Sunday, March 25, 2007

Beginning year five

And here is the real situation in Iraq:

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said on Sunday that one in eight Iraqis had been forced from their homes because of the bloodshed raging across the country, and warned that the numbers will only rise.

Already two million have fled Iraq altogether, he said, while another 1.8 million are already displaced inside the country, which has an estimated population of around 27 million.

"The biggest displacement in the Middle East since the dramatic events of 1948 has now forced one in eight Iraqis from their homes," he added, referring to creation of the state of Israel that triggered a massive Palestinian exodus.

"Last year alone, we estimate that nearly 500,000 Iraqis moved to other areas inside the country," he added.
But this is the sad part of the story:

Americans enter the fifth year of the Iraq war today amid renewed warnings that the 2003 invasion is sparking a humanitarian crisis unnoticed by much of the world.

"I don't think anyone has a good grasp of the breadth of the problem we are facing here," said Dana Graber, who is working with displaced Iraqis in Jordan for the International Organization for Migration.

As the violence in Iraq continues unabated, Graber predicted yesterday another million Iraqis will be uprooted by a war that has already forced 2 million from their homes to neighbouring countries, putting particular strain on services in Syria and Jordan.

Another 1.7 million have been internally displaced, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Those dealing with this burgeoning crisis say more and more Iraqis are fleeing their country without the means to support themselves, with some 40,000 pouring into Syria each month, according to the UN.
What's the difference? The first story is from Yahoo News, and it was posted Sunday, March 4, 2007. The second story is from the Toronto Star; it was posted on March 20, 2007. It makes an explicit link to the 4 year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Yahoo's article ran before that anniversary, and my search on Google didn't turn up any domestic news articles about the refugee crisis contemporary with the 4th anniversary of the invasion. What I found domestically, aside from the Yahoo article, was this January article in the San Francisco Chronicle, and this report on from March 7. To be fair, the two recent domestic reports are because of the UN's announcement about the crisis; but there don't seem to be any domestic reports either connecting this refugee crisis which our invasion caused, to the anniversary of the invasion; or any attempts to report on the refugee crisis itself, other than to report on the reports about the crisis. What prompted my notice of this? A report on BBC World Service Radio:

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says there has been an "abject denial" around the world of the humanitarian impact of invading Iraq.
The UN faces an enormous task in helping countries such as Jordan and Syria cope with the huge influx of Iraqi refugees, a spokesman said.

He said the international community had to step in to help address their food, health and education needs.

Syria says it is home to 1.2m Iraqi refugees with up to 800,000 in Jordan.

Damascus has repeatedly called for help to deal with the problem.

"There has been an abject denial of the impact, the humanitarian impact, of the war, the huge displacement within Iraq of up to 1.9 million people who are homeless because of the war, and those people who are homeless and never got back to the homes after Saddam Hussein was overthrown," UNHCR spokesman Peter Kessler said.

There's a need for governments to come in and address the health, the education, all the needs
Seems to me it's pretty easy to be in denial about something you don't know anything about. Seems to me, too, this issue has a great deal of relevance for the "surge" we've heard so much about:

"So clearly in every area, there's a need to support what the main host governments are doing and then to gird ourselves for what could be, if the war is prolonged, an increasing movement further west-wards."
And this is not just a problem for neighboring countries; it's a problem within Iraq:

On top of that, almost two million more people are displaced inside Iraq - people who have fled their homes to escape the violence.

That number, too, is steadily growing, the UN says, with some provinces feeling overwhelmed and attempting to close their boundaries to refugees from other areas.
And that's a topic I've heard nothing about in US news. This is what those refugees are facing if they do leave Iraq:

Most of the borders of the neighbouring countries of Iraq are very difficult to pass. They have administrative problems, passport issues, and they are not welcome any more," he explained.

"Also the Western countries and the wealthier countries, they are becoming more and more difficult in terms of allocating any visa, or allowing any entrance. So it seems the doors are closing one by one around the world on the face of Iraqis."
And Bush continues to tell the American people to be patient. But what are we telling the Iraqis do to? Be more grateful?

"We liberated that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude. That's the problem here in America: They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that's significant enough in Iraq."
Like I say: if you don't know what's going on, how can you be concerned?

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