Kirkuk is desperate for both security and jobs. The local police force planned to hire approximately 1,300 recruits for the Spring training class, but it was no surprise when an estimated 4,000 men turned out to apply to join the force, ending the day with a confrontation between the police and the wannabes, who refused to leave.
Drew Brown in Kirkuk reports for Stars and Stripes on the troubled recruiting drive, giving a remarkably concise but fairly comprehensive and nuanced portrait of the difficulties facing the move to develop a professional, ethnically-balanced, corruption-free security force in Iraq.
The underlying theme of the story is the crushing desperation of unemployment, making one wonder what the 2,000+ men who walked home dejected last Thursday will be doing to put food on the table for their families.
Hussein Karim Hussein has been trying to join the police force here for the past four years.
The first time he tried to sign up, the 30-year-old Sunni Arab said an official demanded a bribe of 4 million Iraqi dinars, the equivalent of nearly $2,700, in exchange for getting him into the provincial training academy.
The second time he tried to join, another official wanted $2,000 in U.S. cash, Hussein said.
Exasperated, Hussein went to Baghdad, thinking he might have better luck by applying directly to Iraq’s Ministry of Interior.
“Unfortunately, I found there that if you’re not a member of a Shiite militia, then you can’t be a policeman for the Ministry of Interior,” Hussein said, speaking through an interpreter.
Hussein thought his luck might finally change when U.S. and Kirkuk police officials launched a new recruiting drive three days ago. However, his hopes were dashed one more time Thursday when he showed up at the provincial training center, only to find himself among thousands of other desperate job seekers.
“Right now, I’ve given up hope,” said a dejected Hussein, after he was turned away along with thousands of other applicants. “I was hoping that I might get hired today, but right now, I don’t think I will have any luck.”
Part of the reason Hussein missed a chance of employment this time was the overwhelming number of job seekers, but, as Brown reports later in the story, the recruiting session was shut down early after an American adviser reportedly observed an Iraqi policeman taking a bribe from an applicant.
A near-riot broke out as some so desperate for a job refused to leave, protesting that those who had gotten spots in the training class had paid bribes for them. Brown doesn't report how many of those slots had already been filled, but does say that the US commander on the scene said he would have enough soldiers and police advisers on the scene to prevent any bribery during the next round of recruitment.