Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Mounting concerns for internally displaced Iraqis

As the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq continues to grow, the circumstances that they confront only worsen. At present 1.9 million persons are displaced within Iraq - about 700,000 since the Samarra bombing in February 2006 - with approximately 160,000 IDPs moving to northern Iraq since 2003, said Kristele Younes of Refugees International in an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on Tuesday.

After fleeing violence and usually encountering more to reach the northern part of the country, persons of every socioeconomic class must then pass through security checkpoints, providing proof of a Kurdish guarantor to "attest to the identity and the morality of the displaced" in order to obtain access to Iraqi Kurdistan, Younes said. Access does not come easily, as "we are seeing a very disturbing game of ethnic chess that is being played by the Kurdish authorities with Christians being favored, with Shia being discriminated against, and with Kurds sometimes being prevented to go to the north so that the Kurdish authorities can keep some Kurdish populations within Iraq to make sure that they have voting constituencies there," she added.

Once there, the IDPs are still unable to receive proper assistance, in part due to the "lack of political will from the central government and Kurdish government to help the displaced," Younes said. The problem lies partly with the food-ration card issued by a person's city of residence, which also doubles as a voter-registration card. When displaced, the provincial authorities are often hesitant to transfer the card, making it nearly impossible to obtain the food rations.

Additionally, the cost of living is extremely high. Fuel costs three-times more in Iraqi Kurdistan than it does in Bagdad. The cost of rent has increased drastically, since fewer than 1 percent of IDPs live in camps. Most IDPs are unable to find stable employment. Education for IDP children is also lacking, since very few Arab-speaking schools exist in Iraqi Kurdistan. "So really the economic condition of the displaced is very worrying," Younes concluded.

For the complete interview, click here.


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