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Iraq's Refugee Crisis

Interviewee: Said I. Hakki, President, Iraqi Red Crescent Organization
Interviewer: Greg Bruno, staff writer
May 22, 2008

Said I. Hakki, president of the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization, one of the principal aid groups operating in the country, says Iraq's refugee crisis is at a tipping point. Although displacement has been ongoing for decades—many Shiites fled during the three decades under Saddam Hussein, for instance—the refugee crisis has been compounded by five years of continuous violence. Today four million Iraqis "need help and support to get jobs, schools, electricity, water, as well as housing and health care," Hakki says.

And yet it's unclear whether the international community will help Iraq's displaced, Hakki says. Recent calls by U.S. lawmakers to cut funding for reconstruction, coupled with a decline in international donations to the United Nations, are jeopardizing relief efforts. The Iraqi government has made an effort to alleviate the suffering, but Hakki says Baghdad can't do it alone. "The United States should not abandon the government of Iraq." If it does, he argues, a growing number of disenfranchised Iraqis may become radicalized and turn to terrorist groups out of frustration or desperation. "You have four million [refugees]. If you get 1 percent recruit, that’s forty thousand fanatics. Forty thousand fanatics in Iraq may be a force to destabilize Iraq. And if you destabilize Iraq the likelihood you destabilize the region is pretty high."

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