Friday, February 16, 2007
When a stinking shanty is better than home

An Iraqi girl displaced from her home waits in line with her mother for aid in Baghdad's Sadr City.

Karima Rasool Ridha looks older than her 40 years, but it's not surprising, given the life she's leading.

Karima used to have a house in Baghdad, a comparatively comfortable existence. That ended when masked men came, telling her to leave her home and everything in it or she and her son would die.

Karima is now one of an estimated 1.5 million Iraqis forced from their homes by their country's sectarian bloodletting. Last year, reports say, up to a thousand people fled their own homes every single day. Karima is Shia, forced out by Sunni extremists. But it works both ways: Shia also force Sunni to run for their lives.

Many move in with family members in already crowded houses. Others leave the country, if they can afford it. People like Karima end up in so-called "camps for internally displaced persons." It's a bureaucratic term for what are actually quite chilling places.

Karima's new home is a filthy, sewage and garbage-ridden plot of land she shares with dozens of other families. Her 16-year-old son does little during the day, as there's no school, no work, and little safety outside their fetid enclosure.

Iraq's prime minister has promised to help people get back to their homes, their old communities. But the stark reality on the ground is that people like Karima won't go.

"I don't trust his words. I don't believe it," she says. "There's no safety in going back."
Posted By Michael Holmes, CNN International Anchor: 11:37 AM ET
  31 Comments
I certainly can't blame Karima for not wanting to go back until she is sure they'll be safe... A "stinking shanty" is better than dying or rape first then dying... I don't think there is a solution just yet...Oh my, what a mess...
Posted By Anonymous Sherry, Sarasota, Fl : 12:23 PM ET
Weaker nations need help from successfully rich nations. By taking in Iraqi refugees, the U.S. is showing the world that there are places on earth that can exercise freedom without totalitarian religious rigidities. They show the brainwashed suicide bombers that there is something called harmony and diversity that can be celebrated.

Iraqis should be helped world over. G-8, please take them in if you can. I know you can. The refugees should come see and maybe one day go back to rebuild a free and fair Iraqi State for their children and children´┐Żs children. We only got one earth, one Iraq; how is it so hard to live together. I know it will take time for Iraqi leaders to rise above age old traditions and feuds. The fathers of the militia may hate each other, but the Shia child and the Sunni child are suffering, and together they will seek solace in peace after the feudalists have passed on.
Posted By Anonymous Curien Migan, Huntington WV : 1:29 PM ET
I saw the mention of the Sunni's also being forced to run for their lives. Where are they being forced to go? Are they going to these "camps" too?
Posted By Anonymous Jemaul, Savannah Georgia : 1:59 PM ET
Thanks for telling these stories. Like a tree falling, if nobody sees or hears it, it must not be happening.
Posted By Anonymous linda, bella vista,ar : 2:07 PM ET
What can you say. You have a very complicated war that includes sectarian violence. The easy thing is to have compassion on the victims both Shia and Sunni, and I do; but the answer to their plight is so complicated and so far off the horizon that to hear stories of displacement of Iraqi citizens is just heartbreaking. Blogs like this one are difficult to really do justice to because their problems lie in the fact that they are in a war that will not be easy to end.
As an American citizen, I will be voting for the people who I believe have the best ideas about the war in Iraq. I hope that on the Iraqi side there are some relevations or epiphanies that arise out of leadership that helps bring the sectarian violence and hatred to an end. Then this family, and many others like them, can begin to pick up the pieces and rebuild their lives.
Posted By Anonymous Madeliene Bolden, Atlanta,Georgia : 2:20 PM ET
Michael/AC360:
When the US invaded Iraq, it set off circumstances the current administration could not have pre-visualized.

The Shia and Sunni tribal hatred has been going on for centuries. Are we so arrogant to think we can "control" this wedge through our military might?

When a report is funneled down to one individual like Karima, we see the hopelessness she is facing every day. With so many promises broken by our military and the "elected" Iraq government, I can understand Karima's is reluctant to trust anyone.

Unfortunately, in the end, Karima and her family are just a statistic in the "camps for internally displaced persons."

Thank you for Karima's story. We need to see more reports on families and individuals surviving in the middle of the war.

