After a 19-month-long exile abroad, Mohammad Abdul-Hadi and his family could finally return to Baghdad in a recent influx of Iraqi refugees amid improved security here.
"I decided to come back after being told that the security situation in Iraq was getting better," said 45-year-old Abdul-Hadi who, along with his family, had been living in Syria for the past 19 months to shun the violence and bloodshed which flared up following a blast at a Shiite holy shrine in the Samarra city in February 2006.
"My family and I have just ended a trip of suffering and estrangement," he said, describing the life abroad as torture "in a large prison" because they have no friends and relatives.
"My children were just like captive birds in Syria. But now, they are free and glad to be back to their own country," Abdul Hadi said.
He ran a computer shop before fleeing Iraq. In Syria, the family lived on his savings at a rented house for which he paid 500 U.S. dollars a month.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has estimated that about 2.2 million Iraqis have fled their homeland for safety abroad to wait out the war and the similar number of them are displaced internally.
Neighboring Syria hosts the largest part of the Iraqi refugees -- more than 1.4 million and Jordan houses some 700,000 Iraqis.
Security in Baghdad improved in the past several months. The Iraqi government and the U.S. military said such a pickup was mainly attributed to the reinforced security operation since the deployment of 30,000 extra U.S. troops early this year.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Monday that some 7,000 families had returned to Baghdad and other provinces amid the upbeat security situation. He did not give a time span of the homecoming.
Abdul Hadi said his family and four other ones which lived in exile within Iraq received warm welcome from their neighbors at the Sunni neighborhood of Al-dawoodi.
Asked about his impression of the security in Iraq, he said there is "a big progress" and a good cooperation between the residents and the security forces.
Abdul Hadi has decided to restart his computer business soon, hoping that the security situation would continue improving so that all the people who have left the country, especially the high-profile Iraqi professionals, will return home to rebuild Iraq.