Shame on Us

August 26, 2007

Written by Pheras Hilal

Since the war on Iraq and the execution of Saddam Hussein, Iraqis’ conditions have been plummeting. Not only in Iraq itself, as its scorched earth everyday receives more and more martyrs, but also across the region, wherever Iraqis have crawled to seek refuge of the chaos swarming Iraq.

I came across this post by a fellow Bloggerette, and I grew furious at it. Iraqis have poured into Jordan, after war, organized crime and downright genocide have ravished their land. And we embraced the Iraqi population, to seek jobs, invest, live and go to our colleges. But recently, the equation is changing, our policies are changing, and our attitude is changing. Once strong allies in thick and thin, now we adopted an aggressive approach to choke our Iraqi brothers and sisters.

Shortly after the war, Jordan received an influx of Iraqis, that were estimated at around 750,000 in 2005. These Iraqis have helped revitalize the economy, by bringing in more cash, brains and brawls to the country. More real estate development projects popped up, more jobs were created thanks to the hotels, landscape development projects, design firms and publishing houses that were set up by the Iraqis. But these investments came from a small portion of Iraqis. The Iraqis that you don’t read about in the papers, or see in the news, are definitely not happy campers in Jordan. In fact, some of them believe that the Jordanian police really is an extension of Saddam’s brutal regime.

And we really can’t blame them. And honestly, I am ashamed of myself being a Jordanian at this moment. For years, we have been receiving subsidized oil from Iraq, in turn for providing logistical means for Iraq. Try to go way back, in the 1948 and 1967 wars against Israel. The Iraqi air force and army stood tall to support Jordan. Even during Saddam’s regime, I personally know many Jordanians who finished their Master’s Degree in Iraq, free of charge. Iraq has long been the symbol of strength, vigor and pride for us as Jordanians and Arabs. Yet, this is how we repay the favor. We publicly warn of a Shiite threat. We start an inquisition roller coaster to hunt down Iraqi Shiites and kick them off to the borders. We do not provide displaced Iraqis with at least a full-refugee status, nor do we embrace them to become Jordanians. We leave Iraqis stranded at the airport for hours, and interrogate them as if they’re scum. While in fact, we are the scum.

I still do not get it, but am I seeing a pattern here in the way Arabs treat each other?

Jump way back to 1967. Palestinians get kicked out of their land, then transferred to camps in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. In Syria, Palestinians are not allowed to travel or obtain passports, are not allowed to set up businesses, work or seek education outside their designated camps. While in Lebanon, it’s even worse. Palestinians are not allowed to work at all, study or even leave their camps. Yes, they don’t pay rent, or water bills or electricity bills. But hey, why pay bills when you are not provided with a service anyway?! While Palestinian refugees in Jordan, still reside in plastic roof-top houses. Are still treated as second-class citizens. Still are ghettoized in tin-boxed neighborhoods. And now, the same is happening with Iraqis. In fact, its even worse. The lame excuse for this is that we don’t want to turn Palestinian refugees into Jordanian citizens, so that they can keep on dreaming about Palestine, and so that they can return to Palestine once the Israeli occupation ceases to exist. NEWSFLASH: There is no return to Palestine. We’ve been waiting for 50 years now, and it’s just about time for the refugees to assimilate in society.

The Palestinian refugees at least are allowed to enjoy some aid from international communities because they are labeled as refugees. While Iraqis in Jordan, cannot have that, because they are only”half-refugees”. Yes, half-refugees. They cannot have a work permit. Cannot own estate or property. Cannot leave their camps, and also, cannot benefit from any international organizations or aid plans, because they technically aren’t refugees.

What makes matters worse for Iraqis, is that nobody is addressing these issues. Iraqis do not have any representatives in the Parliament, so nobody can fight for their rights. And certainly not one Jordanian MP is interested in listing the Iraqi debacle on their political platforms, because well, Jordanians still insist that Iraqis are lavishly rich. Why do we have this notion? Because our press still hasn’t focused on the Iraqi refugee crisis. We judged that Iraqis are rich because of the few Hummers lurking in Amman and that carry an Iraqi license plate. How gullible Arabs are.

To add to the Iraqis’ woes, it’s not just about refugees anymore. It’s become more of a matter of foreign policy. I can understand (if I try really, really hard) that our government really cannot afford housing Iraqi refugee camps, but I still cannot grasp, why should you make it so hard for middle class Iraqis to enter Jordan? Why aren’t any Arab countries trying to offer donations to alleviate the turmoil of Iraqi refugees in Jordan, and why are we launching a religious war against Iraqi Shiites? Why not devise a plan to help ease the burden of Jordan and Syria as main hosts for Iraqi refugees, and by extension, help improve the lives of these refugees, and integrate them with society?

But I think that this has a lot to do with global agenda. You see, the general emotion in the Middle East is to neutralize Shiites, whether in Iraq, Lebanon or Bahrain. Shiites in Bahrain still reside in ghettos, while Shiites in Lebanon are only garnering more enemies than allies. And the Shiites in Iraq, well, at the rate of the astronomical death tolls in Iraq, perhaps there won’t be any Shiites in Iraq after 5 years. The same thing that happened to Palestinians, and actually is still happening to them, is being repeated with Iraqis: Guerilla wars devastating Iraq, displaced refugees that are unwelcome anywhere, Arabs ganging up against the Iraqis. It’s just another scene, but only with a different cast this time. It sucks, but hey, that’s what happens when you’re not important on America’s agenda anymore.

This is just one of those angry rants. I am pissed at what’s happening in Iraq, and what’s happening to Iraqis on Jordanian soil. And I think that this is an important issue that we all need to observe, and try to devise a solution to solve this. But it just seems that nobody cares anymore. We Jordanians, have proven to be one the most capitalist countries in the region. Because, when Iraq was good to us, we were good to them. But when Iraq became weak, we just kicked them while they’re still on the floor. That, is the most purest form of capitalism you could ever get.

Stone-cold brutality. Selfishness. Irrationality. We are becoming a little America. And we are going DOWN the drain. And you know what? When we go down, we will be kicked so hard, we’re not going to get out of it. Just like America.