Iraqi refugees shed sectarian bitterness

( AP ) - A dozen Iraqi men - Sunnis and Shiites alike - sat around a table in a Damascus restaurant, singing, drinking and sharing a camaraderie all but impossible in the sectarian killing fields back home.

"We can certainly choose our religious beliefs. But we have to realize the inevitable - that eventually we have to share everything in order to live in peace," said Salam Mohammed, a 34-year-old Sunni from Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit.

More than 2 million Iraqis have fled their homeland to escape Sunni-Shiite reprisal killings.

Once they reach the safety of Syria and other countries, many Iraqis shed sectarian bitterness and seek support from fellow countrymen regardless of religious sect.

Back in Baghdad, "being Sunni or Shiite is an issue that a lot depends on - including your life," said Saad Kadhem, a Shiite from the Iraqi capital. "The situation is different when you are out, because people see things differently. But inside Iraq, people are still blinded by hatred and grudges they carry against one another."

The phenomenon is not unique to Iraqis. A decade ago in the Balkans, Serbs and Muslims would kill each other on the front lines around Sarajevo but hang out together in exile in Germany or Austria - far removed from the hatreds back home.

In Syria, Jordan and other countries with large Iraqi refugee communities, Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds mingle and socialize - rekindling a bond of nationhood that the violence back home threatens to destroy.

"The situation in Iraq didn't affect us, Iraqis living in Jordan," said Leila Adnan, a Sunni Muslim Iraqi housewife who fled to Jordan in 2003. "We socialize together, we exchange invitations to wedding parties and other social events."

She said Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites in Jordan still marry across the sectarian divide.

"There are mixed weddings, almost every week," she said, adding that she attended one last week between a Sunni woman and a Shiite man from a prominent family.

"Nobody at the party felt it was strange, or questioned their marriage," she said.

In Damascus, the home of Sundus al-Dulaimi, a 50-year-old Sunni from Anbar province, reflects the spirit which Iraqis seem to have kept alive outside their ravaged country.

Al-Dulaimi was hosting four members of a Shiite family. In June, she opened her doors to Kurdish friends, she said.

"We have to contain the crisis now before its too late," al-Dulaimi said. "We should be putting our home ( Iraq) back together again instead of dividing it."

Iraqis have several explanations for the explosion of sectarian hatred back home. Some accuse the Americans of setting Iraq's communities against one another in a divide and rule strategy.

Others point to the role of al-Qaida in Iraq - whose suicide bombings targeted Shiite civilians - and the Shiite militias that took vengeance on Sunnis simply because of their sect.

"Even in Baghdad, it is the government and the militias who are behind these disputes," Adnan said. "We hear that there are many mixed Sunni-Shiite marriages back home."

Al-Dulaimi blamed the Americans and their allies in the Shiite-led government who have "fueled sectarian strife for their personal ambition." Last week, hundreds of Iraqi refugees marched through Damascus streets to protest a U.S. Senate resolution recommending Iraq be divided along regional sectarian lines.

"Being strangers in other countries has taught us to be more tolerant of one another," said Ammar Sameer, a 30-year-old Iraqi businessman living in Jordan. "We have to learn how to seal any crack that was created by the evil forces that came with the (American) occupation."

Back at the Damascus restaurant, Mohammed, the Sunni from Tikrit, summoned a singer and requested a song glorifying Shiites and Sunnis as brothers. As encouragement, Mohammed took out a wad of cash from a bag and tossed the bills at the entertainer.

"I am the son of Fallujah, I am the son of Tikrit, I am the son of Sadr City," the singer crooned, carefully mentioning both Sunni and Shiite communities as Syrian and American bills floated down around him.

"I am very proud to say I am a Shiite Iraqi, and am sitting next to my Sunni friend and neighbor," Abu Mazin said as he threw his arms around a Sunni beside him.

Another guest, Mazin Baban, took pictures with his mobile phone.

"It's time for us to get rid of our differences ourselves without relying on strangers," he said. "People are beginning to realize that the problem is not with them, it's with our politicians."