Maybe it makes us feel more conscious about the war or maybe it just makes us feel more responsible. Either way, it is very uncomfortable feeling the human side of this insane war.
Posted By Anonymous Liz, Milwaukee, Wisconsin : 2:28 PM ET
It's important for people to understand what Iraqi civilians are experiencing every day. For instance, Karima and her family.

Picture yourself in the comfort of your home. Then imagine masked gunmen violently busting into your home and telling you that you and your family must leave or be killed. Imagine your family being forced to retreat to some refugee shanty town among other "displaced persons", completely unable to return home.

This is the reality of the Iraqi people.
Posted By Anonymous Jason Smith, Elmhurst, IL : 3:06 PM ET
That is such a sad life to lead; not much of a life really. I hope that some kind of peace will come soon, for her especially.
Posted By Anonymous Jess, Paris, KY : 3:08 PM ET
At the end of the day this is what monotheistic religion has done to us all. Jews, Christians and Muslims are all branches of the same tree that Abraham planted. Each willing to kill the other in the name of God. When will we learn to look inward and realize that we have perverted Gods vision to meet our greed. The rivers of this earth overflow with Abrahams tears for this tragedy.
Posted By Anonymous Jeremy Phoenix,az : 3:23 PM ET
Once again, another reason I shouldn't take my life for granted. I cannot imagine what their lives are like. My prayers continue to go out to those who suffer throughout the world.
Posted By Anonymous Sandy Lititz, PA : 3:24 PM ET
I spent 12 months in Iraq in 2005. I'd be interested to know if there is a place in Iraq that isn't covered in garbage and sewage. Have you been to one of their cities outside Baghdad?
Posted By Anonymous Danny, Columbus, OH : 4:22 PM ET
Very sad to know what a mess this war has created. The war has caused much more deeper problems than the media can depict to the general public .This is just touching the surface. No aid,sympathy or anything that these developed nation gives will get them back their lives.

Stop the war !! give them life and get a life Mr Bush !!
Posted By Anonymous Priya Junnarkar , Fremont,CA : 4:25 PM ET
Yet another story that shows why Bush's words a few weeks back (on 60 Minutes)--he said that the Iraqi people owe us a "debt of gratitude"-- exemplify that the man simply has no clue.

One thousand people a day! Unless we understand more about the realities in Iraq (and, therefore, more about where the violence is coming from), we will get nowhere.

Where is the aid for these people? Again, it is a sad example that Hamas and other similar groups knows to buy respect with projects, food, and supplies, but we can't even get the light to stay on in Baghdad. Or half of New Orleans for that matter...
Posted By Anonymous Norah, West Chester, PA : 4:51 PM ET
This information can't be right - the US invasion of Iraq has led to improving their lives of Iraqis over what they had when Saddam was there. This must be both a left wing, Bush-hating press and a terrorist attemt to weaken our resolve.

I still don't understand - we impeach a president for lying about "sex" with an intern and we defend a president for at best incompetence and at worst lying to undertake a war that has affected millions and cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

So it is more important for Americans to be honest with their sexual relations than be responsible for the death and hardship of millions of individuals? Is that the morale we teach our kids? Be honest about having sex but feel free to beat up other kids if you think it is the right thing to do.

I read other comments on this and the other related blog entry and I am really scared about the utter ignorance and self-centric, American comes first whatever the cost attitude.

The nation's soul is tainted by every blood shed and every hardship faced by Iraqis. We will all have to answer for what we as individuals did or failed to do to the least of our brothers and sisters.

Perhaps given that it was easy for some of those commenting to relate all middle eastern/iraqis as potential terrorists. Whatever they need to sleep easy at night. It doesn't change the story in the end.

