Baghdad Refugees Flee to Kurdistan - 05.27.2007

This week Isam Rasheed takes us to Arbil, the capital of the Kurdish region and one of many cities in Kurdistan now brimming with refugees fleeing violence in the south.

The hardships expressed by two families in this episode are just a small indication of the difficulties Iraqis are finding in their new home. According to Ron Redmond, a spokesman for UNHCR, “Those who have fled are becoming increasingly desperate as they and their host communities run out of resources.”

Not only are resources scarce, it is increasingly difficult for non-Kurdish Iraqis to find employment in Arbil and elsewhere in Kurdistan. According to a report for Refugees International, drafted by researchers, Kristele Younes and Nir Rosen, people “who reach the Kurdish provinces must surmount difficulties in finding housing, shelter, employment and education for their children.”

Brikha, a Christian Iraqi, told Al Arab Online, “I used to own a shop and now I’m begging people to let me work even as a servant or a laborer, but no one will take me because my foot is crippled.”

Despite these difficulties, some Iraqis are happy just to find a small shred of peace, a calm harbor in the storm of the ongoing Iraqi conflict.

The Christian Science Monitor interviewed a man named Uthman Hassan who is “relieved to live in a city where his first name won’t get him killed.”

Later in the same article Jason Motlagh writes, “Since moving to Arbil in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq three months ago to start work at a new downtown motel, Hassan’s constant anxiety has been replaced by the smile that he flashes to guests, many of whom also come from points south to find peace.”

The Iraqis interviewed by Isam Rasheed also traveled to Arbil to find this peace, but hope to be able to return to Baghdad as well. Given the ongoing violence, it seems likely movement of people will continue toward Arbil, and away from difficult areas such as Baghdad.

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