“When’s the last time you talked about the Iraq War?” journalist Sarah Stuteville asks in her report on Iraq’s refugees, entitled The Quiet American.
The question is a poignant one. For although many of us outside the Middle East have as good as forgotten the war, for the millions of Iraqi refugees the war never ended.
In the years after the second Iraq War over 2 million Iraqis were forced to leave their homes as a consequence of the violence. Many of these people fled to neighboring Jordan and Syria. There they were often forbidden to find work and forced to live off UN handouts and any money they had saved. For children and young people especially these years have been very difficult. Access to schools is difficult and access to higher education, normal among Iraq’s middle classes, has become almost impossible.
Although some 90,000 refugees have recently returned to Iraq, almost 200,000 still remain in Jordan and Syria. Last month, to make matters worse, refugees in Jordan heard they would not be resettled for the time being.
And of the ones that have returned a large majority are regretting their decision. A UN poll held last year found that 60 percent of those who returned were sorry they did so. And at least a third were considering returning to Syria or Jordan.
In fact the situation is still so bad that for a long time the UNHCR did not promote returns to Iraq, due to insecurity, and its guidelines to all governments strongly recommended that Iraqis should not be sent home to five central provinces, including Baghdad, seen as too dangerous. That only changed after the formation of a new government at the beginning of this year.
To highlight the plight of Iraq’s refugees and displaced persons at VJ Movement we’ve decided to bundle our reporting from Iraq in recent years into a project.
We’ve also commissioned VJ Alex Stonehill of the Common Language Project to report on the story of two young Iraqi refugees who struggle to cope their live stuck in limbo. You can find that story here.
Meanwhile, over on our sister-site Cartoon Movement, we just published an engaging piece of comic journalism, also on the plight of Iraqi refugees. The comic is by journalist and artist Sarah Glidden, part of the CLP as well. The 20-page story gives us a glimpse in the lives of Iraqi refugees living in Syria and is definitely worth taking the time to read from beginning to end.