As Death Stalks Iraq, Middle-Class Exodus Begins
BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 18 — Deaths run like water through the life of the Bahjat family. Four neighbors. A barber. Three grocers. Two men who ran a currency exchange shop.And Mr Bahjat is not alone.
But when six armed men stormed into their sons' primary school this month, shot a guard dead, and left fliers ordering it to close, Assad Bahjat knew it was time to leave.
"The main thing now is to just get out of Iraq," said Mr. Bahjat, standing in a room heaped with suitcases and bedroom furniture in eastern Baghdad.
Most frightening, many middle-class Iraqis say, was how little the government did to stop the violence. That failure boded ominously for the future, leaving them feeling that the government was incapable of protecting them and more darkly, that perhaps it helped in the killing. Shiite-dominated government forces have been accused of carrying out sectarian killings.A mass exodus of those who have the means to leave.
"Now I am isolated," said Monkath Abdul Razzaq, a middle-class Sunni Arab, who decided to leave after the bombing. "I have no government. I have no protection from the government. Anyone can come to my house, take me, kill me and throw me in the trash."
In the latest indication of the crushing hardships weighing on the lives of Iraqis, increasing portions of the middle class seem to be doing everything they can to leave the country. In the last 10 months, the state has issued new passports to 1.85 million Iraqis, 7 percent of the population and a quarter of the country's estimated middle class.The very people who are needed to rebuild the country and the economy are leaving. Not a good omen.