Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Baghdad's Professional Class Flees City of Anarchy

The UK's Daily Telegraph reports that the constant violence in Baghdad has become so intolerable that anyone who has a choice is leaving.

Quietly, in their ones and twos, the professional classes of Baghdad are slipping out of the country to avoid becoming another fatal statistic.

Iraq is losing the educated elite of doctors, lawyers, academics and businessmen who are vital to securing a stable future. There is also fear that their departure will leave a vacuum to be filled by religious extremists.

Outside the shelter of the Green Zone, home to the American and Iraqi political leadership, lawlessness has overtaken the capital.

Prof Abdul Sattar Jawad, the head of English literature at Baghdad University, will leave next month to take up a post in Jordan. Two of his colleagues left recently after being intimidated.

At his home in east Baghdad the professor answered the door with an outstretched hand. In the other hand he carried a loaded revolver "because I don't trust anybody nowadays".

While the lack of basic needs and a barely functioning infrastructure are considerable hardships, it is the daily threat of death that was the catalyst for his decision. Since the new government came to power in April there have been up to 3,000 civilian deaths, about half attributed to criminal activity.

Conditions in the capital city are at least as terrible under war and occupation as they were under Saddam Hussein's regime -- and in many ways worse. University professors are afraid to teach because of Islamic fundamentalists' threatening responses to the free exchange of ideas. Women do not go outside without head coverings anymore to avoid confrontations with religious fanatics. There is no clean running water; electricity is available only two hours a day; and women are afraid to leave their homes without head coverings because of harassment from religious fanatics. And then of course there are the daily shootings, kidnappings, summary executions, and suicide bombings.

The only thing that is staving off total civil war is the U.S. presence -- but Americans are only providing fingers to stick through the holes in the dike; they are not actually making things better or helping to hasten the day when U.S. troops could leave without risking an all-out civil war.

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