocket. His guards man the front guard shack, rooftop sniper positions, and are never very far away from the man himself.
Yaseen is often the target of slanderous graffiti, death threats, and assassination attempts.
None of these factors seem to deter the city council president. He says he will continue forging ahead with the twelve main projects Coalition Forces are helping complete, as well as planning new opportunities for economic growth.