On Saturday, November 17, the Washington Post featured a front page article on Iraqi refugees with US ties who are trying to get asylum . Sudarsan Raghavan describes a visit to refugee camps in Jordan, where Iraqis who have worked for the US government or contractors wait, hoping to be recognized by those for whom they have risked everything:
At every opportunity, the Iraqis pull out photos of themselves side by side with U.S. soldiers, photos they feared to share inside their country. They offer up laminated notes of appreciation from American commanders. They flash expired U.S. Embassy badges they still keep in their wallets. Thousands of Iraqi employees of U.S. contractors, forced to flee to this capital out of fear, are desperately trying to leverage their American ties into entry to the United States. But most languish for months in a bureaucratic and psychological limbo, their status as uncertain as their future. “We are here only because of our work with the Americans,” said Intisar Ibrahim, 53, a tall, solemn engineer who left Iraq two years ago. “They have an obligation to help us, but until now we have not seen any help.”
The article goes on to describe the danger that many of the Iraqis face at home if it becomes known that they are working for the US government, or, more commonly, for contractors, and mentions the List Project as one of the few “hopes” that Iraqis have for getting resettled in the United States.
Ammar Ibrahim, a Shiite, lived in the Sunni-dominated Baghdad neighborhood of
Adhamiyah, but his biggest fear was not sectarian strife. He worked at a Baghdad power plant operated by General Electric. “There is no difference between Sunni and Shia when you work for the Americans,” Ammar said. “Both sides want to kill you.” He didn’t trust anyone. He hired relatives of employees to avoid meeting strangers. Each day, he traveled a different route to and from the plant to avoid suffering the same fate as his aunt’s bodyguard. He always hid his GE identification card in case he was stopped. “Even my closest friends didn’t know I worked with the Americans,” he said.
Almost as an aside, the article also gives a neat roundup of the statistics:
Between Oct. 1, 2006, and Oct. 15 of this year, 1,636 Iraqis were resettled in the United States at a time when as many as 3,000 a day were fleeing Iraq. Last month, the United States announced it would accept 12,000 Iraqis over the next year. But with 2.2 million Iraqis displaced abroad, human rights groups and some members of Congress have criticized the overture as a token gesture. In comparison, the United States has taken in 1 million refugees from Vietnam, 600,000 from the former Soviet Union and 157,000 from Kosovo and Bosnia.
It is good news that the Iraqi allies issue is getting front page stories in major newspapers – hopefully those in a position to do something will start to feel some pressure.