Uzbekistan, Afghanistan eye to achieve twofold growth in trade
Uzbekistan, Afghanistan eye to achieve twofold growth in trade
Investment in tourism transport infrastructure to help dev’t this sector in Turkmenistan - UNWTO
Investment in tourism transport infrastructure to help dev’t this sector in Turkmenistan - UNWTO
Uzbekistan’s Agrobank to fund entrepreneurial activity under Islamic sharia law
Uzbekistan’s Agrobank to fund entrepreneurial activity under Islamic sharia law
Loading Bars
Latest
Belarus reports 1,689 new COVID-19 cases, 139,908 in total
Azerbaijan eyes to use potential of liberated lands for fishery development
UN office announces agenda of special session of General Assembly on COVID-19 initiated by Azerbaijani president
Additional assets brought for Russian peacekeeping contingent delivered - Azerbaijani MoD (PHOTO)
Azerbaijan gains brilliant victory by liberating its lands - Chairman of National Congress
Azerbaijani Defense Ministry expresses condolences to Iranian side (PHOTO)
Deposit liabilities of Georgian banking system decreases month-in-month
Phase 3 of OPEC+ could lead to immediate fall in oil prices
Azerbaijan reveals TOP-10 private non-oil exporters
Iranian Energy Exchange announces products to be on sale on December 5
Azerbaijani banks to fully сancel loan debts of martyrs' families
Lending by Georgian commercial banks down
Iran reveals forecast for oil sales for next year
Lari depreciation remains one of leading factors in Georgian debt growth
Georgia decides to ease entry regime for its citizens
Aztelekom LLC announces tender for purchase of electronic spare parts
Bentley hires jets to fly car parts to Britain during Brexit
National Bank of Georgia reveals volume of international reserves
Georgia sees increase in overdue debt
Uzbekistan, Afghanistan eye to achieve twofold growth in trade
Russia discloses volumes of agricultural products supplied to Georgia
Azerbaijan's State Security Service prosecutes Lebanese terrorist mercenary (VIDEO)
Ashgabat City Telephone Network opens tender for audit
EU extends relief measures for COVID-hit loans to March
Turkmenistan expands international cooperation through environmental diplomacy
Iran expands mobile phone imports
Azerbaijani Clean City OJSC signs tender contract
Israel expects $220 million in non-defence trade with Bahrain in 2021
Azerbaijan determines damage inflicted by Armenia on Fuzuli, Jabrayil districts
Turkey to continue providing all kinds of assistance to Azerbaijan - Turkish Minister of National Defense
Iran’s Bahar Azadi gold coin price still rising
Employment increases in Iran's Sistan and Baluchestan Province
Azerbaijan reduces lead exports
Investment in tourism transport infrastructure to help dev’t this sector in Turkmenistan - UNWTO
Georgia expects to start adoption of Oil Stockholding Act soon
Iranian president declares budget revenues for next year
Uzbekistan’s Agrobank to fund entrepreneurial activity under Islamic sharia law
Tightening of quarantine regime may be inevitable - TABIB
Iran expects increase of budget revenues
Georgian CEC to summarize final results of parliamentary elections on December 3
COVID-19 pandemic to displace business class cars from car rental market
Azerbaijan unveils data on local insurers' fees for 10M2020
Building for Turkish-Russian joint monitoring center under construction - Turkish Minister of National Defense
Georgia cultivates significant amount of land to combat marble bugs
Uzbekistan’s Tashkent registers largest number of private enterprises
Tourism can help protect, promote Turkmenistan’s culture - UNWTO
Volume of sales through Azexport portal continues to grow
New electricity facilities to be put into operation in Iran
Japanese agency funds project aimed at improving locust control in Uzbekistan
Georgian oil company trying to contain fuel price rise
Uzbekistan, Germany in talks over partnership with EU
Value of OIC states' import from Turkey shows decline
Azerbaijan's non-oil exports via 'Single Window' system increase
SOCAR Polymer remains export leader in Azerbaijan's private sector
Georgia aims to transpose renewables acquis
Kazakhstan's crude petroleum oil exports to Greece plummet
Construction of Kerki airport passenger terminal being completed in Turkmenistan
Azerbaijan's AzerGold becomes one of export leaders in public sector
Trilateral statement on Karabakh to contribute to long-term peace in region - Kazakhstan's President
Kazakhstan discloses volume of doses to be produced by COVID-19 vaccine plant
ASTS+ trading, clearing system to up productivity of Kazakhstan Stock Exchange
Azerbaijan announces recent COVID-19 death rate
Iran reveals its COVID-19 data for December 2
Azerbaijan presents video footage from Lachin's Garygyshlag village (VIDEO)
Oil prices steady as market awaits output deal
Iran's export to Afghanistan increases
Prices of Kazakh-manufactured diesel fuel down
Azerbaijan's October 2020 non-oil exports slightly rise
Expenses on construction of enterprises in Iran’s Semnan Province climbs
Resources from Southern Gas Corridor to be available via Serbian-Hungarian pipeline
Iran's non-oil export has increases
Iron ore concentrate production of giant Iranian steel companies grows
Events in Belarus, Nagorno-Karabakh region, Kyrgyzstan complicate situation in CSTO area – Putin
Turkmenistan working on development of infrastructure for gas export
Uzbekistan’s State Tax Committee announces tender for IT services
Azerbaijan confirms 3,942 new COVID-19 cases, 2,265 recoveries
Azerbaijan shows video footage from Soyudlu gold deposit of Kalbajar district (VIDEO)
Turkish companies involved in construction of new road to Azerbaijan’s Shusha (Exclusive)
Georgia aims to introduce mobile virtual network operators in 2021
Georgian 2021 budget bill calls for issuing new Eurobonds
Turkmenistan to conclude technical inventory of companies involved in fuel, energy sector
Details of Iran's budget for next year announced
Azerbaijan's oil fund discloses 11M2020 value of revenues from ACG oil-gas fields block
Kazakhstan to develop soil and geobotanical maps for its agriculture lands
SOFAZ's incomes from sale of condensate produced in Shah Deniz remain unchanged
Kazakhstan increases imports from Vietnam despite COVID-19 restrictions
Stability in South Caucasus very important for Turkey - FM
Baku Stock Exchange auctions notes of Central Bank
Azerbaijan, Turkey to establish first Hi-Tech Park in Karabakh
UNDP provides Georgia with protective gear to fight COVID-19
Foreign exchange reserves of Central Bank of Azerbaijan increase
Victory Day established in Azerbaijan
Foreigners decrease payments with bank cards in Azerbaijan
Uzbekistan, Afghanistan consider expanding co-op in banking, customs spheres
Azerbaijani president signs order on establishment of Day of Remembrance
Methanol production unit to be launched at Navoiazot chemical enterprise in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan introduces digital technologies in water metering, water management automation
Natural gas production dynamics in Azerbaijan – Eni’s review
Number of Georgian companies registered in Turkey decreases
Azerbaijan hosts auction for state property privatization
All news