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Palestinian Refugees Face New Nakba in Iraq


Palestinian Refugees Face New Nakba in Iraq

The United Nations refugee agency said that thousands of Palestinians have been expelled from their homes in the Baghdad since the end of the US-British war on Iraq and the fall of the Iraqi capital, a few months ago.

Kris Janowski, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said that landlords in Baghdad have ordered some 800 Palestinian families -- or about 4,000 people -- from their homes since May.

Palestinian refugees lived in those apartments for cheap prices, the UN official said. However, it seems the lands owners wanted to rent their properties for higher prices.

200 more families have been given notice to leave their apartments when their children finish their high school exams later this month, he added.

Janowski told reporters the Palestinians refugees have gone back to live in tents provided by the UN agency.

“However, this is only a provisional solution, with temperatures soaring well above 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit),” he said.

Many of Baghdad’s Palestinians now live in two refugee camps -- one located in a no-man’s land at the Jordanian border, the other at the Haifa Sports Club facilities in Baghdad

UNHCR has asked the US-British coalition forces occupying Iraq to let the refugees move into empty government buildings.

There are no accurate statistics on the size of the Palestinian refugee community in Iraq. Some estimates say there are nearly 34,000 Palestinians living in Iraq.

Many of the refugees have lived in Iraq since the 1948 Arab-Israeli war after they were expelled from their houses by Zionist paramilitaries. Others moved in during the 1991 Gulf War.

‘I Wish to Go to Palestine and Die in Palestine’

Anwar al-Sheik, the spokesman for the Haifa camp, told Radio Free Europe (RFE) that the destiny of the Palestinians in the camp will be in the hands of the interim Iraqi administration because the Palestinians have no documents to travel abroad and there is no country that will accept them.

Etidal Hussein is nearly 70. She says she thought she was more or less safe in Iraq, but then the war started and everything fell to pieces.

“When the war stopped, the landlord came with his evil face,” she said. “He came in and told us to evacuate the building.”

She says she refused because she had nowhere to go -- no money to rent another house, no relatives with enough space to take her in.

“The landlord came one more time and threatened to kill me,” she said. “He was coming and harassing me for several days, then came with his friends and kicked me out. I had to accept it and found my way to the camp.”

Muhammad Fouzi is in his 20s. When Baghdad fell to American troops, he says his landlord came and kicked him out, threatening to kill him. He says he had nowhere to go and filled out an application to be assigned a place in a tent at the Haifa camp.

“Humanitarian assistance has arrived and food is not a problem,” Fouzi says. “What is most hurt is my pride as a human being,” he said. “What is my fault that I was born as a stranger and will have to die as a stranger?”

Fouzi says his only wish is “to go to Palestine and die in Palestine.”


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