The last two decades have been highly tumultuous for the country of Iraq. Dictator Saddam Hussein has oppressed its people from the late 70s until he was ousted by invading Americans in 2003.
When he was removed from power, many Iraqis felt hope that they would now experience true peace and freedom. Sadly, almost two decades of civil war and unrest, American meddling and manipulation, widespread corruption and political turmoil, sectarian/religious tensions, and an extremist insurgency (ISIS) further imprisoned Iraq's citizens and suffering followed.
Saddam's regime was extremely oppressive. He was treated like a god, and no one could criticize him. When the Americans invaded, they eventually executed him. The American occupation divided the nation, even families. Some Iraqis were happy that the Americans were there, viewing them as saviours. Still, many were also Pro-Iraqi nationalists who, while glad to see Saddam out, also wanted the Americans out.
There was also conflict between the Shia and Sunni Muslims. This was brewing even when Saddam was in power, he suppressed tensions, and both wisely kept out of his way. The newly American installed government were sadly very discriminatory against Sunnis. The new Prime Minister removed all Sunnis from the government, making it harder for them to work and live.
Amidst all of this confusion, sporadic warfare, and general strife, Afghani terrorists al-Qaida - mainly made up of Sunni Muslims, appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, to lay roots in Iraq. They were an organized group, which was a far cry from the small, sporadic and informal insurgents that the new government had been dealing with.
Bombings and explosions became frequent Iraqi events, to the point of normalcy. It was extremely common for cars and houses to explode at any given moment. The Sunnis and Shias were victimized in equal measure by these bombings, which al-Qaida claimed responsibility for to add to their already fearsome reputation.
In 2011, the Americans finally pulled out of Iraq, and the terrorist group ISIS took over. Iraq, which did not have a stable government or army, could not fight back.
From 2012 to 2017, ISIS wreaked havoc; no one was safe. They took over media, satellites, and schools and killed so many people. Children were caught in the crossfire, getting hurt from stray bullets or shrapnel, or witnessing many of their friends die. ISIS was finally defeated in 2017 by a 79 country coalition led by the United States. A new Shia led government was installed but with a majority of Sunni members.
Frontline's documentary, "Once Upon a Time in Iraq", tells the story of Iraq post-Saddam, through the experiences of its citizens that lived through the chaos. Their stories are also accompanied by archival footage, without any external narrator, and their first-hand accounts are a moving testament to their resilience as a people.
Directed by: James Bluemel