Iraq: Professionals Fleeing

We’ve written frequently of the skillful and effective Mafia-style intimidation tactics of jihadists, Saddamists and criminal gangs. This January 23 WaPo report is appropriately subtitled “Exodus of Educated Elite Puts Rebuilding at Risk“. The report isn’t specific as to timeframe, so it could be a collection of dated interviews. Regardless, restoring security-confidence remains one of the most important milestones for a functioning Iraq:

. . .Exodus is not new to the country. Iraqis who could flee Saddam Hussein’s repressive rule did: Poor Shiite Muslims sneaked across the border into Iran, and Sunni Arabs crossed the mountains into Syria or the desert to Jordan. People often waited years for permission to attend a seminar or do business in another country and then would disappear there. Hussein began holding such people’s families hostage to guarantee their return.

Many of those émigrés flooded back into Iraq when Hussein fell. But the country’s instability and daily regimen of violence have made some reconsider their return. Others who stayed throughout Hussein’s rule are finally saying goodbye to their homeland now.

Numbers are impossible to document, partly because those who leave often tell passport officials they are going out of the country for a short visit. Often without telling friends or neighbors, they take a few things from their homes, lock the doors and vanish.

An official at the Interior Ministry’s statistics office said the number of Iraqis traveling overland to Jordan held steady at about 200 to 250 a day from July 2004 to June 2005. Since last July, however, the number crossing the border — excluding truckers and traders — has ballooned to 1,100 a day, according to the official. . .

Anyone displaying signs of wealth, often professionals and businessmen, are particular targets of kidnappers in search of high ransoms. However, payment is no guarantee a hostage will not simply be killed and dumped; some authorities claim dozens of bodies are found every day but never reported.

That danger is overlaid by the activities of an insurgency that aims to terrify the society by means of bombings, murder and abduction — or threats. In addition, the death toll from sectarian violence among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds has climbed steadily.