Shattered lives, a torn nation, broken hearts
Iraq: The Lost Generation 8.30pm, SBS
IN the five years since Saddam Hussein’s regime was toppled, 20 per cent of Iraq’s population, many of them professionals, has fled violence, according to this documentary.
British journalist Sharmeen ObaidChinoy investigates stories of Iraqis she says you wouldn’t otherwise hear, such as those of Iraqis who served coalition forces but were abandoned and are being hunted by murderous militias. She looks into child victims of the conflict seeking treatment outside Iraq and investigates whether refugees are really returning now that security is supposed to be improving.
She also profiles the Christians of Iraq. There were a million of them before the war. And now? Well, no one really knows.
So where did the fleeing Iraqis go? An estimated 1.5 million went to Syria, just across the border. But the Syrian Government refers to them as guests and accords them no legal status. They are not allowed to work and if their three- month visas run out they can be obliged to leave.
Obaid- Chinoy tells us that every refugee in Damascus has a story and they are desperate to talk.
One man, who said masked men shot him seven times, leaving him paralysed from the waist down, believes he has an interview the next day at the UN, for which he has been waiting for months. He hopes to apply for medical aid through its refugee program. Obaid- Chinoy agrees to go along with him, camera crew in tow. But when they arrive she sees what he is up against. His appointment is shared by hundreds of people queued up, all hoping to get asylum. Incredibly, a British official tells her on camera that precisely four people have been accepted from there into Britain’s medical refugee program in the past year.
As a measure of the man’s desperation, he decides to stick around on the slim chance that he will be the next one chosen.
On and on the program goes, reporting untold suffering in a seemingly endless catalogue of despair.
Some refugees are victims of suicide bomb attacks in Baghdad, some have been forced out by religious or sectarian violence. Many are horribly injured, homeless, in terrible pain and, as snow falls in Damascus and then the temperature drops to minus 8C, you have to wonder what Iraq has done to deserve the suffering of its citizens, especially since the West decided to fix things.
There are 250,000 Iraqi child refugees in Amman, Jordan. By the time Obaid- Chinoy interviews some of them, anything left of your hard, objective heart will be irrevocably shattered.
Despair: Sharmeen Obaid- Chinoy talks to a young Iraqi burns victim