UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
IRAQ: Demonstrators defy eviction
BAGHDAD, 22 March 2005 (IRIN) - Over 300 people demonstrated on Tuesday at the gates of the heavily fortified Green Zone in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, calling on the government to allow them to stay in government buildings as they have no homes following the conflict in 2003.
Nearly 200 Iraqi families have been ordered to leave the buildings in a government complex, called the Freedom Complex district, by the end of this week. There are approximately 2,000 people and some families have up to 10 members.
The families had been renting houses during Saddam Hussein's regime but after the last war they were forced out by the owners as they were paying normal lower rents. Most of the residents earn less than US $30 dollars a month and don't have enough to rent a house on the open market.
"I won't go out of my home, I don't have anywhere to go. It is the only place that I have to live and my children are in a school very close to it. They can kill me but I won't leave," Afifa Abdul-Nebi, a mother of four and resident of the complex, told IRIN at the demonstration.
"Homes, homes, we want homes", was the slogan being chanted by the displaced people. Children could be seen carrying Iraqi flags and small pictures they had drawn of houses and colourful gardens.
Muhammad Shanei Jarallah, organiser of the demonstration, resident of the complex and director of the Iraq National Association for Human Rights, told IRIN that last year the Ministry of Reconstruction (MoR) invested a lot of money in the complex, building 100 new rooms, 50 new bathrooms and repairing the power, water and sewage system, as well as making a small health centre. He said the authorities had told them that they could consider the place as their home forever.
"They repaired the place, we also helped in keeping it clean and new, now they want us to leave without offering another place to stay or helping us find another place to live, it is an offence against the human rights of our children," Jarallah added.
Salua Ibrahim, a senior official from MoR, told IRIN that these people were living in government buildings and even if they had repaired the complex they had to start to look for another place to live as they would need the building back.
"We gave them warning and asked them to leave some time ago and they accuse us of being careless, they don't have the right," Ibrahim added.
The Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) said that the government had to address this problem and at least give them another choice of housing before they asked for the complex to be returned.
"For more than 36 years we haven't seen democracy and justice in this country. Saddam didn't give us our rights and someone should remember that we are from the same Iraqi blood too," Raghed Shaker, a student and resident of the complex, told IRIN.
Themes: (IRIN) Governance, (IRIN) Human Rights
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