Saturday, April 21, 2007

Iraq's Humanitarian Crisis Continues To Grow, Ignored By the U.S.

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The United Nations held a conference in Geneva earlier this week to draw world attention to the huge and ever-growing humanitarian crisis in Iraq and the countries surrounding Iraq, as a result of the U.S. war against Iraq and the apocalyptic violence that war has created. It is, of course, entirely understandable that the horrifying daily violence occurring in Iraq would dominate headlines, but, ironically, that violence is masking another, massive reality of human suffering:

The United Nations was able, at least for a few hours, to draw public attention away from the bombings and attacks that have become routine in Iraq and direct it towards another, equally painful, aspect of the conflict -- the humanitarian crisis suffered by nearly four million refugees and internally displaced persons.

The U.N. effort to highlight the drastic conditions faced by Iraqi refugees was only relatively successful, however, as Wednesday, the second day of its two-day conference on their humanitarian needs, was one of the bloodiest days in Iraq since the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Media reports indicated that an estimated 170 people were killed by four bombs Wednesday in Iraq, where an average of 100 civilians were killed daily in 2006, according to figures from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
However, there are no plans to move some two million Iraqi refugees, most of whom are in countries bordering Iraq. For example, more than one million have fled across the border to Syria and around 750,000 to Jordan.

Industrialised nations ruled out the possibility of taking in groups of Iraqi asylum seekers, and merely expressed a willingness to provide financial support for Syria and Jordan.

But Bill Frelick, refugee policy director at the New York-based Human Rights Watch, called for special assistance from the United States and Britain, the two main allies in the military coalition that invaded Iraq four years ago.

On one hand they should "provide money to help build schools and health infrastructure to allow people to live in dignity in Syria and Jordan in particular, but in other countries as well in the region, like Lebanon and Egypt," Frelick told IPS.

He also said there should be a "human sharing of responsibility, and that involves resettlement for refugees."

So far, the United States has indicated that it is willing to resettle 7,000 refugees, but "in fact the number that they actually are going to take this year will probably be less than half of that amount," said the activist, who added that "the UK has made no commitment of that sort at all."

I have seen no mention at all in the mainstream press, or in the blogosphere, of this conference or of the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. The only reason I know about it is because that indispensable news blog,, mentioned it in its weekend edition. Between the Alberto Gonzales hearings, the Virginia Tech shootings, and the uproar among war enthusiasts occasioned by Harry Reid making the perfectly unremarkable observation that the United States has lost the Iraq war, there seems to be no space or time to write about four million Iraqis turned into refugees.

Cross-posted at Shakesville.

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