Iraqis Can't Get Pensions, Visas, or Permits Due to Iraq Election Limbo

By Allam, Hannah | The Christian Science Monitor, May 28, 2010 | Go to article overview

Iraqis Can't Get Pensions, Visas, or Permits Due to Iraq Election Limbo


Allam, Hannah, The Christian Science Monitor


Nearly three months after the March 7 Iraq election, Iraqis are waiting for 100,000 new jobs to be filled and face backlogs in everything from obtaining permits to registering for pensions. Some complain their vote was 'worthless.'

Athab Jabbar runs a house of worship, so it tugs at his conscience that his gun-toting guards aren't licensed by the Iraq government and that he isn't properly registered with the central Shiite Muslim religious authorities.

When he's tried to file the paperwork that would bring his small mosque into compliance with Iraqi law, however, the answer is always the same: Only after a new government is formed.

For hundreds of thousands of Iraqis such as Mr. Jabbar, the delay in seating a new government, which already has lasted nearly three months, has complicated everyday errands and added bureaucratic frustration to lives that are hard enough thanks to persistent violence and the lack of basic utilities.

Licenses, pensions will just have to wait

More than 100,000 new state jobs are on hold, and mundane tasks such as obtaining licenses and registering for pensions are backlogged until a new government is seated, Iraqi officials and Baghdad residents said this week.

Each day the political infighting drags on, more Iraqis begin to question their participation in the March 7 parliamentary elections, which the Obama administration had counted on to pave the way for an unimpeded withdrawal of US forces by the end of next year.

As militants continue a campaign of bombings, assassinations, and high-profile robberies, complaints of a security void are growing. In casual conversations, call-in radio shows, and newspaper cartoons, Iraq's ruling elites are portrayed as Green Zone dwellers with 24-hour electricity, personal bodyguards, and little empathy for the suffering of ordinary folk.

"They're not politicians, they're barbarians," said Jabbar at the Baghdad mosque he'd dreamed of building since childhood.

A sky-blue dome to protect

Jabbar opened the modest sanctuary with a sky-blue dome in 2004. The next year, insurgents blew up a gas tanker at the front gate, killing more than 50 people. In summer 2007, he said, another bomb exploded outside the entrance. He recruited family members to protect the mosque at the height of sectarian bloodshed, when survival was key and gun permits were an afterthought.

Now, Jabbar said, he wants to get the proper licenses and government subsidies for his guard force. He expected the newly ascended Shiite ruling class to be more supportive of protecting religious establishments. In this tense transitional period, he said, the mosque remains vulnerable, and "we have no other option but to have our guys carry guns" while Iraqi politicians squabble over who gets which cabinet position.

"They didn't come to serve the citizens, to save us. We defied everything, even terrorism, to go and vote for these people, and I've come to believe my vote was worthless," Jabbar said.

MP: Government delay has 'paralyzed' daily life

Bahaa al Araji, a parliament member who's allied with militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr, said the delay in forming a government "has paralyzed all avenues of life. …

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