Iraqi refugees in Syria (Part II)

Last week I posted on a report from the Brookings Institution entitled, Iraqi Refugees in the Syrian Arab Republic, in an effort to answer the question, who are the Iraqis who have fled to Syria?  Since the United States has already begun resettling this fiscal year’s goal of 12, 000, it’s important for us to know who is coming to America.   See also Judy’s post about Christian Iraqi refugees in Jordan.

More from Brookings, who are they?

* “… many [are] urban, moderate or secular Sunnis who do not want to live under the sway of Salafi insurgent groups.”    Salafis are the hard-line fundamentalist Muslims.

* “Many of the Kurds seem to be crossing into Syria in the hope of obtaining third-country resettlment….”  Apparently in May, Kurdish men were crossing into Syria to register as asylees but then freely returned  home making them not true refugees.

*  Shia Iraqis are entering Syria looking for better economic conditions, to escape hardline Islam and to obtain resettlement in third countries.

* Many Christian Iraqis went to Syria in the 1990’s to escape the Saddam Hussein regime.  Others had worked for that regime and left after the regime was toppled.   Many Christians who stayed in Iraq worked for foreign organizations or the multinational forces and have now left Iraq.   The report mentions several times that Christians who sold alchohol were especially driven from Iraq by hard-line Islamic groups.

There are additional reports of radical Sunni insurgents asking Christians to pay the jizya to the Mosque or leave the country.   The report describes the jizya as “a head-tax that non-Muslims historically paid in Muslim states.” 

Brookings says the Iraqi Christians expect they cannot go back to Iraq but “that leaving Iraq will lead to the disappearance of their communities and their distinct identities.” 

* Then there were 30,000 Palestinians in Iraq, “favored under Saddam”.    Many have gone to Syria and some are in refugee camps along the border between Iraq and Jordan.   Somehow Hamas is involved in the “deadlock around the Palestinian refugees blocked between Iraq and Jordan.”   Incidentally recent reports are that some of these Palestinians are being resettled by Brazil.

*  Finally the report discusses the Sunni and Shia radical groups that have left Iraq and entered Syria.  The first group right after the invasion were members of the Saddam Hussein regime and then in the last couple of years the radicals are likely a result of stepped up military action by the multi-national forces (the Surge?).

According to Brookings some of these are coming as refugees, others come “for rest-and-recuperation, or even to check up on whether other members of the group are living cleanly, in keeping with strict Islamic instructions.”

At the end of this Brookings report, there are some statistics gathered from interviews of 192 Iraqis in Syria.   Although the sample must be too small to be accurate it is nonetheless worth mentioning.

44% of the Iraqis living in Syria are Sunni

22% Shia

13% Christian

73% are men

69% are aged 18-50

41% left Iraq in 2006

1% say they left due to an affiliation with the international presence

2% operated liquor stores

23% left due to sectarian violence

I kind of got a chuckle out of the statistics above.  The primary reason given by the mainstream media for the persecuted refugees who must come to America immediately is because of their involvement with the US government (as translators and such), yet only 1% gave that as a reason for fleeing Iraq.  

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