October 14, 2007

Contra Costa Times:

(slide show available here) They arrive exhausted and stunned, having seen their homes smashed to rubble, and relatives beaten or shot to death.

They've made their way to Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon or the Gulf states where, as "guests," they cannot work.

They plead for help from refugee workers, and few find a country willing to admit them.

The war has chased more than 4 million Iraqis from their homes, the United Nations has reported. The number is expected to reach 5.5 million by the end of this year.

The United States admitted 1,608 -- instead of the promised 7,000 -- in the past fiscal year and says it is preparing to increase the flow. It committed in April to take 25,000 Iraqi refugees altogether.

Recent arrivals to the East Bay tell stories of misery and endless waiting.

Just more and more damage we heap upon those for whom George Bush was "concerned". The Bashirs, featured in the slideshow, are a Christian family who waited years for approval to come to the U.S. Read their account of pre-invasion Iraq...doesn't sound like the human rights violation that the Bush administration claimed, does it?

When these refugees look back home now, they see a beloved country torn by harsh ethnic and religious rifts.[..]

Although they were Christians in a conservative Muslim neighborhood, they enjoyed mutual respect.

"Christmas, we set up our Christmas tree," Hana Toma said. "At Easter, mother would color eggs.

"Until 2003, nobody knew who was living next to you religionwise. After 2003, everything just fell apart."

As the bombs began falling, the minority Wahhabis -- a Sunni revivalist sect that advocates separation of the sexes and other fundamentalist mores, enforced by a cultural police -- began asserting themselves. Other Wahhabis began pouring into the city.

"It was a catastrophe," Hana Toma said. "People thought there would be democracy and freedom. Those terms are comparative. How can you apply them when everything collapses?"

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