Iraqi refugees scattered around Damascus describe hellish conditions in the country they managed to leave behind.
"I used to work with the Americans near Kut (in the south)," Sa'ad Hussein, a 34-year-old electrical engineer told IPS. "I worked for Kellogg, Brown & Root in construction of an Iraqi base there, until I returned to Baghdad and found a death threat written on a paper which was slipped under my door. I had to flee."
Hussein, who left three months back, described Baghdad as a "city of ghosts" where black banners of death announcements can be seen hanging on most streets. The city, he said, lives on an hour of electricity a day, and there are no jobs to be had.
Security, electricity and potable water supply, healthcare and unemployment are all much worse than during the reign of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, refugees say.
"So many Iraqis never leave their homes now because they are too afraid to go out due to the militias," Abdul Abdulla, a 68-year-old man who fled Baghdad with his family three months ago told IPS. "We stay in our homes, but even then some people have been pulled out of their own houses," he added. "These death squads arrived after (former U.S. ambassador John) Negroponte arrived. And the Iraqi Government is definitely involved because they depend on them (militias)."
"I was injured because I was near a car bomb which killed my daughter," Eman Abdul Rahid, a 46-year-old mother from Baghdad who fled her home late last year told IPS. "There is killing, and the threat of killing, and explosions daily in Baghdad."
"America is the reason why Iraq was invaded, so we would like the American administration to give aid to us refugees," she added. "I would like people to read this and tell Bush to help us."
More than 600 people were reported killed in sectarian violence across Iraq last week, and car bombings continue to hit the capital.
[Excerpt of an article by Dahr Jamail, Inter Press News Service Agency]