Justin Alexander, Baghdad: Before sunrise on Tuesday, 20 Palestinians (including 8 children, a 77 grandmother and two disabled men) piled into a delapitated bus in Baghdad and travelled the perilous Anbar road past Ramadi and Rutba (risking attack from Americans, terrorists, Iraqi security forces and criminal gangs) to the Syrian border town of Al-Waleed. They were accompanied by 3 friends from Christian Peacemaker Teams and an Iraqi peace activist from Najaf, part of the sister group Muslim Peacemaker Teams.
Everyone in Iraq is suffering these days, but the Palestinian community, most of whom have been born here (their families having fled Palestine in 1948), are among the lowest of the low. They do not have Iraqi citizenship and have to extend their residency permits (a complex process) every single month. Because Saddam exploited the Palestinian cause to try and gain prominence in the Arab world, Palestinians are often (incorrectly) viewed as having supported and benefited from his regime and as a result are persecuted.
In fact Saddam did very little for
the 23,000 Palestinians in Iraq. In addition, as a result of fears of foreign
jihadists, any non-Iraqi Arabs are view with suspicion. There is no evidence
that any of the Palestinian community in Iraq has been involved in terrorist
activities, but none the less they are frequently harrassed and detained.
Things have got so bad that Iraqi security forces have been turning up at the
Palestinian ghetto in Baladiat (Baghdad) almost every evening. This is the
reason that Palestinians are beginning to take the ultimate step of leaving
their homes once again in search of a genuine place of refugee.
One of the Palestinians said: "By our action we want to make the UN aware of our situation and to be registered as refugees with UNRWA which provides assistance to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza and other Arab nations but not in Iraq." I've been doing my best to alert people in the UN to the situation, and they are taking it seriously, however the decision on permitting them to enter Syria rest with the government.