“I will only leave this house in a coffin”

Palestinian father-of-four Ahmed Salim fears for his family’s lives after his father, brother, sister and two nephews were killed. (Afif Sarhan/IRIN)

BAGHDAD - Palestinians living in Iraq have increasingly come under threat since the US-led occupation of the country began in 2003, according to a recent report by the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR.

The report said that Palestinians, who are predominantly Sunni Muslims, have become targets of Shi’ite death squads because of resentment towards them for their perceived support of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s government, which was also Sunni and which sympathised with their cause. This targeting has forced thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes, UNHCR says.

In the popular Palestinian neighbourhood of al-Baladiya in the capital, Baghdad, the Palestinian population has dropped from 8,000 before 2003 to fewer than 4,000 now. IRIN spoke to two Palestinian residents there.

Ahmed Salim (42)
“Iraqis want us to leave their country. Militias started to target us and force us out from our houses accusing us of being Saddam’s followers. Sometimes I work as a vegetable seller to get some money since I lost my job and my family needs to eat.

“I am desperate and do not have a choice and don’t know where to go. We urge the government to look after us. We are Muslims, Arabs and not animals to be left to be killed like that.

“They [militias] killed my father, brother, sister and two nephews because they refused to leave their home and I am sure that soon they will come after me. What will I do having four children to look after, without a job and without money? God bless us, the landless Palestinians.”

Umm Muhammad (56)
“They [militias] are monsters, they killed my two sons in front of my house and later shouted saying that we Palestinians are like pigs [because] we rely on what people can give us. This is not human; they [her sons] were the only good thing I had in my life and now they have gone leaving behind their seven children to their unemployed widows to look after.

“I saw the head of my son being blown apart with bullets and in the eyes of those cowards I could see just happiness and excitement from doing that. Justice should be done and we have to be protected.

“We are human and every human being has the right to live. We have been warned to leave our house in a week but I think it will be my last day in life because I will only leave this house in a coffin.”

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