As Iraq deteriorated into chaos over the last decade or more, Iraqis fled to Syria not just because the US had gone to war against Saddam Hussein, but even earlier than that to escape Hussein’s regime itself (although NGOs like to blame the US for the exodus from Iraq).
Then, as some stability returned to Iraq, an undetermined number of “refugees” returned (we can’t really know the numbers because as this article points out, many did not register as “refugees.” ) Now, that the US is no longer in Iraq to help keep the warring factions apart, the country is sliding back into chaos. So is Syria. And, no one can blame the US for the Shia/Sunni civil war in Syria and across the Middle East. In fact, Andrew McCarthy makes a good point, here, when he suggests we let them fight it out themselves (Afghanistan shows we can’t bring western-style peace to feuds a millennium old).
So here is the story from Syria about Iraqis with no place to go, from al-akhbar. Pay attention to the fact that the “bad” Assad regime let the Iraqis work and educated their kids.
Starting in 2003, thousands of Iraqis started to flee their homes in search of refuge in neighboring countries, mainly Syria and Jordan. As violence and targeted killings, in particular of the Iraqi middle class, came to a head in 2006 and 2007, the number of refugees in Syria exploded to over one million, according to Syrian regime and Iraqi estimates. At more than twice the number of Palestinian refugees in Syria, the Iraqi community became the largest refugee community in the country.
But the majority of Iraqi refugees in Syria did not register with the UN. According to Souad al-Azzawi, an Iraqi environmental engineer, human rights activist, and herself a refugee, many of those who failed to register chose to lie low because they “sensed danger in handing over their personal information to the UNHCR. Some had been illegally detained by US occupation forces, or kidnapped, or feared assassination” by pro-Iran militias infiltrating the Iraqi-Syrian border, she said. [By the way, the Kentucky Iraqi terrorists passed through Syria and didn’t mind giving over their papers in which they lied to the UN—ed]
With reported death tolls in the thousands since the uprising began in March last year, Iraqis in Syria have generally not been turned into targets of violence as such, according to UNHCR spokesperson in Damascus Helene Daubelcour.
Though it is impossible to estimate the total number of people that have voluntary returned home, a worsening security situation in Iraq in recent months has only given refugees new reasons to stay away from their country.
The majority’s lack of better options has made Iraqis like Ibrahim face the future with a sad mixture of solidarity, pure resilience, and fatalism. She believes that, although things were somewhat better for Iraqis refugees just over a year ago, the deterioration of conditions of life for people in Syria as a whole “might just show the direction in which the whole Arab world is heading. We are worried about Syria. As for us, wherever we go, things won’t be much better. So we choose to stay,” she said.
I’m with McCarthy on this. We need to open up our own energy options in North America, help our ally Israel, but generally let the Arabs settle their own internal squabbles. If they want to live in the seventh century, so be it.