Haydar Kamel had a free afternoon but could not decide between catching a soft-core porn flick at the cinema, reading one of several hundred newspapers or watching satellite TV. All, of course, were prohibited or severely restricted under the rule of Saddam Hussein. The underemployed carpenter finally opts to surf the web at a new internet cafe in his neighbourhood - and launches into an endless tirade against the United States' occupation of his country. 'So, okay, we have freedom,' says the 26-year-old, repeating one of the familiar refrains of the many dissatisfied with the state of Iraq one year after the war began. 'But where are the jobs?' he asks. 'Where is the security? What kind of freedom is it when you can't go out on the streets at night?' A year after the initial euphoria that met the overthrow of Hussein's despotic regime, Iraqis' hopes and exhilaration have long since faded. Even those most enthusiastic about the US-led war have discovered freedom is a double-edged sword. Many long for the security and certainty of the past regime, while at the same time praising their new-found freedoms. Many say their lives are unchanged - though, when pressed, they concede it's nice to be able to discuss politics with relatives without fear of being turned in to the secret police. 'At the time of Saddam, I had to be careful what I said in front of my friends,' Abdul Wahab Abdullah, a retired agricultural engineer, said, having just spent 15 minutes arguing little had changed in Iraq since the rule of Hussein's Ba'ath party ended. He added: 'Now we can criticise the government, even the American occupation, without fear of being jailed and tortured.' Some have likened Iraqis to tropical fish long imprisoned in an aquarium suddenly being dumped among the treacherous predators of a river. Suddenly, all the world's troubles - crime, terrorism, drug abuse, sectarian clashes, ethnic wars - came rushing into their lives. In Baghdad, Iraqis say life has become depressing since the war. At Amusement City, a leafy park with a rusty roller coaster and a 'tunnel of love', groups of young men and women gather on a clear, sunny day. They tease each other, play soccer and, away from public scrutiny, even steal the occasional kiss. But they complain the park, which used to be open until the early hours of the morning, now closes at 2pm because of security worries. Each afternoon they scamper home and sit in front of the television to watch satellite television. Channel 2, a Lebanese station that plays American shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and movies such as Cannonball Run 3, has become especially popular. 'The Americans took away security and instead gave us Frasier,' says Asa Qasem, 20, an engineering student. In the Kurdish north, semi-autonomous since the 1991 Gulf war, people praise progress in their region over the past year. Relatively safe and secure in their enclave, the young roam the streets at night and frequent bars and clubs. The universities bustle with life. 'We're richer than we were before the war. Our civil society is growing,' says Ari Mohammad, a university lecturer. Iraqis' biggest worries are economic. In the southern city of Nasiriyah, young men mill about below a bridge that was the scene of some of the most intense fighting in the war. The residents, nearly all of them Sh'ites who were oppressed under Hussein and who acquiesced in the invasion, had big expectations for the post-war period, expectations that remain unfulfilled. Hossein Kasem, an unemployed 22-year-old, said his life had not improved at all - except he now had the the freedom to take part in self-flagellation ceremonies in commemoration of the martyr Imam Hossein. 'We want jobs as well as the freedom to hit ourselves,' he said.