UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
IRAQ: Policemen resigning due to insecurity and threats
BAGHDAD, 6 January 2005 (IRIN) - Iraqi police continue to leave their jobs, and some are even leaving the country, in response to violence and threats against them.
Insurgents have said policemen countrywide are targets due to their work with US troops and consider them to be traitors.
"We are doing our duties on the streets of this country afraid that at any time someone may hit us," Sgt Abbas Husseiny, a policeman responsible for a checkpoint in the Mansour district of the capital, Baghdad, told IRIN.
According to the Interior Ministry, there were some 76,000 police officers in Iraq during Saddam's time. After the former Iraqi president was ousted in April 2003, there were no police officers for a month.
The then Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) dissolved the army and the police and started to recruit them again. There are now said to be some 200 police recruits joining the force every month, on an average monthly wage of US $200.
"Our lives are in the hands of people who want to bring disorder to Iraq. I'm getting my passport made so I can leave the country before the elections," Husseiny said.
Accurate figures are hard to confirm but local officials said hundreds of Iraqi policemen were killed last year in attacks by insurgents.
According to officials from the Ministry of Defence, at least two policemen are killed in an explosion or attack in the country daily.
In the latest incident, on Wednesday at least 25 people were killed in several attacks, including a car bomb outside a police academy during a graduation ceremony in Hilla, south of Baghdad.
Police stations are being regularly targeted and attacks have increased in the run up to the 30 January election to chose a 275-member assembly.
According to Maj Salah al-Zeidan, police chief in the Karada district of the capital, many officers resigned after receiving threats from unknown sources and some decided to leave the country. "I know that it may surprise people, as policemen want to feel totally secure and are leaving the country. This is the reality in Iraq," he explained.
"The elections will be the worse days in this country, even with all the security preparations. We will be the first targets and I will leave the country next week for Syria. Unfortunately I had to quit my job for my family's safety," Kamal al-Rabia'a, a policeman working in the Hay Jamia'a district of Baghdad, told IRIN. "I don't want my children to live without a father and that is what could happen if I stay and do my job," he maintained.
Sabah Kadham, deputy minister of interior, told IRIN that the police force was brave and would not be deterred. He said he was aware that the large number of policemen killed last year had made others in the force fear the reality of their work. However, he added that if they did not stick to their bases in defending the country, the insurgents would gain an opportunity.
He said he felt sad that some policemen decided to leave their jobs and flee the country. "It is their choice," he said.
Coalition force officials told IRIN they were working with the Iraqi police and will be helping during the election period, but said they believed something should be done to help the innocent people who are promoting law and order in the country.
The Iraqi prime minister, Ayad Allawi, in a press conference on Wednesday morning, told IRIN that he was well aware of what he described as a "very sad situation".
"Even with all these unfortunate situations, they [policemen] are essential for imposing order for our country and will be the most important group to maintain security during the elections period," he said.
Locals say the election is making the nation nervous and there are reports of families preparing to leave the country after school and university exams end on 15 January.
Parents said they were afraid and wanted to keep their children safe until the elections were over. "I will take my family outside Iraq and bring them back after the elections. They are the future of the country and I don't want to lose them due a stray bullet in the street," Hanoon Salem, a father of five, told IRIN.
But this situation poses another difficulty for the Iraqi authorities. "If people leave the country before the elections and policemen do the same, who is going to vote in the coming polls?" Kadham asked.
Themes: (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Early Warning, (IRIN) Governance, (IRIN) Human Rights
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