Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Iraq Continues to Deny Palestinian Refugees Right to Hajj | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The hajj and umra pilgrimages both culminate at the Grand mosque in the holy Saudi city of Mecca (AFP Photo/Fayez Nureldine)

Riyadh and Baghdad – Iraqi government had refused to grant Palestinian refugees visas to those who wanted to attend Hajj this year.

Highly informed Palestinian sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that they have previously contacted authorities regarding this matter, but nothing has been achieved.

Palestinian refugees in Iraq live in difficult circumstances with over 300 killed during the sectarian strife.

Sources also added that over 40 Palestinian had either been kidnapped or disappeared and 50 others had been arrested for various charges.

Sources said that many of the detainees had signed on white papers to be filled with confessions later on.

Another source, who preferred to remain anonymous, added that since 2003, Palestinians have been treated as refugees. They applied laws that restricted their movement and rights. The source explained this is because Palestinians are considered supporters of the former Iraqi president Saddam Hossein.

According to the source, the issue was deeper given that since 13 years no Palestinian was sent to Hajj and none was part of the Iraqi draw for the pilgrimage.

Moreover, number of Palestinian refugees decreased from 35,000 in 2003 to about 6,000 this year after many left Iraq because of series of harassments they were subject to after being considered Sunni extremists during the sectarian strife in the country.

Iraqi parliamentary committee for religious affairs and endowment said that Palestinian residents in Iraq can’t be allocated within Iraq’s portion of Hajj given that they are foreigners.

MP of Islamic Kurd Union Salim asleh Khodr told Ashraq Al-Awsat that it is both an Islamic and humanitarian duty to allocate a portion for Palestinians using extraordinary measures. He added that it is unfair that this had not happened.

According to the MP, the committee will try to address the issue as soon as possible knowing that the committee hadn’t been contacted formally about the issue, and the Palestinians hadn’t addressed it either.

Khodr pointed out that if this can be justified on an official level, it can’t be so from a lawful and religious point of view. He added that this should be revised and that it is unfair for those Muslims whose situations forced them to come to Iraq.

On a related matter, an Iraqi source who preferred to remain anonymous, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the main reason is that Iraq’s portion to Hajj is allocated based on population. He added that number of

people wanting to go to Hajj is a lot more than the numbers of people who actually do which creates problems.

When asked about whether Palestinians are not granted Hajj visas since they are labeled as supporters of former regime, the source said that Palestinians are not viewed as they used to be. He admitted that they have indeed been subject to harassments. Yet, he confessed that because of improved relations between Iraqi and Palestinian governments, this labeling no longer exists.

The source further explained that this portion is for Iraqis and is not given to foreigners, which creates confusion. In addition, Hajj registration in Iraq is based on four aspects: nationality, certificate of nationality, residency card and food card and foreigners don’t carry those.

In 2001, resolution 202 was issued regulating matters of Palestinians which includes treating a permanent resident Palestinians as Iraqis. The resolution however didn’t grant Palestinians the Iraqi nationality, but it offers them all daily life needs such as housing, employment, education and health care.

Both Palestinian and Iraqi governments are trying to reach an agreement to reinstate resolution 202 in an attempt to improve Palestinian refugees’ situations in Iraq.

Most Palestinians in Iraq suffer from difficult financial situations and political information confirmed that security forces treat every Palestinian as a possible terrorist.

In addition, many Palestinians have been killed or arrested by armed militias or even blackmailed by members of tribes who take advantage of the difficult security situation in Palestine and threaten to shut down their businesses or evacuate them from their houses.