The suffering of Palestinian refugees in Iraq has not stopped since the US invasion in 2003. Their situation is getting worse day by day, as revealed by the head of the Palestinians in Iraq Association, Thamer Mishinish, as the sectarian targeting of Palestinians has increased recently, bringing the number of refugees down to 3,000.
Mishinish noted in a special interview with the PIC that only 3,000 Palestinian refugees live in Iraq now, out of a total of 30,000 in 2003, distributed in the provinces of Baghdad, Mosul and Kurdistan. Baghdad has 2,000 refugees, while 800 others live in the city of Mosul, and 200 live in the Kurdistan region.
The suffering of the remaining Palestinian refugees in Iraq has doubled, especially after the enactment of a law that deprives the Palestinians of the privileges they enjoyed for 70 years and repeals a previous law issued in 2001 that affirmed these privileges. Palestinian refugees in Iraq became foreign residents without any privileges. They were denied their right to free education, free treatment and food stamps, in addition to the removal of employees from governmental departments and institutions.
The former Iraqi law regarding Palestinian refugees provided for the treatment of Palestinians equal to Iraqi nationals, including all privileges and rights, except for obtaining Iraqi citizenship, granting them the right to employment and work in state institutions, and the right to education, health, work, retirement and monthly food stamps, as well as tax exemption and the right to take loans from banks. This also included granting them travel documents and obliging the Iraqi embassies to treat them equal to Iraqi citizens.
Kidnapping and arrest
Mishinish noted that the arrest of Palestinian refugees in Iraq began in 2005 following a car bombing incident in which four Palestinians were falsely accused. The incident was followed by the kidnapping, torture and killing of many refugees, with the four being proven innocent a year later, after which they left Iraq for European countries.
Mishinish stressed that detaining Palestinians at random has continued to the present day, adding, “The number of detained Palestinians has reached about 45 refugees, including those kidnapped by the militias, the last of which was three weeks ago. One of the refugees was arrested on false charges, without knowing where he is being held.”
He pointed out that the Iraqi court sentences against Palestinian refugees are harsh, ranging from life to death sentences, pointing to the recent death sentence passed against refugee Ahmad Hosni al-Shawahna.
The role of the Palestinian embassy
As for the role of the Palestinian embassy, Mishinish explained that its role is not worth mentioning. “It is limited to meetings with Iraqi officials, without using diplomatic methods or even pressure from the PA to alleviate the suffering of the refugees.”
“Unfortunately, the embassy has not been able to visit a single Palestinian detainee or to pursue their cases or assign a lawyer to them. It ignores the families of martyrs, detainees and abductees, who are powerless.”
An Iraqi law regulating the lives of Palestinian refugees was issued in 2001 known as Resolution 202. It stipulates that Palestinians should be treated equal to Iraqis, except for nationality, national service, and political action.
Mishinish pointed out that this was recently revoked, as education and treatment of Palestinian refugees became no longer free. Palestinian retired employees used to have monthly salaries, but now after their death, their families are no longer receiving them, which made life harder for them.
Mishinish said that harassment and sectarian targeting continue to affect Palestinian refugees, preventing many young men from working, staying at their homes fearing to be targeted. This caused an increase in unemployment rates and the spread of poverty among Palestinian refugees.
He explained that despite the improvement in the security situation in Iraq, the employment opportunities for young people decreased, “as Palestinian refugees are prevented from applying for government jobs,” noting that there are no associations or relief organizations to help them, “and if there is one, the government shuts it down, as what happened with a relief organization that was helping Palestinian refugees, claiming it was supporting terrorism.