I do agree strongly with another comment made that we have to be able to do what we can to assist Katrina victims. Perhaps that begins with redirecting Iraq military funds to Katrina aid. I'd like to see that bill and which politician will vote for it. That tells us what is more important in this country - vengence or the lives of people in this country.
Posted By Anonymous Peter, West Sacramento, CA : 5:35 PM ET
Please tell me how this woman's life is better since the invasion of Iraq? We keep hearing Bush and his crime war cronies saying life is better, they have freedom and are thankful to the Americans. George Bush is not only out of touch with his own countries citizens but seems he has no clue as to what is really going on in Iraq. Does Cheney give him an edited report complete with smiley face stickers and glitter? WAKE UP!!! I don't know what to believe about our government anymore. Are these men evil and greedy? Or are they idealists thinking America can sprinkle freedom dust throughout the world?
Posted By Anonymous Katherine, Woodland Hills, CA : 6:17 PM ET
As a Muslim I am suprised and disgusted with what is happening there. I mean these people who are forcing each other out of their homes, in my opinion, do not have a religion and both sides are doing what they believe with a political agenda behind them. We messed up their homeland and we should accept them here in america with open hearts. Children, women, and innocent men should not have the same punishment as extremists. I am asking all of you, together, from all faiths, to pray for these children and innocent to get out of this battle ground to a safer place to grow up like our children safely.
Posted By Anonymous Hadiya . Monmouth Junction, NJ : 6:30 PM ET
What does it take to make Americans realize their government has committed the gravest atrocity in this young century? I know that no government in this world actually represent the its people, but where is the outrage from Americans?
Posted By Anonymous George Tang, Champaign, IL : 6:50 PM ET
Once again, women & children are paying the price. The boys,teenagers,with no school,no future,are a wonderful prey for terrorists,what a great time to recruite them,isn't?

I know some will say,we need to take care of us first,but hey, they are in need,they don't deserve this. When something happens in our wonderful countries, we are expecting people to help,appalled if the help doesn't come fast enough. Guess what? It goes both ways.

I know in Canada, we have Iraqis refugees. THe most fortunate(and yes,look around,we are) need to help the refugees. They are not just caracters in a story we see on tv,they are real human beings. We have to look out for each other,where ever we are.

Joanne R.
Laval Quebec
Posted By Anonymous Joanne R.Laval Quebec : 7:13 PM ET
Something needs to be done, but it can't be by removing the good people. If you do, then only the evil ones will remain and there will be chaos. Some of these good people are helping stopping the violence. What needs to be done is to create a pseudo-dicatorship/communism that does what is in the best interest of the country, until it is stable. Then slowly, the power has to be returned to the people. While under the dictatorship/communism, strict rules, strong army, and lots of control is necessary. The only difference between Saddam is that this govn't will do what is good for the people. Hopefully, law and order follows.
Posted By Anonymous Jim Fox, Bronx NY : 7:20 PM ET
Jemaul,

