Monday, 26 November 2007


Couple of Months ago I went on a trip to Syria to see my uncle, who moved there, like tens of thousands of Iraqis, because of the violence in Baghdad. One day, as we were walking in the market, we went into a store where my uncle doses his Daily shopping. Like any Iraqi man, when My uncle go for shopping he buys every thing that his family might need or like. Then the owner of the store surprised my uncle with a question. “Where do you Iraqis get all that Money from and spend it like that?” the store owner asked. My uncle turned red, and got angry. “Do you ask all your costumers, where do they get their Money from?! Do you ask the Saudis or the Kuwaitis when they come and buy stuff from your Store, where they gat there Money from????” My uncle asked as he was shaking with rage. He took that question as an insult, I knew exactly what was going on his mind, he was thinking that since we came to this country to take refuge from the Violence, then we must be considered like Beggars.

I have visited Syria Last year and I have seen it this summer, the development was so noticeable. the late 70’s Ladas, which were filling the streets of Syria, are now being replaced with band newJaguars. The living standards have been significantly improved. There are almost 1.5 Million Iraqis in Syria, and about 0.5 Million Iraqis in Jordon and the same Number in Egypt. Jordon and Syria Have been complaining because they are suffering from the large number of refugees on their countries, and that they represent a great burden on their amphora structure. Well I would not blame them on that particular point, but there are other things that they forgot to mention as well.

The Iraqis who came to Syria, or Jordon in Particular, are mostly upper middle class families, if not merchants or wealthy families. Most of them fled Iraq so that the kidnapping gangs would not kidnap any one from their families and then ask for Ransom. Many of them started their own businesses and rented or bought good apartments or houses, which made the Jordanians and Syrians complain that the Iraqis have made the prices of the real state go rocket high, beyond the capabilities of the ordinary citizens of those countries.

Most of those Iraqis have money sent to them from Iraq, either from renting their houses, salaries, pension or that one Family member is staying behind in Iraq to run some kind of Business. In my Uncle’s case, he is a retired civil servant and I send him his pension every 2 months, which is enough to pay him the rent and sustain him and his wife.

The Syrians and Jordanians forgot to mentions how much money (mostly hard currency) the Iraqis are pumping into those poor economies. One look at the apartment buildings which suddenly emerged in those countries would show you how much the Iraqis have moved those economies and how many jobs opportunities they have created.

Last Summer, the Jordanian Authorities started to put restrictions on the flow of Iraqis to Jordon, to the level that they forced people to buy return tickets from Baghdad so that if they do not let them in, they would use the same ticket to send them back with it to Baghdad. And they did send back entire plane’s load of Passengers.

Late last October I was in Amman - Jordon and one Taxi Driver surprised me when he did not complain ( like many other Taxi Drivers used to do previously Every time I visit Amman) of the Iraqis and how they raised the praises.

“you Iraqis are the ones who are moving our Economy” the Taxi Driver said and went on talking about how Taxi owners started to buy more Taxis to meet the demand created by the Iraqis and how that create more jobs for Taxi drivers. But now the business is slow because there are less Iraqis coming, which means less work for them.

Another friend of mine told me how many people invested in building new apartment buildings and taking for granted that the Iraqis gone buy or rent them, but now many of them are bankrupt because there are no more Iraqis coming to Amman and they have o Cover the loans they took from the Banks for those investments.

Also last October, the Syrian authorities started to require Visas from the Iraqis, while before they could go in for 3 months and the would have to leave to Next Door Lebanon, spend 3 days there an then return to Syria for another 3 months for merely 100$ per person, or simply drive to the Iraqi boarders, check out of Syria, drive to the Iraqi boarders, check in and then out and then return to Syria for another 3 months. While now, if your 3 months are over you should leave, that is if you do not have a residency permit.

This forced many of the Iraqis to return to Iraq in large numbers, because they no longer can stay there. And Made the Iraq Government brag that the security situation has improved (which is far from true) and now thousands of Families are returning to Iraq.

All what I want to say is that, let Egypt remember, before banning Iraqis from getting into Egypt, that for 10 years there were 2 million Egyptians working in Iraq and sending money to their Families back in Egypt to build houses and apartment buildings while the Iraqi men are fighting in the Iran – Iraq war in the 80s. And let Syria remember the Economic crisis they went through for 2 months when the war was taking place in Iraq in 2003 and they could not send their products to be sold at the Iraqi Markets. Let Jordon remember how much money they got when they were the main entry point for Iraq during the 80s and the years of Embargo. And also how much oil they used to take for free or favorable prices during Saddam’s time and how now they are welcoming the 100 000 barrel or Iraqi oil each day ( at least 18 US$ cheaper than the global market prices) while they do not welcome the Iraqis themselves.