Refugees forced back to a still-violent Iraq, prompting criticism of European policy
Three days after Ali Jassim Mohammed returned to Baghdad to get documents for his Swedish residency application, he was caught in a bombing on his way to the passport office.
Working with American media, Ali Jassim Mohammad became used to documenting the misery of Iraqis caught in war. And then he became one of them, in a tale that stretches from Baghdad to Sweden and back, and underscores the growing problem of European nations deporting Iraqi refugees to a homeland still wracked by violence.Skip to next paragraph
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In the midst of Iraq’s civil war, he was a driver and photographer, and like other Iraqis working for foreign news organizations, the eyes and ears of Western reporters who couldn’t travel as freely. His neighborhood was controlled by Al Qaeda in Iraq and every time he left his house, he didn’t know whether he’d be alive to return home in the evening.
In 2007, as the list grew of friends and relatives killed in the war, Mohammad decided to leave. He took the convoluted and precarious path of many asylum seekers – a fake European passport, transit through Iran to Europe, and then on to refuge Sweden.
“In 10 or 11 months I got the Swedish residency and to be honest, in Sweden they took better care of me than my Iraqi government did,” he says.
Back to Baghdad, where tragedy strikes
But to keep the residency, Mohammad was required to produce an Iraqi passport to prove his identity. After more than a year of trying to do that from Sweden, he was forced to return to Baghdad to get the documents he needed.
Three days after he arrived in September, on his way to the passport office, a roadside bomb went off under his car.
It was so close he heard only a "pop" instead of a deafening explosion.
“I saw everything around me become yellow or brown so I tried to go outside from the car and I didn’t feel my legs under me,” he says. That’s when he realized one of his legs was hanging by a thread. He was rushed to a hospital, where yet another bomb exploded as he was getting out of an ambulance.
Only one of his legs could be saved.
The Swedish consulate in Baghdad arranged for Mohammad to return to Sweden, where he will be given treatment and health care. Recently, while visiting a relative before returning to Sweden, Mohammad alternated between a wheelchair and a bed in the living room where was spending most of his days.