'Pyramid' Of Corruption Pushes Iraq Family To Emigrate
Muhammad Irfan 13 days ago Mon 29th March 2021 | 08:20 AM
Karbala, Iraq, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 29th Mar, 2021 ) :Hassanein Mohsen spent months protesting against corruption in Iraq. He also lodged complaints against officials. But now he is shunned as a whistleblower and sees only one way out: emigration.
"You can't live here without paying bribes," the unemployed father-of-four told AFP.
"I've given everything I can, and this country is still sinking lower." The stout 36-year-old engineer from the shrine city of Karbala said he had been driven to despair by the endemic graft in his homeland, ranked the 21st most corrupt country by Transparency International.
It said systemic graft was eating away at Iraqis' hopes for the future, pushing growing numbers to try to emigrate.
But Mohsen hasn't always felt this way.
Mohsen was one of them.
"I felt I had to go out. I either live in dignity or I die in dignity," he said.
One day, Nour called him with good news: they had come into some cash by selling a piece of land.
With that money, she insisted, they could start a new life abroad.
From Tahrir Square, surrounded by hopeful youth, Mohsen refused.
"I can't leave now. Things are finally going to change," he told his wife.
He has forked out more than $1,000 in cash bribes for simple bureaucratic processes, he told AFP.
These include updating his tax filings, getting a new passport or correcting spelling mistakes in his government records.
Then, there were in-kind bribes.
Even after confirming the import licences were in order, the soldier wouldn't let the goods through -- until Mohsen offered to leave an entire bedroom set for him at the checkpoint.
There's also the high-level state corruption that trickles down to everyday life.
Years of conflict left much of Iraq's infrastructure destroyed or in ruins and private operators have long been relied upon.
When the mass street protests dwindled, Mohsen tried to fight graft in a different way.
"I saw the protests didn't go anywhere, so I tried that instead. But not one of the complaints went anywhere because the courts themselves are too corrupt to act." A lawyer in Baghdad, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the law in Iraq only tended to apply to "the weakest".
"With one phone call, elected representatives, officials can make a judge drop the charges against them, either with a threat or by paying a bribe," the lawyer told AFP.
His own well-connected relatives were shunning him because of his public criticism of politicians, costing him job opportunities he could have gotten through them.
He's even afraid for his life after speaking out.
"Sometimes I regret it. Why did I even go out to protest?" - 'A real life' - Corruption was among the top reasons Iraqis cited for seeking refuge in Europe, a 2016 survey by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) found.
With President Joe Biden already walking back some of those measures, the family of six is praying that will change soon.
"It was a mistake to stay. We never got the chance to live a real life," Nour sighed.