Fear of criminal gangs that carry out targeted killings and kidnap children and businessmen for ransom has driven many rich Iraqis out of their home country in search of a more peaceful life abroad.

 

For these Iraqis, Jordan, Syria, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates are the most favoured destinations. Obtaining visas for entering other Arab countries, to say nothing about non-Arab ones, is proving to be next to impossible.

 

Families separated

 

Muhammad al-Qaisi is an Iraqi businessman who works in the UAE emirate of Dubai while his family lives in Damascus, Syria.

 

Some Iraqis detect a plot in the
rash of kidnappings for ransom

He told Aljazeera.net: "I had to take my family out of Iraq. After the rise in child kidnapping, I could not risk keeping them in Iraq.

 

"I cannot bring them to Dubai for reasons related to my business, so I had to settle them in Damascus and continue my work in Dubai."

 

Al-Qaisi added: "I usually seize any opportunity to escape from work for a few days to fly to Syria and see my family. It is hard for me to stay away from my children, but I am sure when they grow up they will understand that I lived away from them for some time for the sake of their own safety."

 

Plot suspected

 

Khamis Mirgib al-Isawi is another Iraqi businessman currently living in Dubai, which seems to have become Iraqi businessmen’s most popular work destination.

 

The security situation in Iraq has
deteriorated in recent months

He says he believes there is a well-organised plot to force Iraqi businessmen out of the country.

 

"When you see your peers kidnapped, terrorised or blackmailed, how can you stay? I believe that those were messages to us (businessmen) to leave the country or we would be living under constant threat," al-Isawi said.

 

"A few days ago an Iraqi businessman died in Dubai. I went to his family house to pay my condolences. I was shocked by the number of Iraqi traders and businessmen who were at the house. You cannot imagine the sight.

 

"I asked myself, Who is left behind in Iraq? I really think there exists a plan to drive out Iraqi traders to ensure others' domination of the country's economy."

 

Kidnapping Inc 

 

"Most of Baghdad's richest families have left the country. Now they are targeting small business owners"

Sahira Ahmad,
Baghdad-based lawyer

Sahira Ahmad, an Iraqi lawyer based in Baghdad, told Aljazeera.net kidnapping is a flourishing industry in Iraq.

 

"Kidnappers target anyone who can pay. They kidnap children, men and women. In the months that followed the US invasion, kidnappers used to target the richest people and used to ask for huge ransoms," she said.

 

"Now it is different. Most of Baghdad's richest families have left the country. Now they are targeting small business owners."

 

Ahmad continued: "Nowadays, kidnappers demand ransoms in the range of tens of thousands of dollars, but the funny thing is they are willing to bargain. Finally they might settle for two or three thousand dollars."

 

Buying spree

 

Small wonder, then, Iraqis have been jumping at the chance to buy property abroad. Jordan has been by far their favourite destination due to the stable security and economic conditions in addition, of course, to the close ties between Iraqis and Jordanians as fellow Arabs.

 

Jalil Twal says arriving Iraqis are
snapping up properties in Jordan

Aljazeera.net spoke to Jalil Twal, a Jordanian real-estate broker. He said Iraqis have been a key factor in the current boom in the country's real estate business, with the sustained high demand pushing up property prices.

 

"There is a huge demand among Iraqis for flats and villas in Amman. They like spacious properties in luxurious districts.

 

"Property prices have increased 25% on average. But in certain areas like Abdun and Um Uthaina, which are preferred by Iraqis, prices have in some cases risen by 100%," Twal said.

 

He said he does not ask his Iraqi clients why they are eager to buy property in Jordan - because he believes the answer is clear enough, namely the deteriorating security situation in Iraq.