Personalizing the Iraqi Refugee Crisis


Mahmoud al-Jabouri.jpg
(Ahlam Ahmed Mahmoud al Al-Jabouri; photo credit: Marc Perelman)
The Forward correspondent Marc Perelman has a moving and important profile in Salon of Ahlam Ahmed Mahmoud al Al-Jabouri who is now an Iraqi refugee in Syria.
A short clip from a piece that should be read in full:

Ahlam Ahmed Mahmoud al Al-Jabouri, a 42-year-old mother of three, belongs to another category of imperiled citizens-turned-refugees whom no one seems to care about. She is among thousands of Iraqis who have worked in seemingly less exposed positions for the U.S. and Iraqi authorities, carrying out administrative tasks, rendering basic services or, as in Ahlam’s case, doling out crucial humanitarian aid to the people of her country.
But even delivering help to the poor, the handicapped and the displaced did not spare Ahlam from being labeled a traitor by some of her fellow Sunnis. In the past two years, Ahlam has been kidnapped and tortured, was forced to flee Iraq, and lost one of her teenage sons under dubious circumstances. Although she was officially recognized for her exemplary humanitarian work by the U.S. Army more than two years ago, U.S. authorities have done little to help her, and her struggle to find safe haven continues today.
Ahlam’s ordeal casts light on the depth of the resentment among Iraqis in general, and Sunnis in particular, over the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the resulting sectarian conflict that has engulfed their country in the past two years. The fact that a respected aid worker like Ahlam has faced brutal reprisal speaks volumes about the fractured state of Iraqi society.
Nowadays, Ahlam lives with her family in a drab three-story building off “Iraqi Street,” the new name of the main thoroughfare of Said Azainab, a destitute neighborhood of Damascus overflowing with tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees. This capital city has lured the vast majority of the more than 1.2 million Iraqis who have fled to Syria.”

America could be doing much more than it is to help broker a final peace between Israel an Syria — and the fact that Syria is hosting a flow of refugees into its country and not receiving major international assistance is something the U.S. ought to take notice of.
More soon. I’m flying from St. George, Utah today to New York.
— Steve Clemons


17 comments on “Personalizing the Iraqi Refugee Crisis

  1. DonS says:

    . . . never second guess too badly righteous indignation when, as best we can tell from the smell test, it really is righteous. Yes, there’s always another level to which it would be nice to think we can always rise. We can’t always. The humanity is in recogizing the better lights which we fall short of.
    vs neocon et al meglomanical self absorption.


  2. ... says:

    sorry for my condemnatory attitude in the earlier posts… it really doesn’t serve anyone any good.. it is a position of self pity in a sense, is an even worse road to go down. we have what we have and we have to work with it as best as possible… i appreciate steve for making us aware of the plight of the iraqis and i hope all of us are able to do something to change things for the better..


  3. Sandy says:

    Just an observation. Reading all these comments, I feel an overwhelming sadness. What an unspeakable toll this Bush-Cheney Regime has taken on this country!
    We all, me included, feel completely cynical that the United States of America is capable these days of doing the right thing. Everyone has been bought and sold. We can’t believe anything they say to us. There is always a hidden agenda. Our so-called “representatives” first obligation is to cover themselves for their next election challenge. That means doing as little as possible that will create a controversy or be “spun” …Swift-boated….the wrong way.
    Paralysis. Playing it “safe”. Looking out for Number One. Just get through today. Just run out the clock.
    It might be different if there was ANYONE out there who had a snowball’s chance in hell of being elected president…..who REALLY …could make us feel hopeful….once again ….about the possibilities. About the good things we can do and stand for. And should. Like the Iraqi woman in this piece.
    Everyone I see and hear is dis-spirited. Feels: what’s the use?
    The only one I can think of who might represent the change we need….who could actually win it….is
    Al Gore.
    It may not be worth it to him. It has become such a dirty business. Life is short.


