At least 25,000 Iraqi refugees have returned to their beleaguered homeland from Syria since mid-September, according to preliminary estimates released Monday by the Iraqi Red Crescent. The figure represents a fraction of the estimated 1.5 million Iraqis who fled to Syria in recent years to escape the sectarian violence and ethnic cleansing in Iraq.
[. . .]
The vast majority of the returning refugees, roughly 20,000, came back to the capital, Baghdad, where their well-being is far from assured. The agency said many had found squatters in their homes and had had to seek sanctuary elsewhere, leading to a rise in the number of people displaced within Iraq.
The above is from Cara Buckley's "Red Crescent Says 25,000 Iraqi Refugees Have Returned" (New York Times). Again, 25,000 since mid-September -- no 45,000 in one month (October), nothing like the inflated numbers the puppet government has repeatedly told the press. The longer version of Buckley's report (noted in yesterday's snapshot) didn't make it into print but you can find it online at the San Francisco Chronicle and it includes on yesterday's violence:
More than 300 teachers or educational employees have been killed since the start of the war in March 2003, according to the government.
Another assassination was reported in the northern city of Kirkuk. Police Brig. Gen. Sarhad Qadir said men traveling in two vehicles opened fire on a car carrying a sheikh who was involved in community efforts to fight insurgents. The sheikh, Atallah Iskender, was killed, as was his driver.
The assailants dragged the bodies from the vehicle and burned them on the road, Qadir said.
Iskender was a member of the Hawija Awakening Council, which has recruited about 6,000 volunteers to work alongside U.S. and Iraqi forces to quell the insurgency in the region. Hawija is a mainly Sunni city near Kirkuk that has been plagued by insurgent attacks.
Another member of the Awakening Council assassinated? Nobody tell Martha Raddatz, it would jar with her understanding of the situation.
While the central (puppet) government in Iraq bribes and buses the Iraqi refugees in from Syria, Hannah Allam and Miret el Naggar offer a look at conditions in Syria in "Iraqis in Syria face food shortages" (McClatchy Newspapers):
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees in Syria face a bleak winter, with rising fuel costs that could leave many without enough money for food, the director of the World Food Program said Monday.
About a third of Iraqi respondents in a recent United Nations study said they skipped one meal a day to feed their children. Nearly 60 percent said that they're buying cheaper, less nutritious food to cope with a dramatic increase in prices.
With the weather turning colder and heating prices rising, humanitarian workers predict more Iraqis will go hungry in order to keep up with rent and utilities.
"We need more help here," WFP executive director Josette Sheeran said in an interview.
The WFP, a U.N. agency that is the world's largest humanitarian organization, provides food to about 50,000 Iraqi families who've sought refuge in Syria. Sheeran said that her organization doesn't have the funds to maintain its $5.6 million operation and that she soon will call for more international assistance.
Along with the myths of the 'Great Return' hurting refugees who, with few other choices and believing the hype, attempt to return, it also hurts the displaced who are not returning because -- in a month known for charitable donations -- it sends the impression that this is a cause/charity people can cross off their list and move on to something more pressing.
Tensions rise between Moqtada al-Sadr and the US as Australia's Herald Sun reports:
RADICAL Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr overnight blasted US President George W. Bush for signing a deal with Baghdad that ensures a long-term American military presence in Iraq.
"I say this to the evil Bush - leave my country," Sadr said in the Shiite holy city of Najaf.
"We do not need you and your army of darkness," he said.
"We don't need your planes and tanks. We don't need your policy and your interference. We don't want your democracy and fake freedom. Get out of our land."
Sadr's salvo comes a week after the US president and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced a deal ensuring a long-term presence of US forces in the country.
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