Sunnis do have camps. Most travel outside of the country to arab countries., and some go to highly populated sunni areas. But many do not care where they go, it just needs to be safe. Most share safe cities with Shias.
Posted By Anonymous Hadiya . Monmouth Junction, NJ : 9:57 PM ET
It's stories like these that make me wonder if this region will ever become stable. I can't imagine, with all the hate in Iraq (and many other places) Sunnis and Shias being able to coexist with each other peacefully...it really is heartbreaking.
Posted By Anonymous Colleen, Columbus Ohio : 12:07 AM ET
It seems like these people are in dire need of a helping hand. I don't know how our lawmakers expect to help them by withdrawing our forces. People like this Karima are the people who will suffer from partisan politics. Let's finish the job we started.
Posted By Anonymous Mike Van Heyde, Cleveland, OH : 1:31 AM ET
Since the US is mainly responsible for the war in Iraq, perhaps the President should allow all the refuges to start a new life in the US.
Posted By Anonymous Kalidistonia, Pittsburgh PA : 8:34 AM ET
karima is only one of the many iraqis who're going to have to leave iraq due to lack of security.iraq's prime minister can only offer false guarantees and reassurances...these people have seen their houses being blown up into pieces and he expects them to feel safe?
Posted By Anonymous naurah,lahore,pakistan : 10:01 AM ET
Karima like other citizens of our world is facing a less than desirable life syle. Situations that are inevitable such as weather, war, earthquakes, financial circumstances, and family break ups may all interrupt what we deem to be normal living conditions. Last weekend I watched a rerun on CNN about the Mississippi vicitims of hurricane Katrina. The impacted area where the storm made landfall was much worse than any war zone I had ever seen. Insurance companies have refused to pay claims and people who were once living relatively well-to-do are now refugees of weather.
In both situations the victims have absolutely no control of their fate. They are random people caught up in random disasters.
The saddest thing is that the children in all of these situations suffer daily. Their education is interrupted, friends are gone and their innocence is taken. The carefree childhood years have been replaced by unknown and fear. Things that children should never have to experience.
God bless Karima and her son in their journey back to somewhere normal. May they find a better place than they have ever been before. May life go from "fetid" to "fabulous" for them.
Good Luck Karima!!!
Posted By Anonymous Zann Martin, Tennessee : 11:24 AM ET
I'm not sure what question you have for us Michael? This is what happens during civil war - unrest. People are displaced. The already poor suffer the most with no way out and no hope. There is no logic behind who survives and who doesn't. It would be interesting to follow this family for a year and see what happens. Now it's just another sad story of war - not real to the public at large. It's sad to me that the American public is more interested in who's the father of Anna Nicole Smith's baby than more important human needs and suffering.
Posted By Anonymous Cheryl Raleigh, NC : 12:08 PM ET
I am so sick of this war. There are so many innocent people dying, being raped, tortured, and displaced. Families are being ripped apart. We have a "president" who is so God-awefully ignorant he has turned the entire planet against us. An administration consisting of his cronies and greedy murderers. I dont know if the world can take another 2 years of this imbecile. I cant believe how many people are running for president this time, who in their right mind would want to inherit the disaster bush created? We need to happily take in these people. We need to give them all the aid they need and deserve. And we need to get the hell out of Iraq. Not next year, not tomorrow. NOW!!!!!
Posted By Anonymous nathan, junction city, ks : 1:49 PM ET
Places like this camp will exist indefinately because no matter what the US or the UN do over there to try to help it is going to take effort to make things work on the part of the citizens of Iraq, and it is going to take a bit of faith in their system. the quote was "I don't trust it" while that is probably based on good reason, there has to come a poit where these people look around and say, changes have been made, and we need to try again. My husband is deployed now, stationed near Baghdad, and he flies over the area daily. He has told me that they can see new buildings going up and things getting cleaned up in many places. No, things will not be perfect for them, not for a long time, but they can be better if more people try. Their government will never work if they do not work with it. It is a democracy now, they have to power to make change for themselves, they just need to realize that and exercise it. The insurgents are not afraid to pick up a weapon and fight for what they believe, why is it everyone else over there is?? If they want it bad enough, they need to stand up and fight for it!
Posted By Anonymous Kim, Fort Hood TX : 1:30 AM ET
As heart-wrenching the story may be, there is no "happily-ever-after" in sight. When people say that the US can pull out soon and Iraq will be a free, democratic government, they are forgetting that these people have be rulled by religious totalitarian form of government for thousands of years. This problem will not be solved anytime soon and I fear this poor girl may never see that complete safety soon.
Posted By Anonymous Lauren, Walnut, California : 3:08 AM ET
Wow, what a double edged sword you're asking us to hold, Michael. I'd like to think that the lack of comments on this story isn't due to a lack of interest, but rather, a sense of foreboding so horrified, so amazed, so utterly without answers. It's so awful..."collateral damage" doesn't describe it. What ARE our obligations...? Well, isn't it OBVIOUS? I mean, come on. You start a war, you invade a country, all on the excuse of doing "the greater good"--and then, what, you "forget" what "the greater good", what RESPONSIBILITY means? Look--we're either the good guys, or we're the bad guys. In war, there are no in-betweens. Isn't it time to decide which color hat we want to wear, then, once and for all? And isn't it awful, too, that for those of us Americans who do not support this war, that we will forever have to face the equal burden, both financial amd emotional (ie guilt and loss of face to the outside world, for decades, man, DECADES to come) of those who do support this war?
Posted By Anonymous Lauren Rogers, Wheeling, WV : 8:37 PM ET
I don't blame Karima at all for not wanting to put her family and herself at risk. Even if she did trust the prime minister's words, one still can't take chances.
Posted By Anonymous Hannah, Gail, Texas : 3:21 PM ET
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