Patterico's Pontifications

11/3/2007

Iraqi Refugees returning to Baghdad

Filed under: General,War — DRJ @ 4:46 pm



[Guest post by DRJ]

Iraqi Sunni refugees who had previously taken refuge in Syria are returning to Iraq, and the flow of refugees from Iraq to Syria has largely reversed:

“In a dramatic turnaround, more than 3,000 Iraqi families driven out of their Baghdad neighborhoods have returned to their homes in the past three months as sectarian violence has dropped, the government said Saturday.
***
Mahmoud al-Zubaidi, who runs the Iraqi Airways office in Damascus, the Syrian capital, [said] the flow of Iraqis has almost reversed. What were once full flights arriving from Baghdad now touch down virtually empty, he told Al-Sabah, the government funded Iraqi daily newspaper.”

The report describes the al-Azawi family’s return to Baghdad:

Saad al-Azawi, his wife and four children are among them. They fled to Syria six months ago, leaving behind what had become one of the capital’s more dangerous districts—west Baghdad’s largely Sunni Khadra region. The family had been living inside a vicious and bloody turf battle between al-Qaida in Iraq and Mahdi Army militiamen.

But Azawi said things began changing, becoming more peaceful, in August when radical anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his Mahdi Army fighters to stand down nationwide. About the same time, the Khadra neighborhood Awakening Council rose up against brutal al-Qaida control—the imposition of its austere interpretation of Islam, along with the murder and torture of those who would not comply.”

The US Military is working to encourage the reopening of refugee-owned and new businesses:

“The 40-year-old al-Azawi, who has gone back to work managing a car service, said relatives and friends persuaded him to bring his family home. “Six months ago, I wouldn’t dare be outside, not even to stand near the garden gate by the street. Killings had become routine. I stopped going to work, I was so afraid,” he said, chatting with friends on a street in the neighborhood.

When he and his family joined the flood of Iraqi refugees to Syria the streets were empty by early afternoon, when all shops were tightly shuttered. Now the stores stay open until 10 p.m. and the U.S. military working with the neighborhood council is handing out $2,000 grants to shop owners who had closed their business. The money goes to those who agree to reopen or first-time businessmen. Al-Azawi said he’s trying to get one of the grants to open a poultry and egg shop that his brother would run.

“In Khadra, about 15 families have returned from Syria. I’ve called friends and family still there and told them it’s safe to come home,” he said.”

Even the AP grudgingly realizes the trends are positive:

“In the past three months, the ministry did not register any forced displacement in the whole of Iraq,” said [Sattar Nawrous, a spokesman for the Ministry of Displacement and Migration], who is a Kurd.

The claim could not be independently verified, but, if true, it would represent a dramatic end to the sectarian cleansing that has shredded the fabric of Baghdad’s once mixed society.

More good news for Iraq.

— DRJ

18 Responses to “Iraqi Refugees returning to Baghdad”

  1. I blame Bush.

    Old Coot (06fab9)

  2. It’s a beautiful thing to see.

    syn (7faf4d)

  3. We’ve been given nonsensical estimates of the numbers of Iraqi refugees in Syria for several years. At times the estimate has been more than 10% of the prewar population. The estimates published by AP among other news services have always been based on unverified numbers given out by the Syrians. Even when the stories have been attributed to UN or AI when you actually read the story it has always come down to numbers supplied by Syria.

    I wonder whether those 2.5 or 2.7 million numbers will hold up now. Can’t see AP saying that 2 million plus Iraqis are returning to the quagmire.

    Just Passing Through (d7a06d)

  4. Hey, Iraqi government forced Syria to kick refugees out (stricter rules for visas etc.), so they basically have no choice. But people locked up in a place they don’t want to be Soviet style is certainly a good news as long as you don’t think about it.

    Nikolay (939eb6)

  5. Hey, Iraqi government forced Syria to kick refugees out (stricter rules for visas etc.), so they basically have no choice.

    Link, please, to how the Iraqi government forced Syria to do anything. Or, to refugees being forcibly evicted by neighboring Arab countries. It’s not like they’re Palestinians.

    Pablo (99243e)

  6. Link, please

    NYTimes

    Syrian officials have said they were responding to a longstanding request from the Iraqi government to close their border, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, following government policy. They said the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, told Syrian leaders on a state visit in August that the constant flow of refugees undermined the Iraqi government’s effort to bring greater security to the country.

    RiverBend
    Healing Iraq
    You might also have heard about the rules forbidding college-educated doctors to leave the country and other Soviet-like stuff.
    On the subject of forceful eviction from Syria I haven’t read yet, but obviously declaring all the refugees illegal was the first step in that direction.

