Conditions in Iraq
Zaid al-Ali, an Iraqi attorney who has practiced in New York and Paris, returned to his native land recently and wrote about what he saw.
” [HOSPITALS]: As we walked through the hospital, I spoke with some of the staff and soon realised that all the things that I had read during the embargo years relating to the status of Iraq’s hospitals — about the lack of investment, the inability to replace defective equipment, the lack of basic medicines, and the general inadequacy of the treatment available — is still true today, and that there is no prospect of this changing soon. I visited a large number of departments, including the X-ray department, the children’s unit, the radiology and cardiology departments. Only one in five of all the machines in these departments was in working order . . .
[INFRASTRUCTURE]: The shift in public opinion against the occupation probably has several causes, but judging from the conversations that I have had, nothing irritates Iraqis more, nothing has served to prove to them that the occupation is not designed to serve their interests or improve their living standards than the constant failures in the electricity supply, the incessant problems relating to corruption, as well as the failure to establish security and the rule of law. Iraqis cannot accept that the continuing problems in relation to these issues are unavoidable, and from that starting point inevitably reach the conclusion that the Bush administration is secretly plotting to keep Iraqis in a position of poverty and insecurity. Several factors have caused ordinary Iraqis to lose faith in the current political process. Firstly, the high unemployment levels have a very depressing effect on the population. Most Iraqis remain economically inactive. Although there has been an upturn in several business sectors, the vast majority is still unable to secure employment. I saw engineers, construction industry experts, teachers, journalists, former members of the armed forces, who were incapable of findings jobs, and many of whom asked me if I could help them leave the country. I also met several businessmen who told me that although they had been contacted by foreign investors in the first days after the war, most of the would-be investors abandoned their projects out of fear. . . .
[EDUCATION:] To say that public universities and schools lack facilities is an understatement and this is something that is felt by all those involved in the education system. The staff is discontented, constantly complaining of everything from the services provided to them by the State to their level of remuneration. The standard response that the president of Tikrit University offers in response to complaints of this nature is: “The country is poor. Nothing can be done.” Teachers and professors are demoralised and students have been quick to take advantage of the situation — to successfully complete all the exams in a given year costs only $100 in some universities. The physical establishments are not better. During my stay in Iraq, I visited a number of educational institutions in both Baghdad and Tikrit. If one were not told beforehand, it would be impossible to guess that these were educational facilities at all. I did notice that there were computers in some of the offices, but they were actually very primitive and cheaply manufactured machines (with the power switch marked “powre”). To make matters worse, universities were ransacked in the period immediately following last year’s war, and their libraries burned. A visit to a law faculty in Baghdad revealed that there are no books in the libraries from which students may study their country’s legal system. There are very few new books, despite greatly publicised donations from Western institutions — there is not anywhere near enough to go around. The same is also true of a great many schools in both Tikrit and Baghdad. Teachers complained to me of how post-war programmes that were designed to “rehabilitate” their schools merely involved a fresh coat of paint on the walls, and that in fact teaching standards and facilities have not improved in any way . . . ”