- The Washington Times - Friday, May 26, 2006

AMMAN, Jordan — Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq more than three years ago, as many as 1 million Iraqis have fled to Jordan to escape lawlessness or to find jobs.

The flight has created an exile community that is well in evidence at the Mecca Mall, where many of Amman’s well-heeled go to shop. Rich Iraqis float in and out of the stores while poorer Iraqis are working 12-hours shifts to finish a new addition to the shopping center.

“If the security situation was 50 percent better, I would go back,” said Suma Mohamed, who left the restive Baghdad neighborhood of Adhamiya with her husband and daughter a year and a half ago. On this day, she was shopping for housewares in Amman.

Mrs. Mohamed is fortunate — she has residency in Jordan, a boon open to Iraqis who have at least $150,000 stashed in a Jordanian bank.

Many of the Iraqis that pour in and out of the country are granted three-month visas at most, and sometimes as few as three days. Jordanian officials have tightened their rules in the wake of suicide bombings carried out by Iraqis in Amman last November.

Mrs. Mohamed’s husband is a businessman, and made the decision to leave after his brother’s house was raided by the U.S. military and his brother was detained for nine months.

Others have come to Jordan to escape the kidnappings and assassinations that are rampant in Iraq and often target doctors and other professionals.

Mustafa Al-Hiti is the former dean of Baghdad University’s College of Pharmacy, and after surviving a pair of assassination attempts in 2003, he decided to move his family to Jordan, where he now runs a pharmaceuticals company.

Mr. Hiti has tried to remain active in his country’s future, however — despite living mostly in Amman. He won a seat in parliament in December’s elections with the National Dialogue Party, a grouping of secular Sunnis headed by Saleh Mutlaq.

Mr. Hiti said he is planning to go back to Baghdad later this month.

“The destruction is exponential in some parts of Baghdad,” he said, describing his last trip to the Iraqi capital. “The people go home at six.”

The influx of Iraqis has created some grumbling among Jordanians, especially as their country faces shortages of resources and rich Iraqis drive up prices. But Mrs. Mohamed said Jordanians on the whole are still supportive.

“They understand the problems Iraqis are having,” she said. “Iraqi children are allowed to attend public schools here if they can’t afford private ones.” Mrs. Mohamed’s family lives in Umm Udhaina, a expensive neighborhood in Amman.

“More people are arriving from Iraq every day,” she said.

In a sense, exile is part of the Iraqi experience, as political purges during the past four decades have at one time or another forced one group or another to flee.

But the end of the 1991 war brought on the international isolation of the Iraqi state and a new kind of flight, one that drove out people with no politics, simply in hope of escaping a crumbling country.


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