  4. David N says:

    Next subject.
    It helps to keep things simple. It helps to lie. It helps to misunderstand. It helps to completely bollox up the country. When things are simple, decisions are easy, and can be sold easily.
    So we describe things easily. We say that this person lives in this country, so that’s what that person is.
    Only she isn’t.
    So we say that there are three kinds of people in that country, Suuni, Shi’a, and Kurd, and that everyone is one of those people, and that’s all we need to know.
    Only that’s not true, either, but never mind.
    Aside from the people who don’t belong to the three groups — Turkomen, Chaldeans, Jews, etc. — there is the simple fact that the people involved don’t think of themselves that way. Of course, there are also the people who are the products of marriages and alliances between any and all of these groups, but that’s too confusing to even think about, especially when you’re not used to thinking at all.
    We’ve read in the Post — which means it must be blindingly obvious, by now — that Sunni groups are forming militias to fight against al-Qa’ida in Iraq, which is a Suuni group.
    Guess what. It isn’t that simple. Those we call Sunni are actually members of numerous tribes, clans, sects, septs, and families to which they grant far more loyalty than this amorphous thing called Sunni, and which provide them both identity and support. And the same is true of the Shi’a.
    The fact is, if we do divide Iraq into three parts according to our understanding of their ethnic divides, there will still be factions within those divides, still be something that we have to argue over whether it can be called a “civil war.” Look at what happened to the Soviet Union. It divided up according to the Republics that it had been divided into, and immediately factions within those pieces started demanding their own identity and political units.
    The fact is, no country, anywhere, is made up of a single national, tribal identity unit. And demanding that they be so divided and identified is a bad idea, because it simple encourages and justifies and ratifies racism. If this country and its leaders truly believed in the concepts contained in its founding documents, it is those concepts and that alone that would be looked to for the legitimacy of any government.
    But we like to keep things simple. We like to divide even our own country into a map of two colors, as if that has any connection with reality or facts. We like to have only two sides to any question, and to treat national security, public policy, and economic development the same way we do sports teams.
    Its all stupid. It’s all lies. And it’s all going to determine our fates, because it’s all anyone, in any party, can think of.
    Keep it simple, . . . . .


  5. David N says:

    Once again the toy media proves that it is a bought and paid for component of the Republican Propaganda machine.
    Let’s parse out some reality. Yes, we are not a parliamentary government. Thus, yes, the “no confidence” vote was a political trick, a meaningless step. Had it passed in cloture, then in the real vote, the Ruler in His Own Small Mind would have and could have ignored it, as he ignores real votes on real laws. Thus, the fact is, a majority of the Senate, including seven Republicans, and not including several Democratic candidates whose vote can be predicted, have expressed “no confidence” in the Attorney General of the United States. Instead, the headlines read : Gonzales wins vote, in a vote in which the majority voted against him.
    Kind of like a Presidential election, after all.


  6. MP says:

    DonS writes: “I do see that Bill Richardson has sought to differentiate himself by saying he would take every last troop out. Dare anyone believe him?”
    There’s a law that goes like this: The less likely a candidate is to be elected, the braver he or she is willing to be. They have nothing to lose, so they go for broke.


  7. ... says:

    and i see their is a fresh legal setback for the criminals running the usa.. on the one hand gonzales passes the non confidence vote and on the other this >>In a sharp rebuke to the Bush administration’s detention policies, a federal appeals court ruled Monday that the government cannot continue to hold a U.S. resident — a suspected Al Qaeda sleeper agent arrested in Peoria in late 2001 — without filing charges against him.
    The 2-1 decision by a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel in Richmond, Va., means the government must release Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a legal U.S. resident, from military custody and either charge him in the criminal justice system, deport him or free him.
    Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales said he was disappointed by the ruling and that the Justice Department would appeal the decision to the full 12-member circuit. <<
    it helps when criminals like gonzales continue to hold court… friggin insane what is going on in the usa, but apathy appears to rule.


  8. ... says:

    as for the usa helping those stranded in syria… we know why that won’t happen. it is the same reason the joe lieberman wants to bomb iran.. friggin idiots running the usa.


  9. ... says:

    the usa has created hell for many people who are either still exposed to it in iraq, or have left to places like syria.. i don’t think the usa under bush cares one bit. they care about been seen as bringing ‘freedom and democracy’ but that is such a joke i don’t know how anyone could believe that either.. looks like reality is catching up with the usa, although by viewing mainstream usa media, one would never know it.. the propagandized republic is alive and well in the usa, and this story is a crack into reality which is rare or next to nil in the mainstream media.


