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imperialism & war | media criticism

Iraq's 4 million refugees - does anyone care?

Breaking through the media silence on the suffering of Iraq's civilian population.
Does anyone care about the plight of Iraq's refugees? Iraqis are rapidly becoming the world's biggest refugee group. Every day a staggering 1,000 arrive in Jordan and 2,000 in Syria. The number of those displaced both internally and externally is around 4 million. One person in eight has been forced to flee their homes as a result of their `liberation`. Just imagine this in British or American terms - it would be the equivalent of the whole population of a city like London or a state like California being forced to take flight. Yet little or none of the suffering of Iraqi civilians reaches the mainstream media.

The `news` on Friday 2nd March 2007 was dominated by the seemingly never ending Diana and Dodi saga and how the inquest (10 years after the event for goodness sake) will be heard by a jury. The front pages on Saturday 3rd March led with `I WILL SEE CHARLES AND PHILLIP IN COURT` in the Daily Mail, `PAPARAZZI HAUNT DIANA INQUEST` in the Times and ` JURY TO RULE ON TRAGIC DIANA` in the Sun. I wonder what the late princess herself would have made of it.

If we examine those same papers for stories about Iraqi refugees we find virtually nothing. For example the top search result from the Sun was a 2003 article headlined `Iraqi refugees go home ` with then Home Secretary David Blunkett advocating compulsory repatriation to the Kurdish-run north, where it was "generally overwhelmingly safe" for people returning.

A search of The Times database produced 282 results for `Iraqi Refugees` while a search of `Princess Diana ` produced 2,498 entries - nine times as many.

The UN estimates that some two million Iraqis have already fled the country. Approximately 50,000 are leaving every month, threatening to overwhelm other Middle Eastern countries, particularly Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.

Patrick Cockburn writes:

`In fact the civil war is getting worse by the day. Food is short in parts of the country. A quarter of the population would starve without government rations. Many Iraqis are ill because their only drinking water comes from the highly polluted Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
Nowhere in Mr Blair's statement was any admission of regret for reducing Iraq to a wasteland from which 2 million people have fled and 1.5 million are displaced internally.
Mr Blair gave the impression that the presence of US and British forces is popular among Iraqis. In fact an opinion poll cited by the bipartisan Baker-Hamilton report of senior Democrats and Republicans in Washington showed that 61 per cent of Iraqis favour armed attacks on US and British forces. `

An Iraqi mother in Baghdad reports:

I have been in contact with an Iraqi who I will call `Bushra` to protect her identity. Bushra (not her real name) fled Iraq for the relative safety of Jordan and then returned to her home in the middle class Baghdad neighbourhood of Al Karada. She and her family were about to board a bus but on discovering they didn't have enough for the fares decided to walk it. They had only gone 100 metres from the bus when it exploded - they went back to help the injured, she said the scene of the carnage with the body parts lying around was the worst thing she had ever seen. Just a week before that there was a bomb near her brother's apartment which she also narrowly avoided. In fact there were 15 bombs in her neighbourhood alone in February. Travelling from Iraq to Jordan is becoming more difficult as the taxis are getting more expensive (and dangerous) and Jordan has been closing its borders to Iraqis. She says her native city now looks like a graveyard.

For more information - Refugees International:

UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees):

Media Lens did a good analysis of the lack of media coverage:

What action can be taken? Letters to MPs, to newspapers and TV programmes for a start. Then perhaps donations to relevant charities such as those mentioned above. There will be worldwide demonstrations on March 17th, the fourth anniversary of the attack on Iraq. Instead of just A to B marches perhaps there could also be a march on the media - it shouldn't be too difficult to get a few hundred people to go to each of the main national and local papers and TV and radio stations and make them listen.

8 related photos are attached.

Word count 747 words.

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