The Hellish World of Iraqi Refugees

This post, written by Megan McKenna, originally appeared on The Huffington Post

Amman, Jordan - I wanted to scream out loud -- in fact, I think I did -- when I read that John Bolton said that the United States had no responsibility for the more than two million Iraqi refugees who have fled the incredible violence in their country. The below is quoted from a New York Times Magazine article ("The Flight from Iraq" by Nir Rosen, May 13, 2007):
The refugees, he [Bolton] said, have 'absolutely nothing to do with our overthrow of Saddam. Our obligation,' he told me this month at his office in the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, 'was to give them new institutions and provide security. We have fulfilled that obligation. I don't think we have an obligation to compensate for the hardships of war.' Bolton likewise did not share the concerns of Bacon and others that the refugees would become impoverished and serve as a recruiting pool for militant organizations in the future. 'I don't buy the argument that Islamic extremism comes from poverty,' he said. 'Bin Laden is rich.' Nor did he think American aid could alleviate potential anger: 'Helping the refugees flies in the face of received logic. You don't want to encourage the refugees to stay. You want them to go home. The governments don't want them to stay.'
This is, quite simply, outrageous. The hellish situation refugees from Iraq find themselves in is unquestionably our responsibility and it is well beyond time we start doing something to help them.

I'm in here in Amman, where about 750,000 Iraqis refugees have fled the mind-numbing violence in Iraq, to get the stories from the refugees themselves about their daily lives.

What has perhaps struck me most is that unlike other refugee situations where I've been, the refugees remind me of my friends and community. That is, many come from middle class backgrounds not that different from mine, and probably yours, where they had a home, a car, an active social life with friends and family, were well-educated, had a decent job, traveled abroad for vacation and had hopeful future plans for themselves and their children. Never in their comfortable lives did they imagine that they would one day be refugees, in hiding and illegal in a country that doesn't recognize that they exist, unable to work or receive basic services like health care, and that their children would not be able to go to school.

The families we have met, from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds in Iraq, are living in absolute fear, many hiding in the slums of Amman, trying desperately not to draw attention to themselves. The Jordanian government does not consider them as refugees, but "guests" until their paperwork expires (most temporary permits have long expired) and then illegals after that, deportable at any time.

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