Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What the Iraqis were left with

Iraq is often called a country of widows and children due to the wars and the sanctions which killed off so much of the population and left the median age at 20.9 years.  In an oil rich country where there's no effort made to take care of the people, everyone does what they have to in order to survive.  Saleem al-Wazzan (Niqash) reports on child prostitution in Basra:

Naji is 15 years old; he’s been working here since he was 12.
"The people I have sex with are generous and kind though," Naji insists. "They are kind hearted and they love me. They bring me clothes and gifts and sometimes give me cigarettes. In return I give them my company and the joy of sex."
 A 2008 study undertaken by the well known Iraqi human rights organization, Al Amal (Hope), found that 72 percent of children of displaced families residing in Nasiriya, near Basra, were engaged in work inappropriate to their age, often more than seven hours per day, such as street cleaning and portering. The study, which surveyed 411 families with a total of around 1,200 children, also found that a lot of the child labourers were selling drugs or their own bodies.
Basra human rights activist, Sami Toman, believes that things are not that different in Basra. "That's despite the fact that Basra is the richest city in the country with regard to resources and oil," he added.
It is difficult to ascertain how widespread child prostitution is in Iraq -- a lot of the children involved won’t talk about it because they have been threatened by those who use them. But observers believe child prostitution is particularly widespread among Iraq’s displaced families -- that is, families who have been forced to flee to other areas due to sectarian or other violence in their hometowns. And there are an estimated one million displaced persons in the thriving southern province.

The CIA estimates 25% of the Iraqi population lives below the poverty line.  Throughout the war, that rate has remained more or less consistent.  There has been no improvement -- thus far -- for Iraqis despite claims by US officials of 'liberation' and 'democracy.'  Maybe they meant the 'liberation' of children selling sex to keep starving?  At the start of the year, Dahr Jamail (Al Jazeera) noted:

According to the UNDP, Iraq has a poverty rate of 23 per cent, which means roughly six million Iraqis are plagued by poverty and hunger, despite the recent increase in Iraq's oil exports. Iraq's Ministry of Planning has also announced that the country needed some $6.8bn to reduce the level of poverty in the country.
Zahra concurs.
"No-one in my family has a job," he said. "And in my sister's house, they are seven adults, and only two of them work."
Inside a busy market, Hassan Jaibur, a medical assistant who cannot find work in his field, is instead selling fruit. 
"The situation is bad and getting worse," he said. "Prices continue to rise, and there are no real jobs. All we can do is live today."

Layla Anwar (uruknet.com) noted that while the official unemployment rate is 30%, the actual rate is 50%.

At The Daily Beast, Iraq War veteran Matt Gallagher writes about the documentary The List which deals with Iraqis that helped US forces as interpreters, guides and in other roles and were led to believe that they would be able to get asylum in the US.  Those old enough to remember the early days of the war will no doubt remember that hundreds and hundreds of Iraqis were promised that in 2003 and most never saw it.  Most were basically left to live (or, more often) die in their own communities when their role with US forces ended.  Despite promises and a lot of strong talk from politicians, despite a White House quota system, most Iraqis who assisted US forces are still not getting asylum.  As Trudy Rubin's "Worldview: U.S. must do more to help Iraqis who helped us" (Philadelphia Inquirer) explains:

Consider this: In 2008, Congress mandated 25,000 special immigrant visas (known as SIVs) for Iraqis who helped us over a period of five years; fewer than 4,500 have been issued. According to State Department figures, 719 were granted in fiscal 2011 and 569 during the first six months of fiscal 2012. No breakthrough yet.

The following community sites -- plus Black Agenda Report, Adam Kokesh, Susan's On The Edge, Antiwar.com, The Diane Rehm Show, the House Veterans Affairs Committee and World Can't Wait -- updated last night and this morning:

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