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 Deal to settle Saddam - era clames

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الدولة : المانيا
الجنس : ذكر
عدد المساهمات : 10058
تاريخ التسجيل : 07/10/2009
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مُساهمةموضوع: Deal to settle Saddam - era clames   الأحد 12 سبتمبر 2010, 01:57

Deal to settle Saddam-era claims

Iraq has agreed to pay $400 million to Americans who say they were abused by Saddam Hussein's regime, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Friday.

The agreement, recently signed by U.S. and Iraqi officials, represents a significant step forward for Iraq and could bring an end to years of legal battles by Americans who claim to have been tortured or traumatized under Saddam's regime.But the deal is likely to anger Iraqis who consider themselves the victims' of both Saddam and the 2003 U.S. invasion, and wonder why they should pay money for wrongs committed by the ousted dictator.

The American Embassy spokesman in Iraq, David Ranz, said the agreement "to settle claims of American victims of the Saddam Hussein regime," was signed Sept. 2. He gave no details of the agreement, including who the specific claimants are or the dollar amount involved.A senior Iraqi government official confirmed the deal has been signed, and said Iraq agreed to pay about $400 million. He said the money would be given to Americans who were affected by the Iraqi invasion of neighboring Kuwait in 1990.

Saddam's government held hundreds of Americans hostage during the run-up to the Gulf War, using them as human shields in hopes of staving off an attack by the U.S. and its allies.Many of the Americans pursued lawsuits for years against Saddam's government. The Americans kept up their legal fight after Saddam was overthrown in 2003 and a new government came to power. CBS News correspondent Bob Simon, who was held for more than a month during the Gulf War, was one of the people suing Iraq.

The Iraqi official did not say specifically who would receive money from the settlement, but said the deal was connected to the Gulf War."This agreement is related to the invasion of Kuwait during the former regime time. Saddam detained U.S. citizens as human shields, and he did torture," said the official, who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.

The settlement, which was first reported by the Christian Science Monitor, could help Iraq shake off U.N. sanctions imposed following Saddam's invasion of Kuwait. Baghdad would need the help of the United States to remove the sanctions, and the settlement may remove what has been a stumbling block between the two sides.Ranz said Iraq still has to go through several steps for the agreement to be finalized. He did not say what those steps are.

Generally such agreements have to be approved by the Cabinet, but this settlement would likely be extremely unpopular among Iraqis who survived years under Saddam only to suffer vicious sectarian fighting after the American invasion.Approving such a settlement would likely be politically toxic for any Iraqi government, and the matter is further complicated by the fact that Iraq is in month six without a new government after the March 7 elections.


Associated Press writers Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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Iraqi Refugees, Survival Comes at a Price

I am among the estimated 2 million Iraqi refugees still living far from home more than seven years after the U.S.-led coalition took over Baghdad. This is one story among hundreds of thousands.

In August, I visited my family in Syria and Jordan, where they have been residing since they fled Iraq in 2007 after a series of threats and losses of loved ones. A few months earlier, I was awarded a Fulbright scholarship and had moved to New York City where I was later granted asylum.In my last weekend in Syria, a group of young Iraqi men suggested we go to a party at a night club on the outskirts of Damascus. One of my companions said to me: "Here you'll find the most beautiful Iraqi refugee women ... and they are very affordable."

As we walked in, the stage was packed with women wearing heavy make up and revealing clothes. An Iraqi singer was performing live and the surrounding tables were occupied mostly by Arab men from the wealthy Gulf States and surrounding countries. Alcohol was being served and smoking was permitted.A couple of hours into the night, the singer stepped aside and men from the crowd started joining the women on stage. Two women approached our table, asking if they could join us. From their accents, we knew they were Iraqi. Once they realized we were Iraqi too, they started talking about Iraq, the war, President Bush, Iran, al-Qaida and their lives in Syria.

The two women were cousins: Ananas, a 34-year-old pharmacist, and Dunya, a 28-year-old poetess. Ananas first came to Syria in 2006 after her brother and father were shot dead by a U.S. military convoy while he was driving during curfew hours. "They were all I had. Once they were gone, my uncles were forcing me to marry my cousin. He was 21 years older than me and already married. I escaped two days before the wedding date, got on a bus and came to Syria," she said.

As for Dunya, she got married at the age of 16. "My husband was killed by armed militiamen in our front yard. I saw it ... I was looking from the kitchen window. They stormed into our house after and raped me. I didn't try to resist because I didn't want them to go upstairs and find my daughter and hurt her. She was only 9 at the time." Dunya then fled to Syria with her daughter in 2007 and united with her cousin Ananas, who had already found her way into the sex industry.

