Post-invasion Iraq - the facts
Twelve years of sanctions and seven years of occupation have taken their toll as Iraqis struggle with wrecked infrastructure and continuing insecurity.
By Hadani Ditmars
Interview with Hadani Ditmars: Part 1
Interview with Hadani Ditmars: Part 2
Interview with Hadani Ditmars: Part 3
Interview with Hadani Ditmars: Part 4
- Iraq's child mortality rate has increased by a staggering 150% since 1990, when draconian UN sanctions were first imposed. During the embargo, which lasted until May 2003 and prevented the rebuilding of water and sanitation infrastructure by banning chlorine and spare parts, the leading cause of death for children under five was waterborne illness. An estimated 500,000 children died in the first 5 years of the embargo.1
- Post-invasion, Iraqi children continue to suffer. Some 122,000 under-fives died in 2005. More than half of these deaths were among newborn babies in the first month of life.2
- In 2008 only 50% of primary school-age children were attending class, down from 80% in 2005. Approximately 1,500 children were known to be held in detention facilities.3
- In 2007 there were 5 million Iraqi orphans, according to official Government statistics.4
- Child malnutrition rates have risen from 19% before the US-led invasion in 2003 to 28% in 2007.5
- A recent report by the NGO Refugees International urges the US to intervene in the humanitarian crisis facing thousands of Iraqis displaced by war because it 'bears special responsibility' for their situation.6
- 33% – or 500,000 people – of the 1.5 million internally displaced people forced from their homes in 2006 and 2007 'live as squatters in slum areas'.7
- 50,000 Iraqi refugees have been forced into prostitution.8
- According to Refugees International, the US accepted fewer than 800 Iraqi refugees from 2003 until 2007. By comparison, Sweden has taken in 18,000 and Australia almost 6,000. By 2006, Jordan had admitted 750,000 Iraqis, although they are denied official refugee status and instead called 'visitors'.9
- Displacement is largely a result of sectarian cleansing in mixed neighbourhoods. Sunnis have fled Basra, while Shi'as were driven out of areas north of Baghdad such as Samarra and Baquba. The US 'surge' did not create peace, but rather cemented sectarian segregation. In the majority Sunni village of Abou Jabour, south of Baghdad, where US forces dropped 45,000 kg of explosives in 10 days in January 2008 as part of the 'surge', survivors were left to dig through the rubble with their bare hands.10
- In Northern Iraq, Saddam's old policy of 'Arabization' has been reversed as thousands of ethnic Kurds forced out 100,000 Iraqi Arabs.11
- Sunni Arabs have driven out at least 70,000 Kurds from Mosul's western half and Assyrian and Turkmen villages have formed their own militias to defend themselves from both Arab Islamist and Kurdish Nationalist groups.12
- 8 million Iraqis require immediate emergency aid, with nearly half of the population living in absolute poverty.
- 4 million people lack food and are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.
- Only 60% of the 4 million people who depend on food assistance have access to rations from the public distribution system, down from 96% in 2004.
- The number of Iraqis without access to adequate water supplies has risen from 50% to 70% since 2003.
- 80% of people in Iraq do not have safe access to effective sanitation.
- The most critical water shortage since Babylonian times is threatening to leave up to 2 million people in the south of Iraq without drinking water. Rampant waterborne diseases and the lack of electricity and clean drinking water have led Iraqis to take to the streets in Baghdad chanting: 'No water, no electricity in the country of oil and the two rivers.' A four-year drought plagues most of Iraq. In the north, lack of water has forced more than 100,000 people to abandon their homes since 2005, with 36,000 more on the verge of leaving.15
DISAPPEARANCES, ASSASSINATIONS, ILLEGAL DETENTIONS
- At least 210 lawyers and judges have been killed since the 2003 invasion, in addition to dozens injured in attacks against them.17
- Based on studies undertaken by local NGOs, at least 15,000 Iraqis disappeared during the first four years of US occupation.18
- According to the Brussels Tribunal, 437 Iraqi academics have been murdered since the invasion.19
- An estimated 30,000 untried detainees are currently being held by the Iraqi authorities. Most are housed in overcrowded and unsanitary facilities controlled by the Ministries of Justice, Interior and Defence.20
- As of February 2010, US forces – who turned over thousands of their prisoners to Iraqi authorities – were still holding 5,800 people.21
- As of 2007, Baghdad had earned the title 'Kidnapping Capital of the World'.22
An Oxfam-designed survey23 of Iraqi women aged 21 to 65 was carried out by Iraqi NGO Al-Amal in 2008. It paints a grim picture and calls the situation for women a 'silent emergency'. It also calls for the implementation of new methods of protecting women 'as the security situation shifts from widespread violence to more targeted attacks, to which women are particularly vulnerable'.
- 33% of women surveyed had received no humanitarian assistance since 2003.
- 76% of widows said they did not receive a pension from the Government.
- 52% of respondents were unemployed.
- 55% had been displaced since 2003.
- 55% had been subjected to violence since 2003: 25.4% as victims of random street violence, 22% domestic abuse, 14% violence inflicted by militias, 10% targeted abuse or abduction, 9% sexual abuse and 8% violence inflicted by the Multi-National Forces.
- 40% reported that they could not access healthcare without the threat of insecurity.
- 30% of those with children said they could not reach school without security threats.
- 31% said they could not move freely in their area (to visit the market and so on) without risking their safety.
The May issue of New Internationalist magazine - Iraq, 7 years later: the legacy of invasion - was written and photographed by co-editor Hadani Ditmars. It took her back to Baghdad for the first time since 2003, when she went to research Dancing in the No Fly Zone, a book that chronicles her reporting in Iraq from 1997 until the fall of 2003. In the May magazine, Hadani writes on women's issues, Iraqi culture under siege, the state of public health, the situation for religious minorities and sectarian conflict and offers a timely political analysis.