This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Back To Iraq

"In Iraq, I can find a girl to marry. And my mom is here."
"In Europe, I was isolated. Life in Europe was not what we were expecting. I have no job here, and I never finished school. I thought of a better future there -- that I would find a better job, that I could continue my studies, earn more money."
"I was crying the first day I arrived in Finland. Crying of happiness."
Mohammed al-Jabiry, 23, Iraqi migrant, Baghdad

"Our dream was to leave the country [Iraq].
"I was expecting them to give me a house, a good job, so I could have a better life."
"In the early days when we arrived, the people were impressed with us. They were taking pictures of us, inviting us into their homes. They liked our brown skin and our dark hair."
"It [Belgium] was very green and clean. It was beautiful. Even the people's morals -- they all respected us. Everyone said 'bonjour' to me every morning. It was 99.9 percent different from Baghdad. People here all talk in a sectarian way: He's Sunni, he's Shiite, he's Kurdish."
"I now consider the journey as something that was fun. I don't regret it."
Haitham Abdulatif, 48, Iraqi migrant to Belgium
Ahmed Ensaif, the brother of a group of refugees who traveled to Germany, is pictured in Baghdad on Dec. 14, 2015. (Ali Arkady/ VII Mentor Program/For The Washington Post)

But he did return back home to Iraq. He thought if he left Iraq and went elsewhere to live, like his aunt and cousin whose new home is the United States, his life would be improved. "They are comfortable. They are safe. There are job opportunities", he said of them. So why not for him? He owned a Mercedes, in Baghdad. He sold it and gained $8,000 to finance his journey. Taking his ten year-old daughter with him, he set out for Europe.

He had been an officer in the Iraqi army before the U.S.-led invasion. With the unseating of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, Mr. Abdulatif lost his position, was forced to leave the army. Left without a pension, and without employment he looked elsewhere for his future. During the sectarian civil war that followed the 2004 invasion of his country his three brothers were killed. He saw no prospects for his advancing into the future with some measure of stability.

His expectations on arriving in Belgium he now sees as completely unrealistic. It was an iteration of the old 'streets paved with gold' that Europe's poor in the early 20th, late 19th centuries thought of when the prospect of immigrating to the United States consumed their minds. That in escaping the poverty and hopelessness of their lives in Europe they would be trading in that sad and sorry state for a new arrival in a new country with a booming economy and well-paid jobs for anyone. Mr. Abdulatif and others like him found opportunities wanting on their European arrival.

So they returned from whence they came. Just as Mohammed al-Jabiry did. He did a pro-and-con exercise in his head, comparing life in a refugee center in Finland to what he had left behind in Baghdad. When the pros weighed heavily in favour of returning home, he did just that. And it was not just these two men, but many others. The allure of reports of eased passage to Europe through Turkey lured tens of thousands of Iraqis to join Syrian refugees, Africans and Afghans in the flood to the Continent.

Now a reverse flood is taking place with thousands of Iraqis deciding they had left too hastily. The original warm reception had surrendered to suspicion in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks and the New Year's Eve swarming of women in Munich by a thousand Arab men who were playing their predatory game of sexual harassment. And even while thousands of Iraqis are returning home in disappointment, the tide of others risking their all to leave the Middle East in favour of Europe is ongoing.

One Iraqi man posted a Facebook advisory: "I'm just waiting for my flight to Baghdad, and I will be back soon. I would advise everyone not to take the risk and come to Europe." According to the International Organization for Migration, about 3,500 Iraqis were aided by them to return home in 2015, representing a modest proportion of those who are returning, sometimes with the assistance of local governments or Iraqi Embassy staffs located in European countries.

Many of those returning are completely without financial resources, which were drained by the expenses related to smugglers. From leaving Turkey, to the sea voyage to Greece, all taking their financial toll. The disappointments were many. Like Mr. Abdulatif whose $8,000 was quickly dissipated. And the food that he was exposed to was unpalatable to him. The search for a place to live, for a job that would pay decently would be time-consuming with no guarantees of success.

Leading him to finally approach authorities to tell them "I want to go to Iraq. They were surprised", he said. "But I told them I'd rather die in my country than die outside in a strange country."
"My dream since I was a child was to go to Europe. I was imagining a beautiful life, a secure life, with an apartment and a salary."
"It was a boring life there. Their food — even a cat wouldn’t eat it. I went to Europe and discovered Europe is just an idea. Really, it’s just like Bab al-Sharji [a Baghdad market]."
"If I was in danger, I wouldn’t have come back."
Faisal Uday Faisal 25, Iraqi migrant to Sweden

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