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Palestinians in Iraq: Life on edge
By Ali Alarabi — The recent gruesome murder of Palestinian female doctor, Layla Ali Taha and her young daughter in Baghdad, this past Friday (4/5/2008)at the hands of Shia death squads, who murdered them in cold blood hacking them with kitchen knives then burning their bodies into charred remains shows not only the grave danger Palestinian face in Iraq, but it also shows a trend of a slow but simmering religious persecution and extermination of Palestinian Arabs at the hands of Iraqi Shias supported by Iran.
According to sources in Iraq, over 260 Palestinian were murdered in Iraq at the hands of Shia government soldiers and religious militias many of those victims were women. Among those killed was Shiekh Tawfiq Abdel Khaliq one of the most respected and honorable local Palestinian Imam, who happened to be traveling to an area of Baghdad and was stopped by a checkpoint manned by government shia soldiers and upon learning that he was a Palestinian, he was killed in cold blood.
Palestinians are being targeted because they are mainstreaming Muslims, they are not Shias and they are not Iraqis. Shia militias, receiving religious blessing from their Ayatollahs and supported by Iran military and financially, are orchestrating a campaign of murder and genocide against the helpless Palestinian refugees.
Shias hold that those Palestinian refugees whose numbers were less than 25000 before the war, were living better than the entire 30 million Iraqis and that they were Saddam’s spoiled cronies and lived better life style, while ordinary Iraqis starved.
The truth however is anything but that. Palestinians never had it better than any average Iraqi, true that under saddam they were not persecuted simply because they kept to themselves, and did not intervene in politics, for they were not Iraqi citizens to begin with despite living there for generations.
Palestinian refugees in Iraq lived in a government built system of buildings, a Ghetto that consists of 16 huge old elongated buildings, each building has 4 entrances, and each entrance has three floors and each floor has 4 apartments. That puts number of apartments in each building to 48 apartments and the grand total of apartments in the whole system would be 768 apartments all belong to the government. By law, Palestinians cannot own a property in Iraq, not today under Shia rule, not under Saddam and not before that.
Despite living in Iraq for generations, the only documentation they had was a government issued ID stamped with the word “ Palestinian” and sometimes issued travel documents if they needed to travel.
Caging the Palestinians in this ghetto, in the Baladiyat area is not an indication of a community that lived the life of riches and leisure while Iraqis starved to death so claim the Shia Iraqis and several of their holy Ayatollahs. The Ghetto consists of small apartments and shacks built in buildings courtyards and on rooftops, in order to accommodate natural growth. Any visitor to the Baladiyat area would not see wide tree-lined boulevards filled with mansions or nice villas for the Palestinians to live in.
The Palestinians true crime is that they are Arabs and more, they are Muslims in a country that has been transformed into an exclusively Shia country and looks more Iranian than Arab.
Iranians in Najaf and Karbala, Basra, and Baghdad already number in the millions according to Iraqi reports. Iranians live in Iraq freely without noticing any difference between Tehran and Baghdad or Karbala or Najaf. Persian has become a dominant language in Basra and other southern cities. Iraqi Shia Arabs feel more kinship and closer to Iran in terms of their religion and belief system than other Arabs.
As for Palestinians, the key to survive and to avoid an agonizing death at the hands Shia death squads is to never show any traces of Palestinian accent for it will for sure make them marked for death. Speaking Arabic in pure Iraqi Baghdadi accent is one way to survive on a day-by-day basis.
Another way to survive is not to venture outside the Ghetto unless it is absolutely necessary. The Ghetto has its own small business, doctors and other basic services needed to maintain a meager but precious existence. The local mosque, however, was not spared from Shia militias attempts to either burn it to the ground or from firing their guns inside it.
But for older Palestinians of the original generation that made Iraq home after 1948, perfecting an Iraqi accent could be a tricky adventure, for they still retain traces of their accents of villages and town in Palestinian cities they fled some sixty years ago such as Haifa, and Yafa. Luckily however, those older Palestinians who speak a Palestinian flavored Iraqi accent can be mistaken of being Iraqis from the northern city of Mosul, a city that looks and feels closer to greater Syria and its accent sounds closer to the Shami Arabic accent.
Most Palestinian professionals, doctors, lawyers, engineers and others have managed to leave the country by paying their way out, the same trend goes for Iraqi educated class. Iraq has seen most of its professional class especially doctors and scientists either killed off or fled the country forever.
Today, Palestinians numbers in Iraq had shrunk into 14000 thousands, almost half of what it was before the war. 2000 thousands of those are living in camp of Al-Waleed camp in the desert between Iraq, Jordan and Syria. No Arab country is willing to admit those hapless refugees or assist them. They are stranded in the desert under the care of UN higher commission for refugees and an Italian humanitarian agency, which work to arrange medical treatment for sick Palestinian children and place them along with their families in European countries that are willing to take them. Another 300 Palestinian refugees were taken in by Syria and placed in the middle of the desert in camp in the Hasakah province. Brazil had already accepted some of those refugees, and Chile also agreed to take a number of them. The only Arab country agreed to accept the Palestinian refugees is Sudan.
For Palestinians, to live in the Arab world, is to live a schizophrenic life style. Palestinians have to get accustomed to Arab governments and leaders rhetoric and speeches with words like “We support our Palestinian brothers” “ Israel is the enemy” long live free Arab Palestine” and death to Israel” the reality for Palestinians however is that they are the only ones who are doing the dying, thrown in the middle of desert, thrown in Arab government jails, getting killed, burnt to death, or hacked to pieces by the same “ brothers” who were chanting long live Palestine in the yesteryear.
Even Iranian president Ahmadi Najad whose militant pronouncements against Israel threatening her of death and destructions, rings hollow giving that only Palestinians are being killed and destroyed with his money and weapons on his behalf at the hands of his henchmen and subordinates in Iraq.
For those Palestinians in Iraq, life has been suspended and can only resume in another, more peaceful land.
(Ali Alarabi is an award winning journalist and columnist. He can be reached at www.TheArabDesk.com.)
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Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist and author. He covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at TheArabDailyNews.com, TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com
Visit this link to read Ray's column archive at the ArabNews,com ArabNews.com/taxonomy/term/10906
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