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When General David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker testified before a Senate Committee this week, they pointed to "security improvements" and a "drop in violence" in Iraq over the last year, but there was one issue never mentioned: that's the issue of Iraqi refugees.

When General David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker testified before a Senate Committee this week, they pointed to "security improvements" and a "drop in violence" in Iraq over the last year, but there was one issue never mentioned: that's the issue of Iraqi refugees.

According to the UN Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration, almost 5 million Iraqis have now been displaced by violence in their country. Over 2.4 million fled their homes for safer areas within Iraq, up to 1.5 million are living in Syria, and more than 1 million refugees fled to Jordan, Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey and the Gulf States. I've just returned from Syria and Jordan where the influx of Iraqi refugees has created an enormous burden on these countries and is a massive humanitarian crisis.

Meanwhile, many of the Syrians and Jordanians I've spoken to are starting to complain about the effects of the Iraqi arrivals, and the resulting crowded schools and rising rents and real estate prices.

The initial wave of refugees, the vast majority of whom were wealthy Sunnis, went to Jordan, where the locals labeled them as the "Mercedes refugees."

In Syria the situation is different, as the Iraqi refugees are diverse in terms of ethnicity and religious affiliation, but they are less fortunate than those who went to Jordan, and typically live in cramped, barely heated basement apartments. Most of them have experienced the violent death or disappearance of an immediate family member. In most cases, families were given only hours or even minutes to prepare for departure. An Iraqi family I spoke to was threatened to be killed and was given 48 hours to depart. They blame the Iraqi government and the Americans.

Human trafficking, domestic violence, and prostitution are on the rise: something humiliating to the Iraqi refugees and a taboo subject in the Arab world. In Syria, I observed Iraqi teenage prostitutes working near hotels and wealthy Damascus neighborhoods. According to an NGO official: "many Iraqi women in Syria are choosing prostitution because it's far more lucrative than the $150 monthly stipend from the United Nations."

The United States is taking almost none of these refugees. In 2007, the US administration initially indicated it would accept 7,000 but ultimately took only 1,608...something the General, the Ambassador and President Bush failed to mention.

Originally posted to mosaicnews on Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 03:03 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Important observation (7+ / 0-)

    The absence of statements or questions about the refugees and displaced persons was shocking.

    Petreaus obliquely referred to it once, in that urban sectarian strife was diminishing, because of improved physical security measures separating parties.  More likely, the populations have adjusted, minority elements have already all been displaced.

    Those who hear not the music-think the dancers mad

    by Eiron on Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 03:17:52 AM PDT

  •  Petraeus obfuscates everything (6+ / 0-)

    He's an intelligent man, and one of the more competent soldiers in Iraq - but he seems to have dedicated himself to the Neocon delusions, and to be pushing for war with Iran.  

    What kind of koolaid did they give him, and why did he drink it?

    See the diary I just posted

  •  Petraeus is a political animal (4+ / 0-)

    He probably seems himself sooner or later in the WH.

    We're shocked by a naked nipple, but not by naked aggression.

    by Lepanto on Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 03:39:42 AM PDT

  •  Five Million Refugees plus dead (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Caoimhin Laochdha, luckylizard

    and wounded people.  Put that locally, everyone in Nebraska would be dead or wounded, everyone in Kansas would have moved to another state, everyone in South Dakota and North Dakota have left the state, and those numbers still don't amount to the total of those in Iraq.  More disturbing thought:  New York City citizens would not exist.

    "Man's life's a vapor Full of woe. He cuts a caper, Down he goes. Down de down de down he goes.

    by JFinNe on Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 03:50:56 AM PDT

  •  Was there any talk about water/malaria during (4+ / 0-)

    the hearings?  What was the meme a couple of weeks ago about "Blackwater malaria" breaking out...I've heard nothing out here in the sticks about the cost and effectiveness of those rebuilding contracts for basic water services.

  •  He told me enough. (6+ / 0-)

    We haven’t turned any corners. We haven’t seen any lights at the end of the tunnel."

           We are in the sisth year of this fiasco and there is still no end in sight. They guys in charge can't even define what victory is or how we get there.

    CHRISTIAN, n. One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. A. Bierce

    by irate on Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 04:05:26 AM PDT

  •  We have recreated (3+ / 0-)

    another population of refugees.  The read the papers every day, and are vulnerable to rumors and manipulation, because they are seeking signs that their plight might be relieved, somehow, that somebody knows and cares and is working on it.

    Our utter abdication of responsibility or action will feed their anger, our indifference will alienate them for generations to come.

    And what happens to young men with no hope, no pride, no money, property or jobs or porospects for marriage and family do?

    Those who hear not the music-think the dancers mad

    by Eiron on Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 04:11:59 AM PDT

  •  Amazing Town in Sweden (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gogol, luckylizard

    I was amazed to read this piece in the Guardian about a town in Sweden that has taken in more refugees from Iraq than the US and UK combined.

    Disgraceful on our part.

    Dialog macht Sinn / Dialogue makes sense

    by DowneastDem on Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 05:57:13 AM PDT

  •  And what happens (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    when at least some of these people want to come home?  How many actually have a home to which to return?  We are drawing down the splurge because security has improved after all the ethnic/sectarian cleansing.  Syria and Jordan cannot bear this burden forever and sooner or later they will encourage/insist that people leave.  In a situation as volatile as Iraq will likely remain for years, it will take only and incident or two to make the whole place blow up again.  

    What a bunch of fools...

    -7.62, -7.28 "We told the truth. We obeyed the law. We kept the peace." - Walter Mondale

    by luckylizard on Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 06:46:19 AM PDT

  •  shattered lives... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    My father-in-law, perhaps the most giving, loving man I've ever met - was a surgeon and professor in Baghdad. He went  through the overthrow of the Iraqi monarchy, through the coup in the Ba'ath part, through the cruelty of Saddam,  through the Iran-Iraq war, through Desert Storm and worst of all- according to him - through the sanctions- and finally through Shock and Awe and the U.S. Occupation. He never lost hope or doubted that someday he would see a truly free Iraq. He stayed and stayed as violence and lawlessness increased because, as a professional and a doctor and a highly educated man he believed it was his duty to stay and help ease the suffering and re-build his country.

    But the time came that he couldn't stay any longer because of death threats to doctors and academics. He had been attacked once and barely escaped with his life. He very, very reluctantly fled to Egypt with his family. He lost everything - his home, his savings, his clinic, his position at the hospital and university, his country and his sense of dignity.

    He speaks ill of no one. He wants more than anything to go back but it would be suicide.  He continues to hope for a better day

  •  Christ (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gogol, Eyz

    Will the horror from this war never end?

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