Last year, then Iraqi President Fuad Masum approved Law No. 76 of 2017, which stripped Palestinians living in Iraq of their rights and classified them as "foreigners." (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Palestinians living in Iraq were recently stripped of the equal-rights status they had enjoyed under Saddam Hussein. Now, the Palestinians are complaining that they are being targeted by the Iraqi authorities and various militias.
Their complaints, however, seem to have been ignored by the international community, including Western activists and human rights organizations that describe themselves as "pro-Palestinian."
No one in the international community cares about Palestinians when they are targeted by their Arab brothers.
The United Nations, European Union and various human rights organizations pay attention to the Palestinians only when they find a way to hold Israel responsible for their "suffering."
Instead of helping the Palestinians who are being arrested and killed and tortured in Iraq, the UN, EU and "pro-Palestinian" groups are busy spouting hate against Israel.
The number of Palestinians in Iraq has dropped from more than 40,000 before 2003 to fewer than 6,000 today. Many Palestinians have been killed, injured and arrested by Iraqi authorities and various militias. Thousands of Palestinians fled to neighboring countries, including Syria and Jordan.
Last year, then Iraqi President Fuad Masum approved Law No. 76 of 2017, which stripped Palestinians living in Iraq of their rights and classified them as "foreigners." The new law replaced Law No. 202 of 2001, issued by Saddam Hussein, requiring Iraq to treat Palestinians as equals to Iraqi citizens and granting them all privileges and citizenship rights, such as tax exemptions, opportunities to work in government ministries and access to education and health care services.
Sources in Baghdad revealed that a number of Iraqi government institutions, including the General Retirement Department and the Ministry of Trade, have taken new measures against Palestinian refugees that are considered "dangerous and inhumane."
The London-based Al-Araby Al-Jadeed pan-Arab media outlet said that the new measures include withholding free food vouchers from the Palestinians, as well as denying them pension rights, as well as re-imposing health and education fees on them. In addition, Palestinians are now denied the right to apply for government-funded housing projects and the right for compensation for victims of terrorist attacks in Iraq.
A senior Iraqi official told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that a number of ministries and government institutions have suspended monthly food rations and pension payments to Palestinian families. The unnamed official said that the Iraqi authorities are "not aware of the serious political, moral and human repercussions of these measures on the Palestinians." The official added that "starving Palestinian families contradicts Arab and Islamic values."
Ahmed Hatem, a 42-year-old Palestinian living in Iraq, said in response to the punitive measures that "for the first time Palestinians feel that they are strangers in Iraq."
Another Palestinian, Nidal Ahmed, said that Palestinians in Iraq are "victims of poverty, starvation, destruction, displacement, terrorism and arrest." He pointed out that Palestinian widows and orphans are the main victims of the measures taken by the Iraqi authorities. Ahmed also complained that the Palestinian Authority was not doing anything to help its people in Iraq.
Palestinian writer Miriam Ali said that Palestinians in Iraq are being treated worse than foreigners and other Arabs. "Palestinians in Iraq are being treated as outcasts," she noted. "They are being targeted by the Iraqi authorities and some of them have lost their homes, money and businesses."
Another pan-Arab media outlet, Arabi21, reported last May that dozens of Palestinians detained in Iraq are "harsh and tragic conditions in the absence of fair trials and lack of attention by relevant parties."
According to the report, about 50 Palestinian detainees in Iraqi prisons are facing an unknown fate: some of them have been sentenced to death, while others received lengthy sentences for their alleged role in terrorism. "The arrests and the ongoing persecution have prompted many Palestinians to flee Iraq," the report stated.
Palestinian researcher Mohamed Abdullah remarked that the world does not seem to care about the tragedy of the Palestinians living in Iraq. Many of the Palestinian detainees, he said, "were kidnapped by militias and later handed over to the Iraqi authorities." Abdullah claimed that the terrorism charges against some of the detainees were "fabricated." He pointed out that two Palestinian brothers from the city of Mosul were sentenced to 20 years in prison for the murder of a man who is still alive. "The families of the detainees suffer from harsh and tragic conditions after losing their breadwinners," Abdullah added. "We have information that many of the detainees were brutally tortured."
Where are the media? Where are the so-called human rights groups?
Palestinian activists said they tried to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas when he visited Baghdad last March, but were turned down. "We wanted to meet with President Abbas to tell him about the conditions of the Palestinians in Iraq, but he ignored our request," said Palestinian activist Abu Yazan. "President Abbas ignored us. He didn't meet with any Palestinian living in Iraq."
The Palestinians of Iraq are also angry with the United Nations for failing to pay attention to their plight. In an open letter to the UN, the representatives of the Palestinians said they are planning a series of protests to demand that the UN and its agencies start providing them with various services.
A report published by a group called Muslim Scholars of Iraq last September said that the Palestinians in Iraq have been facing a "tragedy" and are living "under harsh and unspeakable humanitarian conditions." The group said that the Palestinians there "suffer from deliberate neglect and are "subjected to a systematic campaign of persecution and ethnic cleansing."
The plight of Palestinians in Iraq is yet another example of the discrimination and repression Palestinians face in a number of Arab countries.
More than 4,000 Palestinians have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the civil war there in 2011. Palestinians in Lebanon are banned from working in about 70 professions, such as medicine, law and engineering, or joining any professional association. No one cares about these Palestinians because they are being killed and denied jobs by their own Arab brothers. Palestinians are victims not only of their Arab brothers, but also of the double standards of the international community, which continues to be obsessed only with Israel.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.