- Despite the country's oil wealth, the promise of a booming future has remained beyond grasp for most, especially those now coming of age.
BAGHDAD: Eighteen years ago Saddam Hussein's brutal rule came to an end, but the prospects for young Iraqis who never witnessed his dictatorship remain blighted by insecurity, rampant corruption and joblessness.
When American troops seized Baghdad on April 9, 2003, a different Hussein was barely three years old. Living in Nasiriyah, a cradle of revolts throughout history in the country's south, he recalls people speaking of a "bloody regime".
It was one which "embroiled Iraq in wars that wasted many lives and resources," alongside crippling sanctions from the 1990s, said the political sciences student.
But today the American promises of democracy and freedom made when Saddam was toppled ring hollow, added Hussein, who did not want to give his second name, as he deplored today's "incapable" political parties and a "rotten system".
Educated initially in a small mud-brick school, since his earliest memories he has known an Iraq beset by "hospitals in ruins and zero job prospects."
Despite the country's oil wealth, the promise of a booming future has remained beyond grasp for most, especially those now coming of age.
The country has grappled with a toxic cocktail of endemic corruption and bloody sectarian episodes, culminating in the Islamic State jihadist group occupying large swathes of the country for three years from mid-2014.
Iraq remains in a state of "total collapse," Hussein lamented.