Oct 11, 2004
Thousands of homeless people have taken up residence in abandoned public buildings or land in Iraq. Some of the squatters are families whose homes were destroyed by U.S. bombing or by artillery shells and rockets fired in street battles between U.S. and opposition forces. Others are families who had been forced to move out of their old apartments and houses because of soaring rents following the end of rent controls that existed under Saddam Hussein's regime.
The squatters see no alternative but to continue squatting in the abandoned buildings. "I definitely feel that we deserve these houses..., because we are poor Iraqis and we are citizens of this country and we have no place to go," said Nasser Lafta, a former taxi driver, when he was interviewed recently. Lafta is now squatting with 23 of his relatives in a house that was used by two of Saddam Hussein's sons.
Top officials in the Baghdad city government claim they haven't been able to have new houses and apartments built because of the continuing battles between U.S. and opposition forces. So, isn't the remedy obvious? The squatters not only should be allowed to continue living in the buildings they've occupied, but Iraqi and U.S. officials should help refurbish these buildings so they are liveable.
Instead, Jaleel Abaidy, a spokesman for the Baghdadcity government recently said, "This situation must come to an end, or it will spread... these people must understand that they have no right to live there." He said the city had taken steps to have the courts authorize evictions even though there were no plans to offer any compensation or assistance to evicted families."On the contrary, the government must punish them," Abaidy said, "because they are violators. The behavior they committed is wrong, and if we encourage such behavior we will face chaos in the future. You can't just live in a place you don't own and expect people to reward you. In the whole world no laws allow that, and we will not either."
This is the government that the U.S. has set up and is supporting today in Iraq. It is the government that U.S. officials say they are working with to bring "democracy" to Iraq.