For a few, salaries have soared. For the rest,
Many Iraqi workers enjoyed huge salary increases following the U.S.-led invasion
of Iraq in March 2003. But unemployment rose more sharply under policies introduced
by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA).
CPA head L. Paul Bremer decommissioned the Iraqi military, leading to overnight
unemployment for hundreds of thousands of military personnel. And that was not
all. The ministries of culture and information also saw drastic layoffs, some
Almost a year into the occupation, defense ministry employees, many of them
ex-military, started to receive monthly payments of about 100 dollars as "donation
"This payment does not meet 10 percent of the monthly needs of many families,"
ex-soldier in the previous Iraq army Muhsin Aboud told IPS in Baquba, 40 km
northeast of Baghdad. "It's unfair to leave us without jobs."
Still, the unemployed are lucky. Many employees of the abolished offices were
accused of being terrorists, and imprisoned.
"One day, a group of American soldiers stormed into my house while I and
my family were sleeping," Abd al-Joburi, an officer in Iraq's former military
told IPS. "They tied my hands and put a plastic bag on my head and forced
me to lie with my face down. It was because I'm an ex-officer, and Sunni."
Al-Joburi was imprisoned for nine months after the raid that took place in
March of last year. "Nobody asked whether my family have any salary or
income. Since I was released, I have not had a job."
Now, the sectarian practices of politicians and the government are adding to
unemployment for whole sections of people, particularly Sunni Muslims.
"I applied for a job in the directorate-general of police of Diyala province
four times," a former intelligence officer told IPS. "All of my applications
were rejected. All the Shia ex-officers' applications were accepted, regardless
of their experience and specialization. Now they are officers in the police
The ex-officer added, "I am now working as a grocer."
Violence has made unemployment even worse; it has led large numbers of people
to quit the jobs they had. Most people in Baquba are today either forced to
stay at home, or to leave the city, and if they can, the country.
"I closed my restaurant," said a local businessman in Baquba. "Two
militants came and killed the owner of the shop next to my restaurant. We had
"The owners of prominent shops, restaurants, car shops, rich people, heads
of the offices, owners of buildings, traders, businessmen
all of them became
targets of the militants," said a resident, who like many others, did not
wish to give his name. "As a result, all of them quit. Just think how many
people could be employed in all these fields."
Meanwhile, reconstruction and rehabilitation projects that could have employed
some people have come to a standstill.
"I dismissed more than 50 employees in my company because of the stoppage
of work," a manager with the Dolphin company for general contractors told
IPS. "Work has stopped for more than two years."
The owner of a plastic pipes factory said threats forced him to close his factory.
"I received a message asking me to pay 50,000 dollars, or I would be killed."
Unemployment in Iraq has been between 60-70 percent over the last two years,
according to the government in Baghdad. This is nearly twice what it was in
the period of the sanctions in the 1990s.
Most worrying is what is happening in the food business. The Diyala Food Company,
the largest in the province, closed last year.
"A group of militants came to kidnap the owner's son," former employee
Aziz Khamis told IPS. "The son and two of his bodyguards were killed, and
the father was wounded. This big company has closed its doors, and thousands
of employees are now stuck at home."
The reasons for losing jobs are endless. "I was fired for being a member
of the Ba'ath party," Nasir Uwayid told IPS. "After a period of occupation,
low ranking members were allowed to get their jobs again, but heads of offices
who were members of the party were forced to retire or leave the city."
And sectarian displacement has brought its own unemployment. Tens of thousands
of people have left their homes and jobs in Baquba because of the sectarian
violence. Many have tried to start again in other cities, but few have been
In 2002 Baquba had a population estimated at 280,000; in 2003, Diyala province
had a population of roughly 1.2 million. Baquba is roughly 70 percent Sunni,
while Diyala province is about 90 percent Sunni.
(Inter Press Service)