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Iraqi teen in war zone: 'I will have a future'

  • Story Highlights
  • Iraqi teen describes nightmares: "I see myself running, dying"
  • Wurud, 14, moved to the Green Zone after her home was repeatedly attacked
  • She follows Hollywood stars, pop music and surfs the Internet
  • Despite all that's happened, she remains optimistic: "I will have a future"
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By Arwa Damon
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Editor's note: In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN correspondents share their experiences in covering news and analyze the stories behind the events. Here, CNN's Arwa Damon describes one teens life in Baghdad.


Wurud, 14, says she tries her best to stay "normal," but is haunted by nightmares.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- "When a bomb blows or something explodes, you know, I just keep on sitting here. I don't move."

Those are the words of Wurud, a 14-year-old Iraqi girl. She points out a window to the large coils of barbed wire snaking along the outer wall of the protected Green Zone where she lives with her family.

"It's a big jail," she says.

Of her life in a war zone she says, "I don't think it's weird because I get it every day so, you know, I don't think that it's weird anymore."

Wurud seems not unlike most other teens around the world. She pays close attention to Hollywood stars and pop music and communicates with friends via the Internet.

But this is Baghdad, so some things are different. Every time she sleeps, she says, she awakens from nightmares in the early hours.

"I always see myself running, dying." Video Watch a teen struggle with life in Iraq »

As she makes her way to her room, her trendy lace-trimmed black skirt swishes around just below her knees. Like a typical teenager, she loves hanging out with her friends. "Like when they see the picture of the singer we all love," she says, naming someone I don't know.

"Who?" I ask.

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"Uh, Jesse McCartney, you know!" she says incredulously, looking at me as if I was from another planet. Video Go inside Iraq with CNN's Arwa Damon »

"Jesse's from L.A.. I guess, he's a pop singer," she says.

At times she sounds like a typical American teenager, untouched by the horrors of Baghdad.

She bounces over to her computer. "And look -- this is Zwinky World," she says, referring to an online virtual reality world similar to Second Life. "And that's me," she says, pointing to her gothic avatar.

"I like the whole make-up thing. It's awesome looking. They are wearing black, you know. I love black."

"Zwinky is 3-D chat," she explains patiently, clearly amused by my ignorance.

In Zwinky World, Wurud says she can escape the war all around her. She likes to shop at the virtual mall for T-shirts, dresses, shoes -- "Everything," she says. "That's so fun!"

Her father is the spokesman for Iraq's Ministry of Interior, a very public figure in a very unforgiving land. Photo See photos of the plight of Iraqi women »

Their original home in downtown Baghdad was attacked with such regularity, it eventually forced the family to move to the Green Zone.

At one point her father was shot and injured.

"So everybody says that Daddy got shot and I was shocked. I was like, 'What?' "

"I didn't even believe [it]. ... I didn't realize that it was real."

She turns back to Zwinky World. Through virtual reality, she's made friends all over the globe.

"Sometimes they ask me about how it's going over here," she says.

She speaks matter-of-factly about explosions in the area. She says they don't scare her.

"Mom says she wants to hide some place so we would be safe," she says. "But I just keep in my place, wherever I am, I don't move. ... And she [her mom] says, 'You're going to die.' "

"I say, 'What's wrong with that?' ... You know, we can't run away from fate."

Wurud smiles in utter contradiction to the words coming out of her mouth.

Teenage bravado? Perhaps. Or maybe, like so many other everyday Iraqis, she has been forced to redefine the parameters of "normal" in order to survive.

Wurud is haunted by what's happening in her homeland, but she is also remarkably resilient and wise beyond her years.

"Whatever place I am in, I will have a future," she says emphatically.


Years from now, she says, she doesn't think everything will "be back to normal, because you know war is a war."

"It will leave something in your heart." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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