For the young, new freedoms are clouded by a fear of violence that leaves them trapped in their homes For Iraq's besieged population the fear that pervaded Saddam Hussein's era remains. Yesterday's surprise announcement that the Iraqi government was assuming power two days earlier than expected was aimed at forestalling planned guerilla attacks. But as a diverse and widely representative, if not democratically elected, body of Iraqis assumes formal control of their country from the US-led occupation force, the Baghdad murder rate is 20 times what it was under former president Hussein. Adding to the misery of ordinary Iraqis is the impoverishment and failed infrastructure that has accompanied the fighting between US troops and insurgents. Nevertheless, most acknowledged Hussein was a brutal dictator who tortured and murdered his own people and subjected them to constant repression, while the toppling of his regime had helped begin the rejuvenation of the political and economic spheres. But ordinary citizens complain that all the freedoms and opportunities offered by the new era are clouded by fear and violence. Car bombs regularly rattle cities across the country. Some Iraqis wryly observed that at least under Hussein's rule they could go to the local store without fear of gunfire. Many said they now felt the weight of a different kind of repression, a lawlessness that had made their streets unsafe and thrown lives into turmoil. The country's young - those who have the most to gain from Iraq's future prosperity - worry for their futures. Under Hussein, literature student Abir Khalil, 22, used to travel to holy sites in Karbala, Najaf and Samarra. There, she and her relatives prepared elaborate outdoor feasts. But the last time she dared leave Baghdad was before the war. 'The security situation seems to be getting worse day by day,' she said. 'For our lives are much worse than in the time of Saddam.' Iraq's young can now enjoy things unthinkable under the old regime such as freedom of speech, watching satellite television, surfing the internet and even drinking alcohol. But such freedoms mean little when they are virtually trapped inside their own homes due to the violence. 'We used to go out late at night to clubs, sometimes until 2am or 3am,' said Seif al-Kadi, an 18-year-old architecture student. 'Now we have to be home by nine.' Even among members of Iraq's new political class, there is a sense the country is overwhelmed by bloodshed. Raja al-Khuzai, a physician and outspoken politician said she missed the simpler things in life enjoyed under the previous regime. 'We couldn't open our mouth and talk in Saddam's time but I could go shopping,' she said. 'Now I can't go shopping, because I'm in the government.' Some aspects of daily life have improved but security woes continue to hamper the country's growth as terrorists wreak havoc. Saboteurs continue to hammer away at the country's electricity infrastructure and target the foreign contractors working to repair it. Parts of the capital - where temperatures soar to as high as 60 degrees Celsius in the summer - still receive no more than 12 hours of electricity a day. The new freedoms mean little for Wazeera Salah, arriving at Baghdad's morgue with the body of her brother, Askar, who was killed during a gunfight between Shia militiamen and American soldiers. As an impoverished member of Iraq's Shia majority, which the previous regime subjected to brutality and oppression, Ms Salah said she lost two other brothers at the hands of Hussein, but added that life had changed little since. 'We've achieved nothing,' she said. 'At the time of Saddam we lost our young people. Now we're losing our young people.'