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Iraqi Expat

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Iraqi Expats

I've heard so many times, that there are people in Iraq who feel hostile to the Iraqi Expats! While this might be a view of few, I feel like I have to talk about who are the exiles, why they left, what they do, how they feel, etc. However, don't take what I say as a fact that can be applied to all, its just my view and I've seen many exceptions!

I will start with myself. I am 32 years old and have spent the first 24 years of my life in Iraq, mostly in Baghdad. I've spent the 70s, 80s and half of the 90s there; and I've spent time in the military camps, I had to as a student! So I know Iraq, I know its people and I have seen the wars and sanctions. However, I must say, even though I hear and read a lot about the current situation there and I have relatives and friends there, I know that people have changed and I can only imagine how it feels to be there now.

As you can imagine, it is not easy to classify or describe the expats! They are so many, left Iraq at different times, for different reasons, have different believes and they are of all age groups with different level education and background. However, I will try to summarise in general.

The expats can be classified into three major categories; those forced to leave before the Gulf war (50s - 90s); those choose to leave or stay after they came for education before the Gulf war; and finally the biggest group are those left after the gulf war.

Those forced to leave before the Gulf war, are those who were persecuted, tortured, lost members of their family, deported and left Iraq with nothing (everything they owned were confiscated)! Some of them didn't go through all this but some did, and all had to or forced to leave with or without losing everything. Depending on their struggle and pain, some of those don't wish to go back to Iraq not even to claim what was confiscated by the Baathist, but others do! Most of them have established a life and don't wish to risk losing everything again. Those who do wish to go back or claim what they lost are very much attached to Iraq and to the Iraqi society, basically they still care.

Part of those who were deported are the Iraqi Jewish community. And those left of them, who lived in Iraq (i.e. not their offspring) still think about Iraq, love Iraq, cook Iraqi food and dream of going back! This might sound strage, but they are more loyal to Iraq than some Arab Iraqis.

Those chose to leave Iraq or stay out of it after they came for education before the Gulf war have done so to seek a better life where they enjoyed freedom and democracy, and they realised the dangers of the Baath party; so they didn't want to go back, or had an opportunity to leave and did so.

Most of those well established and have achieved that better life they were after. They did well for themselves, but most of them still have relatives in Iraq and still attached to Iraq. Many of those who came in the 80s, have been here before probably during the 60s and got further education and went back to Iraq, to serve Iraq! But then found an opportuinity to leave when there was war and left.

In general, all those who came before the Gulf war; their offspring who were raised from childhood in exile are less attached to Iraq, less aware of its problem, less concerned about it and many of them even don't speak Arabic. Now those are not a lot and most of them are in there teens now. Having said this, I have met Iraqis who were raised here and they are in there early 20s and are very much concerned about Iraq and following the situation!

As for those who left in the 90s, well we are talking about the majority as most of the exiles have left after the Gulf war! And all of those either have families or at least relatives still back home. They have seen two wars and lived through the sanctions, depending on when they left. Those are very much attached to Iraq and very few of them have lost the Iraqi identity. Those have left because the living situation in Iraq was getting worse and they had the opportunity to leave. Many of those have struggled to reach their destination; and by struggle, I am not comparing their struggle with that of the Iraqis who stayed in Iraq, but some had to go through a lot before reaching a safe heaven.

And as for this group (who left after the Gulf war), well you see people who have done well and others who are still trying. There are those who wishes to go back, and others who don't. Some left because they had to, others because they had an opportunity.

Example, my parent were in England in the 60s, they got their post graduate studies and went back to Iraq. They left again in the 90s when they had the chance! It would have been much easier for them to stay in England when they were here in the 60s, only they believed in Iraq and had to go back and give it what they learned. Many educated people left Iraq because of Saddam; all those who had the opportunity to leave have left. Some of them are still struggling to make a living others have established themselves. But all of those are Iraqis who care about Iraq and its people, and many of those who are in there late 20s, 30s and 40s wishes to go back and give Iraq the experience they have; not to tell Iraqis how to live, but to simply share with them the knowledge, to help rebuild a better Iraq. Most of those, are like my parents who went back in the 60s and 70s to give Iraq their knowledge and experience. Only its harder to go back now while the security is not so great and they have some sort of a life established here.

As for how people think, well as you can imagine or maybe not, you can find all sorts of people (exile Iraqis). You can find those who supprots Iran Style, those who supprot the Baath, those who support Saddam! And you can even find people that support a Wahhabi style Iraq! You might find it hard to belive, but it is true; and the question that always comes to my mind when I see such people is: Why are you here? Why did you leave Iraq? Why are you not in Iran? And so many other questions.

I must say that it is disturbing to see such people, especially those who still support Saddam; but the majority believe one way or another in freedom and democracy, even though each express their views in a different way.


Blogger Rosebuds said...

what a great post....I need to link this to so many other Iragi blogs that I read...thank you..very eloguently put


March 07, 2005 9:01 am  
Blogger Brian H said...

It is very common for emigrants from a country to "freeze" their ideas, attitudes, and images of the home country, at the stage it was when they left. That is, e.g., Italian communities in the U.S. are often more traditional Italian than the Italians, and so on. The home country moves on, while the emigrants keep trying to recreate things the way they were when they left. Perhaps many of the more rigid expat attitudes reflect this "freezing" of opinions from the time they remember.

March 07, 2005 10:04 am  
Blogger dcat said...


My grandparents (my mother’s parents) came from Poland and never got to go back because of the cost to come to America. They wanted a better life then what they had in Poland. However my dads mother couldn’t stay in America she kept going back (she had money). The grand parents that stayed here had us keep the customs and cooking too. I still make a lot of the dishes.

Your story was a wonderful reminder of my own heritage. I think Iraq will do fine and people that have a lot to offer will build it back up bigger and better. Everything takes time. After all Europe did fine when we got rid of, Hitler. He was a big scum bag!

March 07, 2005 7:49 pm  

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