When I asked about Dunya's daughter, she said, "Her name is Tamara. She is doing alright now. Oh, she is right there in fact," as she started waving at a young girl, now 11-years-old, with wavy hair and wearing make up.Tamara was on the stage dancing and was occasionally joined by men to talk or dance with her. When I asked Dunya whether she worried about Tamara losing her innocence, her reply was: "Innocence? That is not something for our children. It may be for the children in America or Europe but not us. Tamara is going to grow up in a society that judges her, restricts her and takes advantage of her. Being innocent is only going to make it worse and turn her life harder."

Dunya said she is willing to marry Tamara to a man who would look after her. Displaced Iraqi women -- once removed from the support system in their homeland -- become easy prey for the sex industry. Home, tribe, community and extended family are what provided that support system, and without it they sometimes turn to prostitution for survival.A Syrian security official, who asked not to be identified, said thousands of Iraqi women have faced arrest, jail and forced deportation after being charged with prostitution.

A few days after meeting Ananas and Dunya, I drove to Amman, Jordan, the host country of the second largest Iraqi refugee population, after Syria. During my two weeks in Amman, it became clear there was a class division within the Iraqi community.Jordan, like neighboring Syria, admitted Iraqis as "guests" or "tourists" and did not grant them refugee status, as neither one of these countries ratified the 1951 U.N. convention on refugees. Jordan, however, has set up a system in which Iraqis are granted residency once they deposit $100,000 in special government accounts.

So while Jordan can be a safe haven for investors and businessmen, the high cost of living and lack of access to legal work have imposed serious financial challenges on the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees living there today.There also appeared to be two groups of Iraqi refugees: those who lost everything and have nothing left to return to in Iraq, and others who fear losing everything if they return. And for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi families in Jordan and Syria, the uncertainty over their future is far from over.

Haider Hamza is a freelance writer living in New York City.

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Refugee children dropping out of school

Iraqi refugee children in Syria are struggling to keep up at school, or are dropping out to seek paid work
, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

“Education is absolutely central to the future of all children. Having a generation not equipped to participate in the economy of their country serves no one,” said Sherazade Boualia, UNICEF head in Syria.Syria, which took in up to 1.2 million of the two million refugees who fled sectarian violence in the wake of the 2003 war in Iraq, opened its public education system to the refugees, but many are unable to benefit.

Children often work to bring in extra income for their families. Iraqis are not legally allowed to work in Syria and black market jobs often pay just 100 SYP (US$2) per day, according to the refugees.Hussein Ali, 16, said he had to drop out of school to earn money cleaning in a hotel. “We are very grateful for the cash assistance from the UNHCR [UN Refugee Agency],” said Mr Ali, his father, who has a disability which prevents him from working. “But it is not enough.”

Others have to travel too far to get to a school with available places, or cannot afford the nominal fees. “Most of the Iraqi refugee population is concentrated in and around Damascus where schools' capacity is already stretched,” said Boualia.The refugees’ plight is getting worse as remittances are drying up and savings running out, said US NGO Refugees International.

Over the last three years the number of Iraqi refugee children dropping out of school has risen steadily, according to UNICEF.Government figures indicate that 49,132 Iraqi refugees were enrolled in the 2007-2008 school year, but this dropped to 32,425 in 2008-2009. Refugees International said the number had dropped further this year, with 30 percent fewer children enrolled.

"The decline is linked to families experiencing more financial stress as well as resettlement to third countries and returns to Iraq," said Boualia.Anecdotal evidence suggests most of those dropping out are male, with families keeping girls in school.Teachers say Iraqi children are falling behind at school due to emotional problems, gaps in their education, or difficulties adjusting to their new situation in Syria.


In coordination with the Syrian government, UNICEF is attempting to tackle the problem with a US$6 million project, which includes improving facilities at schools with a high proportion of refugees, remedial classes for children who have fallen behind, and vocational evening classes for those working.UNICEF is also training teachers in the psycho-social needs of Iraqis which may be preventing them from concentrating. “The majority of Iraqis have at least one family member that suffers from extreme depression," said Elizabeth Campbell, senior official at Refugees International. Many of those are children. UNHCR says 150 Iraqis are referred for counselling every month.

Refugee registration data shows most Iraqi refugee adults living in Syria are educated and value education for their children. But experts say solutions must be found or children will continue to drop out of school.“The needs of the whole family must be met to ensure children attend school,” said Campbell.Experts say providing families with financial assistance contingent upon their children enrolling in school, or providing hot meals at schools, might be one way forward.
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