Syria and Jordan: The Iraqi Exodus

An exodus of more than 2 million Iraqis is reshaping the Middle East -- with ominous implications for the region.

Driven out of Iraq and into neighboring countries by sectarian violence, a once prosperous middle class is drawing down savings -- and fueling local resentments. The newcomers are blamed for burdening public services, crowding schools and driving up housing costs, even as they struggle for survival.

Iraqi Professionals are reduced to accepting handouts. Children are going unschooled. Girls are turning to prostitution.

Iraq, meanwhile, is missing a population vital to its peaceful reconstruction.

Matthew Hay Brown travels to Syria and Jordan, the countries that have taken in the greatest number of Iraqis, to record the voices of a new diaspora -- and to explore what their dispersal means for the future of Iraq, and of the Middle East.

Matthew is the Pulitzer Center World Affairs Journalism Fellow at the International Center for Journalists.

Jordan: Guests, brothers -- not refugees

Matthew Hay Brown, for the Pulitzer Center
Amman, Jordan

Since arriving here earlier this week, I've heard several estimates of the number of Iraqis living in Jordan.

At the Iraqi Embassy today, I was told the population is no larger than 200,000. The number used by the Jordanian government, which is based on a survey completed last year by the FAFO Institute for Applied International Studies of Norway, is between 450,000 and 500,000.

Jordan: The question of return

Matthew Hay Brown, for the Pulitzer Center
Amman, Jordan

Officially, the Iraqi government is encouraging its citizens abroad to return to the country. When they might make that trip is another question.

"We're still in the organization process," Aleaddin H. Ali, the first secretary at the Iraqi Embassy here in Jordan, told me this afternoon. "We're getting statistics and preparations are being made."

Jordan: The pain of exile

Matthew Hay Brown, for the Pulitzer Center
Amman, Jordan

Back home in Baghdad, Najim Abid Hajwal owned a sheepskin factory. He had a house in the fashionable Al Mansour neighborhood and a farm where he raised chickens and grew oranges and lemons.

I met Hajwal this morning at a clinic run by the Catholic charity Caritas in East Amman. He was clutching an envelope containing X-rays taken of his 16-year-old son, who had fallen off a roof while attempting to adjust a satellite dish.

Jordan: The view from here

Matthew Hay Brown, for the Pulitzer Center
Amman, Jordan

The flood of Iraqis into Jordan is crowding classrooms, straining the health care system and draining the limited water supply here. It is blamed for driving up housing costs and -- although it is illegal for most Iraqis to work here -- creating more competition for jobs.

The influx is seen generally as another burden on a developing nation in which the people are struggling, as in other places, with the rising costs of fuel, food and other necessities.