Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The land of widows, orphans and refugees

Since 2003, Iraq has become known as the land of widows and orphans.  All Iraq News reports today that MP Haifa Hilfi, who serves on the Women, Family and Children's Committee in Parliament, has publicly expressed surprise over what she calls the "neglect" on the part of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs to provide widows and orphans with the support they need.  This is not a minor issue in Iraq.  Yesterday,  All Iraq News noted that the largest percent of orphans in the Arab world are in Iraq where over five million exist as a result of the violence.  The CIA estimates 38% of Iraqis are 14-years-old or younger and only 3.1% of the population is over the age of 65.  The median age is 21.1-years-old.

Ramzy Baroud (Tripoli Post) writes of Iraqi children:

I remember visiting a hospital that was attached to Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. The odour that filled its corridors was not the stench of medicine, but rather the aroma of death.
At a time of oppressive siege, the hospital lacked even basic aesthetic equipment and drugs. Children sat and stared at their visitors. Some wailed in inconceivable pain. Parents teetered between hope and the futility of hope, and at prayer times they duly prayed.
A young doctor gave a sweeping diagnosis: “No child that ever enters this place ever leaves alive.” Being the young reporter I was at the time, I diligently made a note of his words before asking more questions. I didn’t quite grasp the finality of death.
Several years later, Iraq’s desolation continues. On August 16, 90 people were killed and more were wounded in attacks across the country. Media sources reported on the bloodbath (nearly 200 Iraqis were killed this month alone), but without much context. Are we meant to believe that violence in Iraq has transcended any level of reason? That Iraqis get blown up simply because it is their fate to live in perpetual fear and misery?
But the dead, before they were killed, were people with names and faces. They were fascinating individuals in their own right, deserving of life, rights and dignity. Many are children, who knew nothing of Iraq’s political disputes, invited by US wars and occupation and fomented by those who feed on sectarianism.

AKnews reports a 14-year-old boy was shot dead in front of his home Monday night and that a 23-year-old police officer has been arrested. Alsumaria reports the PKK states today that they have killed 11 Turkish soldiers and 1 police officer on the Turkey-Iraq border.  Yesterday AFP reported "at least 409 people" died in the month of Ramadan with another 975 left injured.  Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) noted last night that the Antiwar.com count for July 21 to August 18th was 711 deaths with 1590 injured.

Today, Hayder al-Khoei (Guardian) looks at the propaganda/recruitment videos al Qaeda in Iraq groups are making:

Another propaganda video, uploaded in mid-August, demonstrates just how sophisticated the jihadi operations are. They have live-fire training exercises in broad daylight and rehearse their attacks on security targets. In one of their operations, they storm the city of Haditha, in the Anbar province, in disguise and go from checkpoint to checkpoint killing the security forces.
The al-Qaida militants wear interior ministry "Emergency Response" uniforms and casually drive around the city in official Swat vehicles. The jihadists are heavily armed, use night-vision goggles and sophisticated communications equipment. Though the group is a mix of both Iraqi and foreign Arab jihadists, the men who use the walkie-talkies speak in an Iraqi accent. They understand, and copycat, the security "speech" in Iraq. The al-Qaida militants are so well disguised as members of the Iraqi security forces that at one point they even mistook each other for the real deal. In a dramatic "friendly fire" incident, jihadists shouted at each to stand down – not realising they were on the same side. Two of them were killed.

Depending on the press outlet, Syria is either feeding fighters into Iraq or siphoning them off. 
An estimated 15,000 refugees have arrived in Iraq due to the ongoing conflict in Syria. Reuters notes a UNHCR and Iraqi government refugee camp for Syrian refugees in Qaim and quotes refugee Ayad al-Ali stating, "The children do not get healthy nutrition, they eat adults' food, they are suffering from diarrhea."  That camp, however, sounds like a Hilton Hotel when compared to the slum Rudaw reported on at the end of last week:

Iranian Kurdish refugees residing in Waleed camp suffer from lack of services such as drinking water, electricity and a medical center.
In addition, Iraq’s Ministry of Interior is pressuring them to leave.
Waleed is located in Anbar province in the west, near the Syrian border. The camp -- which accommodates 120 Palestinian families, 24 Kurdish families and 19 Arab families from Ahwaz, Iran -- was established in June 2009.
For the past three months, the Iraqi government has been using various tactics to force the families to leave the camp, such as removing basic services like electricity and water. However, residents of the camp have been defying the government’s decision.   

Nouri didn't even want to take in refugees.  He was only shamed into doing it when he realized how much damage his statements that Iraq couldn't take in refugees was doing to his world image.

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