Iraqis forced to flee the occupation
It's so rare to read or hear stories in the American press about the millions of Iraqi who've been forced to flee their homes and are now struggling to get by. Last week on Your Call, we spoke to an Iraqi writer who was forced to flee with his family to Damascus and is now trying to find work to make ends meet. Out of a country of 27 million, 2.5 million have been forced to flee the country and another 2.5 million are internally displaced. Thanks to Deborah Amos for writing this story.
Since he had been threatened by both Sunnis and Shiites, I asked Arshad whether he identified himself as a Sunni or a Shiite. "I don't really know, but you have to know to live in Iraq," says Arshad, who has a Sunni father and a Shiite mother—not unusual among Baghdad's urban elite. "This is one of the reasons I left. One reason I won't go back. I have to feel myself as a human being, and I can't be a real human being if I have to declare whether I am Shiite or Sunni."
This is a common fear among Iraqi exiles. Returning to Iraq means choosing to live in Sunni or Shiite enclaves divided by high concrete walls. It means choosing a side and staking your life on that decision. The real-estate dilemma dictates the choice. Arshad's family home is now lost, because it is occupied by another family, which is likely to have been cleansed from yet another neighborhood. Moving back to Baghdad means choosing a new neighborhood, a new Iraq.
"Iraq is not a suitable place to live as a human. There are no dreams left in Iraq," says Sam, who didn't tell me his last name. "Everything is broken there." For Sam and thousands of other Iraqi exiles in Damascus, the recent lull in the killings in Baghdad is not enough to entice them home. They have middle-class values and middle-class dreams. As long as Iraq cannot accommodate their vision for an ordinary future, they will struggle in the uncertain life of exile."