    Nikolay (939eb6)

  7. Syria stops letting them in of it’s own accord = Iraq forces Syria to kick them all out?

    Brilliant, Nikolay. Just brilliant. How’s life in Pravdaland these days?

    “The situation here is degrading, and getting worse all the time for Iraqis,” Mr. Aydan said as he played backgammon in a teahouse in Sayeda Zeinab.

    Saif Jassem, 25, fled to Syria last November, after he was fired from his job in Baghdad. His gratitude is tempered by the fear that he will be forced to return to the war that claimed his father’s life.

    He described life for the Iraqis in Syria as “tragic,” adding, “We need a solution for the entire Iraqi community.”

    Quagmire. Which is a pity, as Syria has always seemed like such a delightful place to live.

    Pablo (99243e)

  8. Good news? Bury it deep.

    Banjo (b5278d)

  9. Or refuse to admit it like the NYT.

    Paul (66339f)

  10. Interesting excercise…
    Switch “Syria” with “US” and “Iraq” with “Mexico.”…anyone?

    paul from fl (47918a)

  11. Iraq is an ally of the US. It is great news they are doing better.

    Wesson (fd354d)

  12. Nikkolai is a tool. I thought the lack of independent verification was quite ironic. Lack of verification has never stopped the media from running with a story before.

    JD (49efd3)

  13. Nikkolai is a tool. I thought the lack of independent verification was quite ironic. Lack of verification has never stopped the media from running with a story before.

    So your point is, this thing about Syria closing the borders and depriving refuges of the legal status because of the request from Iraqi government never happened because you don’t trust newspapers?
    Would you also say that the indisputable fact of borders being closed and refugees being pushed out is also somehow not real?

    Nikolay (939eb6)

  14. I wonder Nikolay … how does your little factoid (if true) counter the fact that there are still thousands of families who are returning from Syria (and other nations) of their own accord. Not all are doctors after all. And opening businesses that are closing as late as 10pm … where that was once impossible without risking a 50/50 chance of being killed?

    I mean, it’s not as if you trust newspapers either. Because you seem to be distressed at and rejecting any information suggesting any improvement in Iraq – which has been on quite a few newspapers now. So the question I’m asking is this; do you believe things are improving in Iraq or not? Why not? It’s in the papers …

    Martin A. Knight (d9e9c4)

  15. I wonder Nikolay … how does your little factoid (if true) counter the fact that there are still thousands of families who are returning from Syria (and other nations) of their own accord. Not all are doctors after all.

    How do you know that they are returning of their own accord when Syria stopped prolonging visas for people already there and limited the number of people eligible for visas to some 5% of what it was? The “no degrees for doctors unless they stay here” thing is a different story although in the same vein. You can read about the plight of the people trying to escape to Jordan in the second blog post I linked to.

    So the question I’m asking is this; do you believe things are improving in Iraq or not? Why not? It’s in the papers …

    Of course the things are improving. The questions to be asked are:
    1) What are the real causes of this improvement. I.e. how much is it a result of successful sectarian displacement.
    2) Is it a long-term improvement, or just the calm before the storm. How much do the measures that now give short-term safety will contribute to the power of the storm if it eventually breaks out. I.e. is U.S. just arming bad guys for the inevitable big battle.
    3) Is there any way to deal with the fact that the winner in Iraq will be Iran no matter what, given the fact that Iraqi government is beholden to it. Is there a way to prevent theocracy, Antisemitism, persecution of Christians and homosexuals from winning over.
    4) How does propping up Iranian interests in Iraq help prepare for the possible military conflict with that country.
    5) How do the things turn out when the Surge runs out its course.

    These are the things to consider before being overly cheerful about Iraq’s progress.

    As about Iraqi Sunnies turning against Al-Qaeda, Murtha said this would happen long ago, but this was somehow seen as stupid.

    Nikolay (939eb6)

  16. Pointing out positive news is very important propaganda for a war. As is pointing out negative news for anti-war interests. What will be interesting to see is if
    1: anti-war elements switch to pointing out progress as proof that it is time to bring our troops home, while pro-occupation forces begin pointing to setbacks as proof that they need to stay

    2: Good news brings up the military’s recruiting numbers. If that happens then any good news should be all over the news to get new recruits to take the place of a lot of good soldiers who have done their job and deserve a break.

    EdWood (c2268a)

  17. I was wondering when we would get the next announcement about making progress.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (7d46f9)

  18. How freaking rich. Linking to the Oliver “Kansas Football Coach’s long lost brother” Willis for “analysis”.

    JD (49efd3)


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