Iraq’s Brain Drain Continues

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.

Youths in Iraq dream of leaving the country. The successive wars since 1980 and in particular the violence that has been part of daily life in Iraq since 2003 have caused waves of emigration over the years.

Iraqis have lived through many conflicts over the last few decades: the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the subsequent embargo and war, followed by the war in 2003 to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The conflict between Iraqi forces and Islamic State (IS) militants, who occupied Mosul on June 10, 2014, have further escalated the violent situation Iraqis, young and old, live in today. Youths are again searching for a new place to live in, outside Iraq.

Social researcher Qassim Mohammad told Al-Monitor that the emigration issue has become a significant concern as “a lot of young people now believe that every war in Iraq gives birth to a new war, and that seeking a future in Europe or the United States is their best option.”

Luay Hamid graduated from the faculty of agriculture at the University of Baghdad in 2012. He told Al-Monitor, “Thinking about emigrating is not enough. One must have the money for it, [money] that a lot of young people don’t have. … I tried to emigrate to Europe in 2013 after I had saved $4,000. I traveled to Jordan and stayed there to find a way to be smuggled into Europe. … I met two smugglers who asked for $10,000 to get me to Germany or the Netherlands via Istanbul, Turkey. But I had to return to [Iraq] because I didn’t have that much money.”

According to a 2013 study by the International Organization for Migration in cooperation with the British Foreign Ministry, 99% of young people in southern Iraq and 79% of those in Iraqi Kurdistan wish to emigrate.

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