Palestinians Under Pressure To Leave Iraq: Militias and Police Are Targeting Community, Rights Officials Say
By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, January 25, 2007; Page A20
BAGHDAD, Jan. 24 — The shouting in his Baghdad apartment building woke Luay Mohammed seconds before intruders broke down his door.
The men, some wearing police uniforms, entered before dawn demanding identification cards, Mohammed recalled. They tore the doors off the closet, threw the television on the floor and hauled Mohammed and his two barefoot brothers outside to be blindfolded. They and 14 other men were taken to what they thought was a government office, where a man others kept calling “sir” spoke to their huddled group.
“You are Palestinians. Why are you still living in Iraq?” Mohammed recalled the man saying. “You have 48 hours to leave.”
Within 24 hours, Mohammed was gone. The 36-year-old was among dozens of people who loaded their meager belongings onto buses at dawn Wednesday inside Baghdad’s main Palestinian enclave in the Baladiyat neighborhood. They drove north toward the Syrian border, joining a growing exodus of Palestinians now following their familiar story line: an unwelcome people searching for a home.
Baghdad is a dangerous place for anyone to live, and the fighting between Sunni and Shiite Muslims has displaced hundreds of thousands. Largely forgotten amid this violence is the plight of thousands of Palestinians in Iraq, who face an increasingly hostile environment because they are predominantly Sunni and perceived as having been favored during the rule of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Palestinians and human rights officials in Baghdad say members of the group are being targeted by roving Shiite militias and Iraqi police in efforts to expel them.
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