Baram answers your questions

This is an attempt to respond to the reactions to my brief comment from a few days ago.

“[Ricks and DeYoung]’s article nowhere mentions the plight of the over 2 million internal refugees in Iraq”.

I agree. If both kinds of refugees, 4m of them in total, start going back home, though, I am less worried that the US commanders. They will do this only once they ascertain that security is reasonably back and that their neighbors calmed down. House ownership in Iraq is still valid and most of the refugees took with them the title deeds (Qushans, Tabus) so at least legal problems like in Kirkuk, where Saddam rounded up people and drove them out, will not represent a major issue. Judging by similar experiences in Kosovo and Serbia, the returnees also are very likely to support each other, Sunnis, Shiis, Kurds, Christians (if the latter go back at all) because they will have a common cause. And the government, frail as it is, will try to help as well. So it will not be easy, but I don’t see another humanitarian catastrophe. Incidentally, the Catholic St John’s Church in Baghdad’s al-Dura neighborhood reopened a couple of days ago. This is a very positive sign of life returning to a more normal existence. However, there are around 50,000 Iraqis who will never be able to go home. These are the educated – in large part professional – Iraqis who collaborated with the US armed forces and US-sponsored contractors either as interpreters or as professional aids. Most of them are in Amman now. When they go back they will be killed by the Sunni and Shii militias. Their savings are running out. There were three attempts already on the life of a good friend of mine, an Iraqi American engineer who has spent the last four years in Basra, working with British military engineers on the barely-existing infrastructure there. He will leave with the British. He has a place to go, but those stuck in Jordan are stranded. Amatzia Baram”

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5 Responses to Baram answers your questions

  1. Homer says:

    Amatzia: However, there are around 50,000 Iraqis who will never be able to go home. These are the educated – in large part professional – Iraqis who collaborated with the US armed forces and US-sponsored contractors either as interpreters or as professional aids.
    It seems that the gung-ho right wingers, those virulent proponents of the war, those with faces, ears, lips, gums, and teeth stained in a purple far deeper than the purple inked thumbs of the Iraqi election, they are not helping these Iraqis (whom they never thought about before 2003) move from the ME to their quiet little burg in the Red States?
    “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

  2. Jose says:

    Thank you for your insight in response to our comments previously made.

  3. Tom says:

    Could I be rude and throw in a link to Dan Hardie’s blog ( – he’s been campaigning for the British authorities to live up to our responsibilities to those Iraqis who worked for us in Basra and are now in extreme danger, and is offering to act as a point of contact.

  4. taters says:

    Dear Sir,
    Thank you very much for an informative post.
    Perhaps there will be a mass held this Christmas in Baghdad.

  5. Thank you very much for introducing this topic into discussion.
    Tom, I think your link to Dan Hardie’s blog is great, and most appreciated. Kirk Johnson has been trying to bring the issue to light in the States, having started with a list of over a hundred former USAID employees who had been chased into hiding.
    I worked in Baghdad as an Arabic interpreter and Iraqi NGO coordinator from April 2003 to February 2004. Four of my closest friends there were threatened with death and/or forced to flee the country because they had worked with us as translators and support staff or had met with us as civil society activists. The first of these threats happened while I was there, around August or September 2003. But we started seeing leaflets saying “Those who have been warned have no excuse,” or something along those lines, as early as May.
    Since then, two of my friends made it to Jordan with their families. A civil society activist made it to the United States and is now requesting asylum. Let’s wish him luck. The fourth friend was determined not to leave but finally saw too much, and he ended up in the United Arab Emirates where he was able to obtain a visa. A year later this expired. By this time the Emirates was on alert due to all all the new Iraqi men, and announced they would only extend visas for doctors and engineers.
    The CPA never issued passports during its term, but single trip “travel papers” could be obtained for special instances from summer 2003 to June 2004. It was a great hassle to obtain these papers, as I know from when I had to organize travel for some Iraqi civil activists. Sometime before or after the CPA was dissolved, the Iraqi MoFA began to issue new, S-series passports. These were handwritten and could have been easily copied, so they were invalidated in 2006 and replaced with the new, G-Series passport. The G-passport is fabled to be one of the most technologically advanced and secure in the world, presumably to make it harder for the bad guys to go sneaking around. As a consequence, all previous Iraqi passports, including the S-series, have been declared invalid. So the passports of many thousands of Iraqi refugees, if not virtually all 4 million, have expired. Jordan will not let Iraqi males into their country without the G-passport. The only way to get a G-passport is to go back to Baghdad and one in person at the Foreign Ministry. This is not a trip many people are willing to risk their lives to take.
    One way around this is to pay a bribe. This can easily be $1000.
    As for my friend, his visa in the Emirates was about to run out, and he knew it would be difficult to overstay it. He went to Jordan, where for whatever reason the customs agent decided to put him to jail. Three days later, he was released and dumped into Syria, where he was given a temporary six-month visa. When this visa expired he was told he would be able to renew it, but would have to exit Syria, crossing the border into Iraq, and then come back over for the new stamp. This again is not a trip many people are willing to risk their lives to take.
    In the end he was accepted for asylum in Denmark, having had worked for their mission as well. While the US makes feeble gestures such as the so-called 7000 visas for supporters from Iraq and Afghanistan this year (and of which only a handful has been approved), Scandinavia is the only part of the West that is actually taking them in. The most generous country so far has been Sweden, which opposed the Iraq War from the beginning and had nothing to do with it.
    Unfortunately, I think many people in the US mostly see this issue first and foremost in terms of immigration and homeland security, and presidential candidate Tom Tancredo is vocal in the Senate about keeping the Iraqis out.
    As we’re now in election mode, I fear 2008 won’t bring any better news. Neither party wants to set off any more controversy over the issue, at least not yet. Bush is the only one who can act on this, and I don’t expect anything like this from him.
    Come on Bush, surprise us!

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