  10. DonS says:

    Yes, the entire government, and many of the “people” are turning a blind eye to the horrendous realties the US has perpetrated in the name of spreading democracy and fighting terra.
    This is why I am so jaded to listen, say, to the various dems try to distinguish themselves from the thugs on what they would do differently. As if I believe any of the current lot would not advocate a “responsible” withdrawal plan that might just take 8 – 10 years. Or maybe the extended 50 year plan now being floated for the “post surge” scheme.
    I do see that Bill Richardson has sought to differentiate himself by saying he would take every last troop out. Dare anyone believe him?
    What would we do with the 100 acre embassy already being upsized? Really.
    Or retreat to “strategic” bases out of harms way for decades. They don’t count, right?
    Its all smoke and mirrors. But who can bother with honesty and integrity when there are the realities of getting elected. Silly me. Our scandal-a-day government and the dems still can’t manage to start impeachment. That would be too polarizing, right?


  11. Carroll says:

    I watched a hearing on the Iraq refugees a few weeks ago on c-span.
    It lasted a short 30 minutes.
    I forget who chaired the hearing but congress didn’t seem inclined to do anything about it. Most of the questions were about how would we know they wouldn’t be terrorist.
    They are all too busy bringing in 12 million illegals from Mexico for cheap labor so let these refugees we created just whither away.
    It’s not just Bush, it the entire goverment we have. They all make me sick.


  12. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Because no compensation will be adequate. Confiscate the fortunes.
    Posted by Bzeep
    Oh, if only it would happen. But, alas, it never will. We would need a representative government for such a retribution to be exacted, and such a government has long ago left us.


  13. Bzeep says:

    This story highlights yet another ocean of debts that Cheney and Bush have incurred in our name.
    Because Bush is terminally unfazed and Cheney has been rewired for death and profit, it’s impossible to have a dialogue with anyone “responsible” about what it means to do something as fundamentally wrong as invading Iraq. We can start from its false premises and proceed through its demolition of the obstacles presented by U.S. and international law, but somehow we find ourselves sucked into a discussion of the prospects of “the surge.”
    And this futile distraction occurs while the lives of Ahlam Ahmed Mahmoud al Al-Jabouri and countless others are overturned or erased. I am willing to concede that Ahlam started out by trying to do right, which is more than I can say for our president and his controller, Dick Cheney. Starting where–with sanctions? with our pre-invasion propaganda?–we have done one wrong after another. The destruction shames us and those who failed to deter us.
    What I’m working around to saying is that every day that we continue this ill-conceived war, the costs of doing right are growing. As a nation we are liable in criminal and in civil terms. How will we make restitution for the malicious destruction that we have wrought? If we were wrong (and even the administration knows that we were), we are responsible for the harm we have caused.
    I think it would be appropriate to take measures now to ensure that those who advocated and profited from this war pay for this mistake, because the rest of us will, too. Neither Bush nor Cheney nor their friends nor their families nor their associates nor their investors should retain a cent as long as Ahlam and others who are paying the price for this criminal war are not compensated.
    Because no compensation will be adequate. Confiscate the fortunes.


  14. PissedOffAmerican says:

    (I take it back Steve. I see Hagel was one of the Rs to vote for “no-confidence”, At last, something I can respect him for.)


  15. PissedOffAmerican says:
  16. Matthew says:

    Steve: We will do what we always do. Create a nightmare on the ground and then claim that the “Arabs” have done nothing to help their own people.


  17. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “America could be doing much more than it is to help broker a final peace between Israel an Syria — and the fact that Syria is hosting a flow of refugees into its country and not receiving major international assistance is something the U.S. ought to take notice of.”
    Take notice of? Who exactly, in a leadership position in the United States, do you think cares about what happens to Ahlam? Do you actually think this monkey Bush, and the monster Cheney, are unaware of the human suffering they have caused?
    (BTW, nice vote by Hagel, eh? I guess he has “confidence” in this criminal consiglierre, Gonzalez.)


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