The State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, And Labor recently released a report on the human rights situation in Iraq that also included a section on crime. As reported before, with violence declining in Iraq, crime is becoming a more pressing issue within the country. In fact, the two are directly related. Many criminals joined the insurgency and militias, and now that both of those are in the decline, many militiamen and insurgents are joining their outlaw brethren to make a living. The State Department noted a number of growing problems in the country ranging from kidnappings to trafficking in human beings and organs.
Kidnappings were and are a major threat to the Iraqi public. Abductions began early on in the insurgency, and that soon spread to militias, as a means to finance their activities. The practice actually increased as the insurgents began losing their foreign support with the decline of the sectarian war in 2007. The security forces have also been accused of abducting people. Today, most kidnappings are done for ransom. Kids are the most common targets, and there are sections of Baghdad for example, that have pictures of missing children posted on the streets. Most of these cases are not reported to the authorities, partly out of fear of what might happen to those taken, and also because the public doesn’t always trust the local police.
Iraq is also becoming a center of trafficking in slaves, prostitutes, human organs, babies, and illegal workers within the region. There are reports of women and children being sold off to Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Iran. There are also stories of orphanages selling kids, and gangs selling boys within and without Iraq for sex. In February 2010 for instance, the Health Ministry arrested two rings in hospitals in Baghdad and Kirkuk that were organized by nurses to kidnap and sell babies abroad. The State Department also recorded cases of human organs being trafficked. Illegal workers are brought into Iraq as well from Georgia, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines, Uganda, and Sri Lanka.
For almost thirty years Iraq has been embroiled in wars, sanctions, and most recently a civil war. Since 2009, violence has hit its lowest levels since the U.S. invasion. Now Iraqis have to face rising crime from everyday criminals, militants, the security forces, and others. The increase in kidnappings and trafficking are signs of an impoverished society. The wars and sanctions have devastated the Iraqi economy. It’s estimated that 51% of the workforce is either unemployed or underemployed. That has hit the young, ages 15-29, the hardest. They constitute 57% of those out of work, and 250,000 new people enter the labor force each year. Add to that the fact that 25% of the population lives below the poverty level, which equals $2 a day, and the reason why so many might be drawn to illegal activities or be the victim of it can be understood. Until Iraq can find gainful employment for its people, and capitalize upon its great oil wealth crime is likely going to remain a pressing issue within the country.
Adel, Shaymaa, “7 million Iraqis exist below poverty line,” Azzaman, 4/6/10
AK News, “Iraqi Health: Gangs of thieves abducting children and False Doctor Arrested,” 2/2/10
Bakri, Nada, “In Iraq, battling an internal bane,” Washington Post, 10/22/09
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, And Labor, “2009 Human Rights Report: Iraq,” U.S. State Department, 3/11/10
Debat, Alexis, “Vivisecting the Jihad: Part Two,” National Interest, October 2004
Department of Defense, “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq, December 2009” 2/15/10
Gunter, Frank, “Liberate Iraq’s Economy,” New York Times, 11/16/09
Miller, Deborah, “Iraqis face new threat: brutal violence,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/21/09
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Schmitt, Eric and Shanker, Thom, “Estimates by U.S. See More Rebels With More Funds,” New York Times, 10/22/04
Williams, Phil, Criminals, Militias, And Insurgents: Organized Crime In Iraq, Strategic Studies Institute, June 2009
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