An Iraqi television network aired a shocking interview earlier this week that showed that rampant corruption in the Iraqi government was causing people to consider selling their own children to feed larger families.
In the programme broadcast by Huna Baghdad, presenter Ali Athab heard from a disabled Iraqi veteran, known as Abu Khidr, who can no longer work after sustaining head wounds in fighting against Daesh.
Abu Khidr tells a heart-breaking story of how his family had to flee from Shirqat, recently recaptured by Iraqi forces, and ended up in Baghdad as a refugee with his family, including five children.
Abu Khidr explains that he can no longer work due to his disabilities and that his wife also suffers from epilepsy, meaning that they are entirely dependent “on other people’s help and support.”
After failing to receive any assistance from the Iraqi government, Abu Khidr says that he was forced to consider selling his twin baby girls, Zahra and Zainab, for $130 in order to be able to afford to feed the rest of his family.
An incredulous Athab asks if Abu Kidr was going to sell both his daughters for $130, to which he responds that they were each valued at $130 separately, for a total of $260.
Zahra and Zainab’s elder brother can be seen earlier in the programme, complaining that “we haven’t had dinner…[and yesterday] we didn’t have dinner” before discussing his baby sisters with the Huna Baghdad’s reporter.
“I play with them…[but] they’re going to be sold…I love them. They’re my sisters,” the young boy says.
Dr Nadhir Al-Shimmari, the civil servant responsible for disabled and special needs people in the Iraqi Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, was also present on the show. After hearing Abu Khidr’s story, Dr Al-Shimmari gets up and attempts to leave the studio in disgust at the Iraqi government.
“I won’t defend the politicians or the officials and I don’t want anything to do with them…the officials stole money, they spent it abroad and they continue to steal more. I will not defend them,” Dr Al-Shimmari says.
In emotional scenes, Dr Al-Shimmari returns on set and promises Abu Khidr that he will personally pay him his monthly allowance and then gives him money from his own pocket, declaring that “this isn’t charity, it’s my duty whether I like it or not.”
Ahmed Almahmoud, media analyst for the Foreign Relations Bureau – Iraq, a UK-based Iraqi monitoring organisation, said: “This is a painful example of the failure of the post-2003 order in Iraq. Iraqis need a new political system, not merely quick fixes to try and patch up a system that puts the interests of foreign countries such as Iran before those of Iraqi citizens.”
Corruption in Iraq rife
Iraq has been wracked by numerous corruption scandals since the US-led invasion of 2003 that has even recently claimed Iraq’s foreign and defence ministers in what many have deemed to be politicised attacks.
One of Iraq’s anti-corruption chiefs, Mishan Al-Jibouri, recently came on air and announced that every politician is involved in corrupt activities, including himself. He repeated these assertions to the Guardian last February, stating: “Everybody is corrupt…Including me.”
Since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime, billions of dollars have been embezzled from Iraq’s coffers, including such inventive methods as creating “ghost soldiers”, whereby military commanders pocket the salaries of soldiers who do not even exist.