Alas… just a ten-minute stay in Baghdad?

Alas… just a ten-minute stay in Baghdad?

By Fr. Rif'at Bader

My yearning to visit Iraq for the first time in my life was great as I was part of a visiting German delegation organized by the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ).
Yet, this feeling faded away once our plane touched down at Baghdad Airport as I was savagely asked, along with Dr. Hassan Abu Arqoub as well as Ms. Lama Al Mikhi and Teresa Odat, who were part of the visiting delegation, to immediately leave Iraq because it was revealed in our documents that we are Arabs. It seems that the coordinator in the Iraq territories did not differentiate between the visas given to Arabs which have expired and the visas given to foreigners which excluded Arabs.

We were given only ten minutes to leave Baghdad Airport. This is reminiscent of forcibly displaced people of Mosul, who lived in our homes, churches and schools. They used to tell in glorious Jordan how ISIS was tough in dealing with them in their country of origin, as they were given 24 hours to leave Mosul else the consequences would be dire. We, Jordanian Arabs, have been “generously” given only ten minutes to leave.

During this time, we had to bring back our bags which were full of documents that were designed help our brethren extricate themselves from the scars which ISIS ran the length of their hearts. Over a period of ten minutes, I tried to contact our minister of foreign affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs secretary general, the Iraqi ambassador and consul in Jordan, and the Chaldean patriarch. No one answered the phone probably because it was early in the morning. Our brethren at the airport were very tough all the time as they shouted, “Proceed to the plane quickly.” We used to tell them, “be patient as we are human beings like the foreigners whom you admit into your country. Be patent for this issue will be resolved now. Yet, the ten-minute period had expired.

Why do you give us the “visa honor” and the approval to come? It is shameful that Teresa was coming with her German friend Braica who was warmly welcomed in Iraq, while Teresa herself was despicably ordered to leave Iraq, as I mentioned to his excellency the minister of foreign affairs. Braica was afraid to go to Iraq for the first time, while Teresa encouraged her to do so saying that the Iraqis are good people. Things turned upside down at Baghdad Airport with Braica admitted, while Teresa returned home on board the same plane. As we return to our Royal Jordan plane, we partially make a blame as why are we allowed to board the plane with an expired visa! Shouldn’t this be checked before allowing us to board the plane? There is no place like home. The forcibly displaced Iraqis found in Jordan “a home’’ that takes away their worries.

We took ten minutes of their precious time at a time when there were documents stating that the following people with "their numbers", no reference was made to names, were to be excluded because they were Arab nationals. It is shameful that the Iraqi coordinator, Abdul Wasi’, had known about the issue but never apprised the members of the Arab delegation in particular that that they were forbidden to enter his country.

An Iraqi old man said on a television satellite station a few days ago: “Fasten your seatbelts. We have got rid of an enemy called ISIS but we still face a major enemy, namely corruption.” Today we came face-to-face with corruption which was represented in the admission of foreigners and the deportation of Arabs. Is there a case of corruption that is more serious than this one? Was it not possible to wise people at the airport who would say that these are Jordanians who had welcomed the children of Iraq and we will not let them leave our country at least without drinking a morning cup of coffee that exudes love?

I returned home but realized that the minister of foreign affairs dearly paid attention to the message I had sent him before the deportation. He instructed the ministry’s employees to give the issue prime attention. The Iraqi ambassador to Jordan was also interested in the issue and regretted what happened to a Christian and Muslim clergymen as well as to two ladies who left home at dawn to provide services to their brethren in glorious Iraq.

I do not disregard the concern expressed at the governmental level, yet I was adversely affected at the situation of the Arabs, at a time when our Arab countries spew out the brethren and do not allow them to say more than ten minutes. O Baghdad… are ten minutes enough to extend to you Amman’s love and appreciation of your brethren?

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