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I Worked in Iraq Housing Construction

During the Iran-Iraq war, I worked for two and a half years in a big French construction company for the project of 4,000 units military housing construction in Mosul, Iraq. Our employment main terms were free foods, accommodations, plane tickets, regular monthly salaries with overtime pay, one month yearly vacation, workers’ camps medical clinics with doctors, nurses and medicines.

During the war, the Iraqi military officers and soldiers had the priorities on food supplies. purchase iraqi dinar During our first two-month days, there were shortages of foods in our workers’ residential camps which were made of portable two-room separated housing, each with airconditioning unit, toilet and bath room. Sometimes we ate rice soups with eggs. The workers, who were not used to family hardship lives, were having tears from their eyes while eating and they decided to resign and go back to their origin country. I was not affected by that kind of hardship because I grown up in a poor family. After two months, the company was able to solve the food problem by importing from other countries.

Big fishes were abundant in the river. Some of the Filipino workers who came back from vacation brought fish nets and enjoying catching fishes after working hours. There were many big wild dogs in the mountains which were threat to the lives of the workers. One French supervisor made hunting dog as his sport on rest days, inviting workers under his supervision to catch dog. The workers were enjoying this kind of sport because some of them were cooking the dog and having party eating it while drinking wine at night.

The residential camp of the French and other European nationals were located separately with the residential camp of the Asian nationals. Some of the French daughters were being courted by Filipinos for being known as good lovers. Courtship between Iraqi women and Filipino workers was also occurring.

On our rest days, we went to different biblical places and had seen the ruins of the king’s kingdom in Nineveh and Nimrod. There were large statues of warriors (in the form like the knights of King Arthur) and a queen made of marbles and stones, partly destroyed. There was a Filipino worker who posed holding the breast of the woman statue for a photo but was scolded by the Iraqi guard. We also had seen the tomb of Sarah and the Tower of Babel. There were many biblical memorable things and places which were destroyed due to wars. Invasions and wars were the legacies of the kings of Babylon in the biblical ancient era. Iraq should have been a very good spot for tourism.

There are two long and huge rivers flowing across Iraq. The Tigris river flowing from Turkey to the juncture with Euphrates river, also flowing from Turkey through Syria and Iraq into the Persian Gulf. Agriculture is good in Iraq due to the natural flow of rivers for irrigation. The country also have large volume of oil deposits. Rich but too much funds were placed to arsenal armory for war. If their agricultural land and oil deposits are fully developed for production, Iraq is a very rich country.

We mingled and met some Iraqi and Kurdis people. There were Christian churches for being allowed. During the years of our employment, Christians and Muslims had good relationship alike. We considered them as good people by the way they treated us. We met some poor family members, recuperated soldiers with amputated legs and arms due to the war. We ate and drank tea with them in their homes which were made of mud or clay. There were days that many soldiers in trucks and tanks on their way to the border with Iran due to their unresolved disputes. Farmers had guns while working in the fields. We were invited in their grape farms and gave us some grape fruits to take home.

The main streets or roads had many large billboards with the pictures of their president Saddam Hussein. They loved, respected and feared their leader. Anyone who opposed or expressed words against his administration will be punished severely or executed.

An Iraqi friend told us that a family having a very old car was very valuable because it would make them entitled to buy a new car. Purchasing vehicle was being controlled by the government.

There were many car accidents because the government was not strict on driver’s license to Iraqi nationals. Some individuals, old and young, were driving without licenses. Some of our friends in the police stations did not know how to drive. Sometimes, they were learning driving using our service pickup car.

One Friday afternoon, our rest day in Arab countries, I noticed the workers arriving from the city, were so happy and excited. They were talking about the movie they saw in the theater. I was so curious to see it myself. I joined them the following Friday. Before the actual movie presentation, they showed a short pornographic film. Sometimes, it was being inserted in the middle of the movie intermission. What I had seen was a group of goons with guns entering the house and raping women. It took around ten to fifteen minutes show.

During our stay in the city working for the housing projects (three years completion), businesses were booming. The government required the foreign nationals to spend thirty percent (30%) of their salaries in Iraq. Money exchange rate of US Dollars were doubled in black market as compared to the actual exchange rate outside of the country. The value of US dollar inside Iraq was very high. While the value of dollar exchange outside Iraq was lower against Dinar. Some of the workers who took their vacations in their countries were coming back to Iraq with US Dollars to exchange it with Iraqi Dinars currency. The Iraqi securities or soldiers were confiscating US Dollars at the borders.

How did they take the money back home? The foreign employer companies suggested to their workers to surrender with receipt their Dinars currency to their employers in Iraq who, in turn, paid in US Dollars in the worker’s country. The companies were also having benefits on this scheme because they were spending Dinar currency in Iraq business operation and having cost savings on exchange rates. There was no need for them to remit dollars to Iraq. They just pay back in Dollars to the family of the worker in his country.

Iraq’s social security benefits were also good. Foreign workers were being paid by Iraqi government Social Security equivalent to one month salary per year of employment. In example, if you worked for two years in Iraq, you are being given equivalent to two months salaries in addition to your regular monthly salaries. Usually, you were being paid when you did not renew your contract to your employer and going back to your home country for good. Furthermore, if you worked for less than one year but more than three months in your last year of employment, it was considered as one month additional social security benefits.

Iraqi hospitals and doctors’ medical services was still below international standard during that time. Some foreign workers were dying in the hospital due to wrong diagnostic results. Some workers died in the hospital due to appendicitis operation. There was a Filipino worker diagnosed of having an appendicitis. He refused to be operated in any Iraqi hospital. He was even advised by the hospital doctor that if not operated, he will die in his travel by airplane before arriving to his country. The worker preferred to go back to his country. In the Philippines, the diagnose of the doctor was kidney problem and prescribed medicine tablets to melt the kidney stone. He was cured without operation. Thereby, some foreign workers having medical problems preferred to go back to their country for medication.

The above story were based on my actual employment stay experience in Mosul Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war.

Recently, there are so many changes in the lives of the Iraqi people – their attitudes, standard of living, Christians and Muslims relationships, divided beliefs for peace and freedom and their feelings affected by war during their invasion to Kuwait and lost against the American allied forces.

I wish that the formation of the new Iraqi government administration leaders could address their needs, peace, real democracy, as well as to show that they could also contribute peace and harmonious social relationships around the world.

My arrival as legal immigrant in USA is untimely for being the year of recession, unemployment is a countrywide issues. I have to do something to create my own source of income. Please visit this site for more features.

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