Iraqis React With Relief To Trump's New Order On Immigration

Mar 6, 2017
Originally published on March 6, 2017 5:01 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Well, now to Iraq - no longer on the list of countries covered by the travel ban. That change came after outrage by Iraqis at the January version of the visitor and refugee freeze - outrage they expressed to U.S. officials. There's a different feeling today in Baghdad, where NPR's Alice Fordham found that Iraqis are glad to be off the list.

ALICE FORDHAM, BYLINE: Iraq partners closely with the U.S. in its huge battle against ISIS. As Iraqi forces fight and die to take back the northern city of Mosul, there are American soldiers deeply embedded with them. So when all Iraqis were banned from entering the U.S., Iraqis felt betrayed. Officials made angry statements, and regular people held demonstrations. Parliament recommended that Americans be banned from Iraq in reciprocation. And the prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, called on the U.S. to reconsider. So the new executive order has come as a relief. Here's the head of the Parliament Foreign Relations Committee, Abdul Bari Zebari.

ABDUL BARI ZEBARI: Well, we are very pleased for this change of policy and also are very pleased that the United States has the best alliance in the Middle East, which is Iraq, who can be relied on.

FORDHAM: Zebari says this shows U.S. policy is guided by its institutions, like the State and Defense Department, and not just by people. Out in Baghdad this evening, a young journalist named Omar Abdelzahra takes a break from eating outside at a cafe with his friends to talk about the new ruling.

OMAR ABDELZAHRA: (Foreign language spoken).

FORDHAM: I don't believe that this decision getting rolled back was Trump's choice, he says.

ABDELZAHRA: (Foreign language spoken).

FORDHAM: And he also doesn't think the U.S. particularly cares about the vocal complaints of the Iraqi people. He says that he thinks it's Washington that benefits from keeping Iraq onside. A comprehensive ban on Iraqis entering the U.S. would have harmed the United States economically and politically.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: (Foreign language spoken).

FORDHAM: As he talks, children run around waving brightly colored balloons their parents are buying from a man carrying aloft a rainbow cluster of them clashing merrily with the lurid strings of lights outside the cafe. An engaged couple sit at a table nearby. They met studying philosophy at university and now work in a clothes store. The young woman, named Insam Thaer, has a brother in the U.S...

INSAM THAER: Michigan.

FORDHAM: ...And says they were happy when they heard the news today.

THAER: (Foreign language spoken).

FORDHAM: Of course, she would like to go to the U.S. It's safer and more stable than Baghdad, she says. Her fiance, Omar Fouad, chimes in.

OMAR FOUAD: (Foreign language spoken).

FORDHAM: We see a future there, he says. We see just a hard life here. There's no life. There's no work.

FOUAD: (Foreign language).

FORDHAM: In fact, he says, looking at his green-eyed fiance, we'd like to travel there and get married there. Alice Fordham, NPR News, Baghdad.

(SOUNDBITE OF RICHARD HOUGHTEN SONG, "MILLIONS OF BIRDS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.