The latest suicide bombing
in Baghdad killed at least 3 people
Quietly, in their ones and twos, the professional classes of Baghdad are slipping
out of the country to avoid becoming another fatal statistic.
Iraq is losing the educated elite of doctors, lawyers, academics and businessmen
who are vital to securing a stable future. There is also fear that their departure
will leave a vacuum to be filled by religious extremists.
Outside the shelter of the Green Zone, home to the American and Iraqi political
leadership, lawlessness has overtaken the capital.
Prof Abdul Sattar Jawad, the head of English literature at Baghdad University,
will leave next month to take up a post in Jordan. Two of his colleagues left
recently after being intimidated.
At his home in east Baghdad the professor answered the door with an outstretched
hand. In the other hand he carried a loaded revolver "because I don't trust
While the lack of basic needs and a barely functioning infrastructure are considerable
hardships, it is the daily threat of death that was the catalyst for his decision.
Since the new government came to power in April there have been up to 3,000
civilian deaths, about half attributed to criminal activity.
"I love my country but I am unable to do any service for the people because
it is overrun by fanatics and extremists," Prof Jawad said. "The streets
are ruled by gangs, looters and goons."
Last month he resigned a position as dean of arts after "religious animals"
surrounded his office and shouted "war-like slogans".
The threats have also forced him to close down two English newspapers he ran
because "it now is anti-religious to have free speech, liberal minds and
civilisation in this country".
Prof Jawad's wife Sarah, a former geography teacher, said she now wore a headscarf
to avoid being harassed by religious extremists.
For his son Omar Jawad, a single 30-year-old lawyer working for a British company
in the Green Zone, the one ambition is to leave Iraq "as quickly as possible,
as soon as I find somewhere to go".
He added: "I see a lot of educated people leaving Iraq. I talked this
morning to one of my friends who has a PhD in law. He has just resigned from
his job and is going. You hear so many similar stories. It is more security
problems than economic. Under sanctions [imposed on Saddam Hussein by the United
Nations after the Gulf war] we had no problems like this."
Aside from the daily risk of kidnap, suicide bombers and drive-by shootings,
his half hour journey into work is now a two-hour slog through roadblocks.
There are no land-line telephones, water has to be pumped from a well and electricity
is on for only two hours a day compared with 21 under Saddam. In a country that
perches on a lake of oil, the petrol queues last up to four hours.
"I am not very optimistic," Mr Jawad said. "We have this fear
of civil war because when the Americans are out it will be left to the Iraqis.
"It is two years now since the war ended and we see no development."
For the past three years Mahir Mahmood, 37, has built a successful business
importing cars and spares but by the autumn he will be gone because he fears
his wife and four children will be held to ransom by criminals.
"I think the bombs, explosions and killings are enough for anyone to leave
the country," he said. " What good has the government done for the
people to make them stay?"
He has arranged an apartment for his family in Syria where he knows of half
a dozen other Iraqi businessman who have already moved.
Baghdad's doctors suffer most of all. They are now authorised to carry firearms
after some were killed by angry relatives of dead patients and after threats
by police officers demanding immediate treatment for injured colleagues.
Dr Tariq Bahjat, who became a hospital director in Baghdad after his predecessor
was killed and where a radiologist was recently shot dead, said: "No one
can provide doctors with protection. I am afraid the same will happen to me;
that is why I will go abroad."
A spokesman for the prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, said: "It is a
worry, of course, and they are going to be difficult to replace.
"Many people are getting jobs abroad and in terms of what the government
can do about it? Very little."