Out of Iraq

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The hundreds of thousands of Iraqis fleeing carnage and chaos in their homeland each month aren’t arguing about whether to call that situation a civil war. They’re just leaving. According to reporter Nir Rosen, back in the U.S. after three months in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, the Iraqi refugee crisis is now among the worst refugee crises in the world:

[These Iraqis] don’t have the rights and privileges normally associated with refugees. They’re stateless. They can’t work. They’re desperate. Each family has horrible stories of car bombs, of death threats, of violence and rapes. They have no protection and no future.

Nir Rosen, in a conversation with Open Source, 11/28/06

What is life like for this refugee population, now numbering nearly two million? How are host countries like Jordan and Syria absorbing and coping with this population? Do these refugees threaten to destabilize these countries and the region even more? Are Sunnis and Shiites leaving in equal numbers? And what does the refugee crisis tell us about the situation on the ground in Iraq?

Nir Rosen

Fellow, The New America Foundation

Author, In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq

Author, Anatomy of a Civil War, Boston Review, Nov/Dec 2006

Open Source guest, Juan Cole: Iraq in 2006 and Nir Rosen on Iraq

Faiza Al-Araji

Iraqi refugee living in Amman, Jordan

Blogger, A Family in Baghdad

Sean Garcia

Refugee Advocate, Refugees International

Extra Credit Reading

Michael Luo, Iraq’s Christians Flee as Extremist Threat Worsens, Middle East Transparent, October 16, 2006: “At the Church of the Virgin Mary, Father Khossaba showed a visitor the baptism forms for parishioners leaving the country who need proof of their religious affiliation for visas. Some weeks he has filled out 50 of the forms, he said, and some weeks more.”

Faiza Al-Arji, Return to Baghdad A Family in Baghdad, November 14th, 2006: “I know exactly the danger of the situation there, but my longing for Baghdad destroyed me. And I took the risk, I told some people: if I die there, bury me, for it would be the peak of my happiness to be buried in my homeland, Instead of the torment of expatriation away from my beloved country. What is the meaning of life without a country?”

Salah Nasrawi, More Iraqi Refugees Escape to Syria, The Washington Post, November 29, 2006: “In Damascus, many Iraqis live a precarious existence, often without steady incomes. Many say they left Iraq after being threatened with abduction by criminal gangs or sectarian militias. ‘We are living like homeless people. How long can we survive after we spent all the money we had?’ asked Lutfi Kairallah, a civil engineer.”

Tom A. Peter, Iraqi refugees spill into Jordan, driving up prices, Christian Science Monitor, November 29, 2006: “‘Everything in Jordan is expensive because of the Iraqis,’ says Mohamed Arafha, a Jordanian barber. ‘Groceries, apartments, haircuts, everything.'”

Kenneth Pollack, Daniel Byman, Carriers of Conflict, The Atlantic Monthly, November 2006: “Refugees…can…corrode state power from the inside, fomenting radicalization of domestic populations and encouraging rebellion against host governments. The burden of caring for hundreds of thousands of refugees is heavy, straining government administrative capacity and possibly eroding public support for regimes shown to be weak, unresponsive, or callous. And the sudden presence of armed fighters with revolutionary aspirations can lead disaffected local clans or co-religionists to ally with the refugees against their own governments, especially when an influx of one ethnic or religious group upsets a delicate demographic balance, as would likely be case in some of Iraq’s neighbors.”

Hugh Macleod, Despair of Baghdad turns into a life of shame in Damascus, The Guardian, October 24, 2006: “Mona had become another victim of the growing sex trade among an Iraqi refugee community in Syria that local NGOs now estimate at 800,000 people, and to whose plight aid agencies say the international community continues to turn a blind eye.”

Khalaf, Iraqi refugees in Jordan, What’s up in Jordan?, November 28, 2006: “Not only is Human Rights Watch (HRW) asking to provide free services to the refugees already here, but it is also asking to let anybody who wants to enter to do so. Presumably, it we do this, the flood gates of funds from international donors will open and the financial burden created by this will be taken off our shoulders. HRW must think we are stupid.”

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