Baghdad (AsiaNews) – A “systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing” targeting Palestinian refugees is under way in Baghdad, according to Palestinian leaders and political activists. In 2006 alone, more than 600 were killed by Shiite militias. A report in the English-language Israeli daily, Jerusalem Post, said that since the fall of Saddam Hussein, thousands of Palestinian families have fled Iraq, not knowing where to go. Neighbouring Syria and Jordan have limited entries while attacks and violence have affected border refugee camps too.
Up to three years ago, there were around 30,000 Palestinians living in Iraq. Under the regime of Saddam Hussein, they were a privileged class but they have always been regarded with disfavour by the Shiites, who were marginalized and persecuted by the raìs. An Iraqi from Baghdad told AsiaNews that during the dictatorship of Saddam, Palestinians were very rich, they held important posts and always received government aid. “They used to have very luxurious houses and what’s more, that had electricity all day while the rest of the city had to make do with only two out of every five hours,” said the source. Saddam had always given to understand that “an offence against a Palestinian was an offence against the raìs himself.”
Today, Palestinians in Iraq number less than 10,000 and most of them live in fear of their lives, afraid to go out. Nadia Othman, who escaped from Baghdad to Jordan, told about the death of her brother: “Shiite militias stopped him in the street as he was on his way to the school where he taught Arabic. When they saw his documents, they immediately fired three bullets at his head," she said. "On the same day, they kidnapped and murdered Farid Al-Sayed, chairman of the Palestinian-controlled Haifa Sports Club in Iraq."
Another Palestinian who went to the northern West Bank said Palestinians were so scared they no longer went out with documents to conceal their true identity.
Zakariya Al-Agha, head of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) Refugees Department, expressed “deep concern” over the fate of the Palestinians in Iraq." He said 400 Palestinians were living in tough conditions along the border after Damascus denied them entry. Atef Udwan, minister for refugee affairs in the Hamas-led government, said he was searching for a way to allow the Palestinians in Iraq to move to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. "We need to persuade Israel to give these people permission to enter our territories. This is a purely humanitarian issue that must be addressed urgently."