Iraqi Olympic soccer players seek asylum


This video says about itself:

Iraq football captain Younis Mahmoud after win against Saudi Arabia denounces US Occupation. Iraq won the cup on a 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia on July 29 2007.

By Peter Robson in Australia:

Iraqi soccer players seek asylum

Three members of Iraq’s Olympic soccer team and one of the team’s assistant coaches announced their intention to apply for asylum in Australia after an international game in Gosford on November 17. They are currently on three-month temporary visas as athletes, and as such are not being sought by the immigration department.

Assistant coach Saadi Toma told his fellow team officials by telephone that he and the three players — identified as Ali Mansour, Ali Khidhayyir and Ali Abbas — that they did not want to return to Iraq because of the violence wracking the country following the March 2003 US-British-Australian invasion.

Three members of the national team, which differs from Iraq’s Olympic team but shares some of the same players, refused to return home after the team’s Asia Cup victory in July. Captain Younis Mahmoud, as well as Nashat Akram and Hawar Mulla Mohammed, said they feared for their lives if they returned.

After the game, Mahmoud called for the US to withdraw its troops from his country. “I want America to go out”, he said. “Today, tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, but out. I wish the American people didn’t invade Iraq and, hopefully, it will be over soon.”

Ironically, in a letter to Iraqi PM Nuri al Maliki, Australian PM John Howard said Iraqis should follow the example of their nation’s soccer team.

They are. Over four million Iraqis became refugees since Bush invaded their country.

Iraqi refugees in Lebanon: here.

Harsh refugee life rather than improved security spurs return of Iraqi refugees: here.

Agence France Presse reported on February 7 [2008] that an internal report prepared by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees found that in late January an average of 1200 Iraqis fled to Syria every day compared with around 700 who returned. The UNHCR report said that those who are returning say they are doing so more because their Syrian visas have expired or because they have run out of money, rather than because of an improvement in conditions in Iraq.

A Beautiful Game: International Perspectives on Women’s Football by Jean Williams: here.

3 thoughts on “Iraqi Olympic soccer players seek asylum

  1. Money, Time Runs Out for Iraqi Refugees

    By LORI HINNANT

    The Associated Press

    December 14, 2007

    One-third of Iraqi refugees who fled to neighboring Syria expect their money to run out within three months, the U.N. refugee agency said Friday in a report highlighting what some believe is the main reason families are returning to their still-violent homeland.

    The report from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which drew on surveys of Iraqis in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, found that the refugees were most concerned about money, schooling for their children and lack of work.

    A U.N. spokeswoman said those worries _ not improved security in Iraq _ appear to be the driving force behind the decision by thousands of Iraqis to return. And as savings draw down, U.S. and U.N. officials fear, many more could be forced to come back to a country still unready for them.

    Mohammed Wamid, a 55-year-old father of eight, including one son he said died at the hands of al-Qaida in Iraq, left Baghdad for Syria in December 2006. He returned about a month ago after depleting his $6,500 in savings.

    ‘We returned because we have no other choice. The government wants everybody to come back, but we know that security is still fragile,’ he said.

    The Iraqi government, eager to claim credit for the decline in violence, offers returnees free transportation to Iraq, provides protection to the bus convoys and gives families $800 each to help with resettling.

    But American and U.N. officials warn that a big return of refugees could rekindle sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites and that some returnees have found their homes occupied by members of the other Muslim sect. Even the Iraqi government acknowledges it cannot handle a huge influx.

    ‘If we look at the past weeks, people have run out of money and have felt the necessity to return,’ said Astrid Van Genderen Stort, a UNHCR spokeswoman.

    Nearly 2 million Iraqis are believed to have fled to neighboring Arab countries since 2003 to escape the Sunni insurgency and sectarian violence. Most went to Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. About 2 million more are believed to have moved to other parts of Iraq.

    The reasons to stay away are compelling: 57 percent of families had been threatened directly, and 53 percent had survived bombings, the report said. Though violence has dropped dramatically in Baghdad and surrounding areas, bombings, mortar attacks and gunshots are a daily occurrence.

    On Friday, the U.S. military announced the deaths of two American soldiers _ one shot to death in Baghdad, the other killed by a roadside bomb south of the capital.

    Fierce fractures persist even among the Shiites who dominate Iraq’s government.

    Thousands of followers of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr took to Baghdad’s streets Friday to protest a triple car bombing in Amarah, one of their southern strongholds, venting their anger at a rival Shiite powerbroker in a sign of the bitter fight for control of the oil-rich region.

    No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. Car bombs are a signature weapon of al-Qaida in Iraq, but the group is not known to operate there. And the area in Maysan province has suffered from violent clashes between competing Shiite militias, including al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.

    Despite an agreement between their leaders to work together, tension remains high between al-Sadr and followers of Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the largest Shiite party in Iraq.

    ‘Amarah will stay under al-Sadr’s influence, whether Abdul-Aziz likes it or not,’ the protesters in Baghdad shouted.

    The U.N. refugee survey in Syria was conducted by UNHCR and Ipsos and interviewed a total of 754 families. The study in Lebanon was conducted by the Danish Refugee Council and surveyed 1,020 Iraqi households. The study in Jordan was conducted by the Norwegian Fafo foundation, but did not offer figures on how many Iraqis were surveyed.

    According to the U.N. report, 33 percent of Iraqi refugees in Syria will run out of money within three months. In Syria and Lebanon, just over half of children were attending school, although both Syria and Jordan offer schooling to Iraqis.

    Van Genderen Stort said parents may either need children to work to help support them or fear enrolling their children in public education will expose any visa problems the family might have.

    Wamid said all six of his sons _ including his youngest, who is 12 _ worked in Syria. None went to school.

    Beginning Sunday, the U.N. will issue ATM cards to 7,000 of the most vulnerable Iraqi families in Syria: those who face threats at home or have already been victims of violence, those run by single parents and the elderly. Each family will receive up to $200 monthly _ a standard month’s rent for many refugees _ as well as food assistance.

    For Wamid and his family, the program comes too late.

    ‘I would have stayed if given

    Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.

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  2. Pingback: Prime Minister says Australia should not have joined Iraq war | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: More and more refugees from Bush’s ‘new’ Iraq | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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