Thursday, July 26, 2007
Iraqi Refugees
The haze of hubbly-bubbly smoke hangs thick and blue in the Saxaphone café in Amman, Jordan. It’s packed with eager Iraqi soccer fans, watching their team play South Korea in the Asian championships. Everyone here is a refugee. They’ve fled the grinding violence of Iraq, hoping for a better life. The noise is deafening – drums are flamboyantly pummeled, as men dressed in Iraqi soccer shirts dance and sing in support. I hang at the back of the packed room, as we film the chaotic scene. But despite my best efforts to remain anonymous and discreet, I am warmly proffered soft drinks on the house, by the owner, who is delighted to have an outlet for his generosity. In my experience, the most welcoming and hospitable people, are those who have nothing at all.

Jalal La’eighty is typical of the men gathered here. He arrived a year ago after the situation in Baghdad became intolerable. His two and a half year old son was kidnapped by a sectarian gang. Little Ali was released unharmed, but for Jalal it was the breaking point - he simply had to leave. At first, he and his family fled to Syria, but then they came to Jordan. In many ways they are lucky. Jalal lost his father to the civil war in Iraq, but his children and wife are alive and safe.

They are staying in the apartment of a family friend. But money is tight. Jalal is not allowed to work in Jordan; a condition of his admission to the country as a refugee. He had to borrow $4500 from a relative to pay for food. But he only has $300 left and doesn’t know what he’ll do when that runs out. In reality, he’ll probably be forced to work illegally. He isn’t just providing for his three children though – his family has been touched by tragedy in Jordan; his brother and sister in law were killed in a house fire in Amman, leaving three orphans. Jalal is now also looking after them. Six children, no income and no hope of a proper job – Jalal is facing a bleak and uncertain future. But he is relieved at simply having escaped the oppressive nightmare of Baghdad. His wife Siham, weeps as she admits that she may never breathe the air of Iraq again. The whole family desperately wants to go home – Jalal wants to take-up his job as a taxi driver in Baghdad again. They had a nice house, friends and family all around them But now it’s simply too dangerous to contemplate returning.

I ask him if life was better under Saddam. He says life is better now – but says the country is in chaos. He is resigned to life as a refugee for now. He’s determined not to put his family at risk again by returning to Baghdad – not until the kidnapping, torture and killing stops.

Jalal is just one of an estimated four million Iraqis who have been displaced by the sectarian violence. It’s putting a huge strain on Iraq’s neighbors, like Jordan and Syria. When they arrive, refugees want to send their children to state schools, they need hospital treatment and healthcare. Jordan is a country of just five million people, but the government estimates the population has been swelled by up to 750,000 Iraqi refugees. It’s stretching resources to breaking point. The UNHCR is appealing for $123 million dollars to help. For Jalal, with his dwindling $300 dollars of borrowed money, help can’t come soon enough. He needs money to feed his family and time is running out.

Watch my report


-- From Dan Rivers, CNN International Correspondent, in Amman.
My heart goes out to these people; Most westerners do not think about the 'little guy' and his family, but just of Bin Laden and Al-Queda (sp?). If your two and a half year old child was kidnapped by terrorists wouldn't you do ANYTHING you could to escape the possibility of it occurring again?
And then there are the fierce family bonds which exist in the Middle East and which have been in place for as long as history has been recorded. This man is obligated by his religious and societal dictates to take in and care for his nieces and nephews. He cannot turn his back, notwithstanding that he really has hardly anything left to give.
Everyone is so concerned that the War in Iraq is so important to win but the truth is that no one will win. The cost is so very, very high for the peole who had nothing to do with it, have no control and would not harm another person just as most of us would not.
The US has created this horror for these innocent people. It should spend some of its war budget on relief in Jordan and other areas strained by refugees.
As for generosity amongst the poor, I have first-hand experience that those who have next to nothing are the FIRST to offer to you whatever they can and that they do so with glad hearts. With wealth comes disdain, with poverty, strength of character.
Ontario, Canada
Thank you Dan for the heart warming Iraqi refugee story.

CNN; I just logged on your site, and took me a while to find this heart wrenching story. The Iraqi War Refugee father is NOT on Cnn's front page, but a more pressing news about "Oscar the cat" seems to be given front page news treatment!..Nor, is this story posted on the International Edition front page either, instead the "Hilton's Little Sister" seems to have a priority worthy issues, and is posted as Top Stories! and front page Popular News!...oh, yes, "Oscar the cat" did make it as your front page news as well...You are feeding us CRAP with your "cat" news and "Bimbo" news..Wondering why the average American is blessed with a touch of naiveté as far as the Iraqi refugee crises or the cruel reality of war?
This situation is really complicated, Iraq has become the second Palestine when it comes to refugees, scatered all over the globe. Even if Iraq war ends, which I doubt anytime soon, these refugees will find it hard to return home after their families stayed away that long and the fear of coming back to the unknown new Iraq, the Iraq refugee crisis has a long way to go yet. It doesn't seem that any leader in the New World Order created 17 years ago, has any answer to the Iraq problem, so the Iraq problem continues, will it go as long as the Palestinian problem..?
The Jordanian Government should be the first to provide jobs and opportunities for displaced Iraqis. If there is any country in the world that only benefited from the war, it's Jordan. There has been a genormous (gigantic and enormous; check the new Webster) inflow of Iraqi and Arab capital since the war started. Their economy is growing at an 'official' rate of 7%, but so is China's economy.
it just took a glimpse to say i protect myself but no one can ever explain why everybody want to protect your own selves??no single words can explain if no word you can find to explain..pitty on us
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