''Our fate is bleak''

As they watch bombs fall upon their homeland, Britain's Iraqi exiles tell May Abdalla, Adrian Cornel

Nabra, 21, sales assistant, Edgware Road, London

This war is devastating. Nothing good will come of this . . . My country is abused and helpless.

Dr Mohammed Makiya, 89, prominent exile, architect and planner,

Bayswater, London

Who could be against the war? . . . There has never been a dictator of Saddam's scale and magnitude. This is a man who thinks he's from God . . . But what can be done about such a monster? What else can we do? . . . I love it - I watch the war with all my heart as if I were an American . . . We cannot go back. I would love to see the regime killed, and I don't care. Because this is my salvation.

Yusuf Seferti, 64, retired religious studies teacher (a Christian), Birmingham

They will get rid of Saddam, but then there will be a civil war. Iraq will divide into Shias and Sunnis, Arabs versus Kurds, with Christian minorities caught in the middle. Even if the Iraqi people are dancing in the streets today to greet the troops, it does not justify the war and what will follow.

Rana, 21, student of Middle Eastern studies, University of Manchester

Since last Wednesday, the lines to Iraq have been cut because they bombed the telephones. Before then we were phoning our families twice a day. I'm more fearful, though, of what will come next. What kind of system are they going to try to set up? I mean, how are people going to adjust to the changes? . . . This has never been a humanitarian issue.

Faleh Jaber, 53, lecturer in Middle Eastern politics at University of London

I have mixed feelings about this war; feelings of fear, hope, awe, angst. I can't sleep; I have to take sleeping pills now. But feelings amount to nothing. I hope something good will come out of this. It's like sacrificing part of your body to let the rest live, like chopping off a pound of flesh. It's that sort of feeling, painful and horrible.

Mustapha, 22, tobacconist, Edgware Road, London

The people were backstabbed by the Americans in 1991 when 17 cities were ready to revolt and waited for the allies to come. And no one came. And Saddam slaughtered them all. My father's cousins were beheaded, my grandfather killed and my family is wanted dead or alive.

Dr Peter Kandela, 55, medical practitioner, Staines, Middlesex

The question of whether civilians would accept the invasion or take up arms has exercised governments and individuals alike. However, one thing is certain: the Christian communities in Iraq, in spite of the fact that we too have suffered greatly under the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein, are no more likely to welcome the offensive than our Muslim neighbours. It might perhaps have been expected that the hardline Christian rhetoric from Washington would strike a chord, but I can still hear clearly the panic-stricken voice of my sister in her last call before the phone lines were cut, asking: "What sort of Christians are they? Who can do this to us?"

Jabbar Hasan, 47, director of the Iraqi Community Association, London

The Iraqi community in Britain all want a change of regime. The problem is the method of removing Saddam. The Iraqi opposition are absolutely knackered, and we are powerless compared with Saddam's regime. Economically and psychologically, the Iraqi people are exhausted . . . Historically, the people of Iraq have not experienced anything positive from the Americans or the British . . . Dignity has no meaning in Iraq. We were a very dignified people; this was a prosperous country. Now it is very sad to see people begging and fighting for water.

Nadine, 21, medical student, Glasgow

The Iraqis could have been helped, but it will be too late after this war. If sanctions had been lifted, the Iraqi people would have risen up against Saddam themselves. But they were instead starved to death by the American sanctions, which did not affect the government at all. It was just the people who suffered. The Iraqi people have a history of uprising. We don't need help.

Hamda, 52, accountant, Bayswater, London

The west established the system in the Middle East after the Second World War. They destroyed the whole culture. They changed the coins from the Islamic coins. They took all the treasure. The people of Iraq appointed Saddam as director of the company. The people are shareholders - they have to judge. The Americans say, "I'm going to destroy your house and break your hand." And after that they say, "I'm going to build your house and fix your hand." Is that logical?

Ahmed, 35, owner of a hairdresser's, Edgware Road, London

We're anxious and we have learnt not to trust the words of the powerful. Our fate is bleak; there is little to say.

Mohamed al-Rubeai, 54, professor of chemical engineering, University of Birmingham

The Americans have to realise that what they've begun settles responsibility in their hands. Then the international community must guarantee Iraq its territorial integrity . . . and free elections six months after the end of this. As a democrat, I'm dreaming of a democratic civil society for Iraq.

Anonymous, 40, works in a computer store, Bayswater, London

The war is against the UN and most countries. It's a destruction of human beings and justice. The British economy is going down badly and we are paying the price. Money should be spent on different things - homeless people and all the problems we have. They don't want to raise salaries for firemen. And they're going to spend billions over a silly, disgusting war. So how can we justify this?

Saeed, 30, greengrocer, Edgware Road, London

God knows if any good will come of this war. But we are the sacrificed people. The Iraqi people will fight to defend their land.

Iza, 30, engineering student, Bayswater, London

There is no good war - it's always bad. It's not just black and white. But it's more than worth getting rid of Saddam. I am very confident. This war is very necessary . . . When the war is over, I am very confident the Americans and British will put together a successful government.

Kamil Mahdi, 53, lecturer in Middle Eastern economics, University of Exeter

It's disgraceful that the British talk about backing the troops. Whatever happens in the next few days or weeks, I don't think the Iraqi people will forgive the Americans and the British. Neither will they thank them.

Dashty Jamal, 34, Federation of Iraqi Refugees, London

I was in northern Iraq in 1991 during the uprising. Why didn't they change the regime then? . . . This is not a game of football with two sides but a horrific tragedy. The Iraqi people have no water and no food. This is the slaughter of Iraqi people - the bombing of homes, offices, hospitals to pave the way for a bloody new world order . . . I don't believe they want peace for Iraq. My message is this: stop this war immediately, withdraw the American and British troops. Give the people of Iraq a chance.

Manal, 24, shop assistant, Edgware Road, London

I can't think about this war. I remember what my country looked like in the last war and I know what must be happening now. It was terrible, really terrible, and people will suffer again after they have been starved and left to die under sanctions.

Wedad, 47, nurse, Nottingham

My family and I watch this war with dread. Every image that seems quite familiar but full of soldiers and war terrifies me. It's not an action movie. We prayed this war wouldn't happen. We were more hopeful than most, I think. There were a lot of solutions to our problems. This one is the most terrifying.

Dr Walid al-Hilli, 52, general secretary of the Iraqi Human Rights Group

Saddam does not care about the Iraqi people. He puts his army, artillery and sophisticated weapons among civilians. The regime has killed or assassinated more than two million people in 35 years, executing any Iraqi opposing the regime, anyone who disobeyed the regime, any doctor who refused to torture Iraqis . . . The best way of removing Saddam would be to indict him through the Security Council, to put his regime on trial for war crimes and violations of human rights. Iraq should be made a demilitarised zone, so that the Iraqi people can change the regime themselves . . . I feel this will be a very long war. The Americans are planning to stay in Iraq and to establish their own government.

Dharkam, 30, hairstylist, Edgware Road, London

Today in the papers are photos of my home town, Hindiya, and the bridge my family use, covered in smoke. Saddam is a criminal but so are the Americans. Iraqis don't want to die for either of them.

Salwan, 19, student of pharmacy at University of London

Bush wants Iraq because he can watch over Israel from there and then move into Iran. Anyone who fights for the Arabs will be branded terrorists. Basically, it's a war on Islam.