IRIN / United Nations – 2006-06-01 09:31:31
Citizens Chafe under Rising Unemployment
BAGHDAD (June 1, 2006) — For Abbas Mohamed al-Sakri, the 20 years he spent studying Arabic literature was “a big mistake” because he remains unable to get a job with his degree.
“For the past three years, I sent dozens of job applications to government ministries,” said the 28-year-old al-Sakri. “But all were in vain. Members of influential political and religious parties are given preference, even though they aren’t qualified.”
According to Mohamed Taha al-Mousawi, an adviser at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the national unemployment rate surpassed 60 percent last year. “And the rate rose further in the first quarter of this year, as many policemen and army members quit their jobs due to threats by militants groups,” al-Mousawi said. He added that his ministry had no plans to promote employment until the security situation had improved.
Iraq’s high unemployment rate was also recently acknowledged by the First Lady. Speaking at an international conference devoted to women in business in London on 23 May, the wife of President Jalal Talabani stressed that high unemployment levels made disaffected youths easy targets for recruitment by extremists.
Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, a respected businesswoman and founder of the Kurdistan Women’s Union, agreed. She warned that that joblessness could be expected to increase further, especially in central and southern Iraq. “Unemployment levels have exceeded all limits,” she said.
Locals, meanwhile, especially those with big families, complain bitterly about job scarcity. “I can work only two or three days a week due to the huge labour pool,” said Ahmed Fiza’a, a 25-year-old day labourer, as he stood amid a group of about 100 workers in Baghdad’s northern Kazimiyah district. “I earn about US $8 a day, and I’m the eldest in an eight-member family…I have to feed them all.”
Last month, a top US General in Iraq said that the only way to defeat the insurgency and bring stability to the country was by boosting the economy and creating hope among disaffected young people. “A prosperous Iraq will be a peaceful Iraq,” said Lt. Gen. Pete Chiarelli, commander of the Multinational Corps in Iraq. “By creating jobs and opportunity, the government would take away a major source of support for violent movements.”
In the meantime, 28-year-old Omar Salah Jassim has despaired of government promises, deciding instead to earn his living selling cigarettes from a wooden stall in a bustling bus station in Baghdad. “Earning about US $10 a day this way is better than begging at the government’s door,” said Jassim, who holds a degree from Baghdad’s University’s education faculty.
Officials Warn of Displacement Following Attacks
ARBIL (May 28, 2006) — Humanitarian workers in northern Iraq have voiced concerns over reports of displaced villagers on the borders of Turkey and Iran as a result of recent shelling.
“There’s a great probability of a rise in the number of displaced people and a humanitarian disaster as the attacks escalate,” said Abdul-Majid Shukri, head of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) in the northern Dahuk governorate.
According to Mazin Mohammed, Mayor of Amadiya, a border district between Iraq and Turkey, a number of villagers in Dahuk have fled their homes after shelling from Turkish troops. Eyewitnesses in the area say that Turkish military units have crossed the border and were currently positioned 500 meters inside Iraqi territory.
The Turkish government acknowledges that it has reinforced its presence on the frontier, with some estimates suggesting there could be as many as 250,000 Turkish troops on the border. Ankara denies, however, that any of its soldiers have crossed into Iraq.
Local officials and aid agencies in the area, meanwhile, say that more than 200 families have been displaced amid fears of escalating bombardments, although no casualties have been reported so far. The assaults, especially those close to the border with Iran, have also served to interrupt the lively trade that has been a traditional source of livelihood for many local families, say officials.
According to officials in the district of Haji Omaran, shelling began on 21 April, when Iranian troops reportedly launched assaults on certain mountainous border areas in an attempt to subdue elements of an opposition group linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is outlawed in Turkey.
The PKK has been fighting for an autonomous homeland in Turkey for decades, leading to fierce battles between the two in the 1990s. Iran also reportedly fears the presence of the so-called Kurdistan Freedom Life Party, or PAJAK, which Tehran says has links to the PKK.
While the scope of the assaults by Turkish and Iranian troops has been relatively limited until now, local officials fear worse is to come. “Local people are worried,” said Amadiya Mayor Mohammed by telephone. “They say that, if the shelling continues, they’ll abandon their villages.”
Although no relief measures have been taken so far, the IRCS says it plans to send aid to the displaced families who have resettled in nearby areas.
These items come to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian news and information service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.