Displaced Iraqis Simmering with Anger in Amman

Interviews with some decidedly angry Iraqis who are refugees living in Amman, Jordan.

Amman, Jordan — It isn’t difficult to find Iraqis in Amman nowadays. The word on the street is that somewhere around half a million have come to Jordan over the last couple of years, seeking security and/or jobs, since they have neither at home in Iraq.

“The American troops have not come for the benefit of the Iraqi people,” says Mohammed Majid Abrahim, a fifty-two-year-old former resident of Baghdad. “They are stealing from the Iraqis, and now all our problems are because of the invaders.”

Mohammed arrived in Amman four months ago, and is as angry at the current Iraqi government as at the interim government that preceded it. “I want to ask Jalal Talabani to solve this problem for us,” he tells me while we talk at a square in central Amman where many Iraqis congregate on this sunny Friday morning. “What did Ayad Allawi achieve during his time as president?” he asks, displaying his contempt for the new National Assembly: “So what do we think this new government will achieve? Nothing!”

He fled to Jordan from Baghdad because there is no work there. Yet like so many other Iraqis here, he lacks adequate paperwork for the Jordanian government to allow him to either stay in Jordan or work here legally.

“My main difficulty is that I have no approval to stay from the government, so the Jordanian police are attacking Iraqis here because we have no papers.”

He pulls out his United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) card and shows it to me. With this, he has political refugee status, but it does not permit him to work. Nevertheless, he has found a job as an ironworker, taking money under the table.

His hope for his home country?

“Iraqis must have a new government, this time with legal elections,” he explains while we stand in the shade of a palm tree, “I think we need a revolution to get things back to where they once were for us. Then, Insh’Allah [God willing] I will go back. Saddam was so much better than these bastards [US occupation forces], even though I hated him.”

His opinion is not unique, nor is it unfounded when we consider the facts. Recently at the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in London, it was reported by journalist John Pilger that Dr. Les Roberts, who led the US-Iraqi research team that conducted the first comprehensive study of civilian deaths in Iraq, gave a lecture in which he again presented his findings (published in the most respected medical journal in the world, the Lancet): that a minimum of 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died violent deaths in their country in the last two years, the vast majority of them at the hands of occupation forces.

In his lecture he also explained that US military doctors found that 14 percent of US soldiers and 28 percent of marines had killed a civilian. If you do the math, considering there has been an average
(conservatively) of 135,000 US soldiers in Iraq (a significant percentage of them marines), and consider the fact that bombs dropped by US warplanes have generated massive numbers of civilian casualties which may well surpass the number of those generated on the ground by soldiers and marines, it becomes clear why Iraqis hold such great contempt towards the occupiers of their county: the refugees have likely lost family and friends, livelihood and home to the Americans. Refugees attribute the destruction, violence, and chaos in their country to the Multinational Forces, in particular, the US military.

Ghaleb is a carpenter from Nasiriyah. The forty-year-old Shia carpenter came to Amman one year ago because the security situation in his city was so horrible. He, like Mohammed, holds a deep disdain toward the coalition forces.

“The occupiers should leave immediately,” he explains while sipping tea, “They only came with their own interests and we can manage Iraq for ourselves. We do not need them for any reason.”

His anger about what has happened in his country is exacerbated by his current struggles in Jordan. He too holds a UNHCR political refugee card, and works when he finds an odd job. He also lives under the threat of being detained by Jordanian police and sent back to Iraq.

“I appreciate even Saddam Hussein compared to what Iraq is now,” he states, “Even though I am a Shia!”

His friend Ali Hassan, standing nearby, adds, “We can do nothing here; our Iraqi passports are now useless. We used to have to buy them under Saddam but we could travel to different countries. But now, we can get them for free but they are useless. We can go nowhere, and it isn’t even safe for us to go back to our own country.”

I glance over his shoulder at a white GMC with an Iraqi flag painted on the side window. These are still being used to take people in and out of Iraq—at least those who are willing to accept the risk of the dangerous trip through roads controlled by mujahideen, looters, or the US military.

In another area of Amman near a small mosque downtown, I find more displaced Iraqis who tell me of similar difficulties—being harassed by Jordanian police.

One of these men is Ismael. He left Baghdad fifteen years ago because he overtly opposed the regime of Saddam Hussein. His once-valid political refugee status is now in question in Jordan, and he does not wish to return to Iraq since his country is in flames. He openly voices his support of the armed resistance in Iraq.

“I support the resistance in Iraq,” he tells me while lighting a cigarette, “They are honorable people and the Americans deserve to be killed since they invaded our country.”

He asks for my notepad and pen, signs his name, and smiles proudly, having underscored his comments.His cousin was killed by men from the regime of Saddam Hussein in 1989, so he left so as not to be targeted himself.

“I usually don’t come to this particular area,” he tells me while gesturing about at the shops where men walk about peddling hot mint tea, “But I came today to buy this photo.”

He pulls out a picture of the deposed Iraqi dictator sitting in a nice, white suit inside an ornate room.

“I bought this because Saddam is so much better than the Americans,” he says with a stern smile.

A little later while walking down the street I meet Abrahim Hassan. The twenty-five-year-old laborer from Nasariyah came to Jordan just after the invasion a little over two years ago. His problems typify those of the other Iraqis I’ve been meeting in Amman as of late.

“The problem I face here is the Jordanian police detain me when I try to work and then try to force me to return to Iraq,” he says. He claims to have been detained twice, but the police released him when he showed his UNHCR identification card.

Regarding the situation back at his home in the south of Iraq he says, “Everything has gotten worse since the invasion. No matter if you are Sunni or Shia, all of us are suffering now because of the invaders.”