Ghost Contractors sink Baghdad after Rains

By Wassim Bassem for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The first rainfall of the season swept Iraqi cities Nov. 21, causing flooding in schools, houses and streets.

Siham Ahmed, a student from al-Diwaniya city south of Baghdad, couldn’t get to class since the roads flooded and the school itself was submerged. “The students’ school uniforms and books were ruined in the mud,” she told Al-Monitor.

The flooding of schools in al-Diwaniya and other parts of Iraq has become an annual phenomenon that local authorities have failed to resolve. A video of a school flooding in Basra province went viral on YouTube and Facebook. Ghayath, a digital activist, commented on the video: “Where is the custodian of Basra?” in reference to the Basra governor and officials.

As Iraqis wage war against the Islamic State (IS), they are also engaged in another war against nature, as streets, city centers and sewage systems flood. Financial corruption has stalled infrastructure projects, and Iraqi infrastructure has subsequently collapsed following first rainfall of the season.

The flooding has even become good material for jokes, despite the tragedy. A YouTube video described the virtual lakes in the streets as an Iraqi “Titanic.”

The people blame corruption and ghost contractors who coordinate with officials to get tenders in return for financial kickbacks, and then sell subcontracts to other people. Jawad al-Chamri, the media officer of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Iraq, confirmed this practice.

“Corruption in infrastructure [projects] is not just a waste of money, but also a a failure of human rights,” he told Al-Monitor. “The floods in newly built schools have pushed Iraqis to lose trust in their society, as it derogated their right to education.”