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IraqSide:Iraqi Diary
Fleeing Iraq
Iraqis Rejected, Humiliated by Arab Brethren
When Ignoring Plight of the Displaced Becomes Good Business
By CHRISTINA DAVIDSON 08/13/2007 12:30 PM ET
Baghdad, IRAQ: Crowds of Iraqis gather in front of Iraq's Passports Department to have their travel documents issued in Baghdad, 21 July 2007.
AFP/Getty
Baghdad, IRAQ: Crowds of Iraqis gather in front of Iraq's Passports Department to have their travel documents issued in Baghdad, 21 July 2007.

After enduring the daily brutality and pervasive fear of living in the war zone, Iraqis who run for the Jordanian border are discovering their suffering engenders little sympathy from their Arab brethren to the south.

Jordan has already absorbed an estimated 750,000 Iraqi refugees, so some tension resulting from the influx is to be expected, and attempts by Amman to limit the number of new arrivals would not be unreasonable. But recent accounts of Iraqis' attempts to enter Jordan do not speak of an overwhelmed bureaucracy as much as they do the deliberate and unnecessary humiliation of an already desperate and injured people.

IraqSlogger's Zeyad Kasim recently posted a video of the "jail" at Amman's airport, and the accounts of a number of Iraqi bloggers who were held there while waiting for the Jordanian authorities to put them on a plane back to Iraq.

And it's not just the displaced seeking shelter who are turned away by Jordan. George Packer prints the frustrated and dismayed e-mail of a former translator for the US, who is seeking admittance to the US, but needs the medical exam required as part of the visa-application process. The embassy in Baghdad does not perform the exams, so the State Department scheduled an appointment at the embassy in Amman.

Even though the man had an official letter proving that he had the appointment at the US embassy, the Jordanian border authorities interrogated and eventually rejected him, even suspiciously probing his reasons for wanting to leave Iraq.

Why do you want to emigrate from Iraq to US?
I think you know how the situation in Iraq is and I want to build my own life.

You want to immigrate to US to join US Army and come back to fight in Iraq?
No, it’s not mandatory for the Immigrants to join US army.

No, they will not grant you a US citizenship unless you join the military?
This is wrong, they will grant me a Green Card as resident until I get US citizenship after five years.

The translator was not given a reason for being barred from entry, though one scene convinced him that the Jordanians are punishing the Iraqis for not preventing the US invasion.

An Iraqi old man asked a Jordanian policeman after they didn’t let him in with his family “Why you are doing this to Iraqis while we are all brothers, we are all Arabs?" The Jordanian policeman answered, “If you kept your president Saddam Hussein, you would be respected and dignified now." Then the Iraqi shouted to him “So this is the real reason for prevent...” The Jordanian policeman interrupted him saying: “Keep silent or I put you in the jail."

Most of the Iraqis who attempt this journey have so little to begin with; everything they lose just adds to the tragedy of their circumstances. It's apparently not uncommon for Iraqis who fly to Amman to have their luggage "lost" on the return trip, and that just adds another burden to the US$500-1,000 wasted on the plane ticket.

The accounts of Iraqis being turned away from entry to Jordan has become so regularized that it is beginning to resemble a racket perpetrated against the most vulnerable of victims. Maura Stephens recently reported for Alternet that Iraqi Airways pilots have said they regularly fly in whole plane loads that the Jordanians then turn around and ship back to Iraq.

So while business booms on the Baghdad-Amman route, Iraqi civilians are funding it with their own wasted hopes and dwindling resources.

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