Iraq to elite diaspora: 'Come back home'

Many of the 200 professionals attending the conference on Tuesday had reservations about returning to a country where civilians still die.

Iraq to elite diaspora: 'Come back home'
Iraq has appealed to exiled doctors, university professors, scientists and other qualified Iraqis to come back now, but few exiles said on Tuesday they were ready to return.

At a two-day conference aimed at luring back tens of thousands of skilled Iraqi professionals after years of occupation, sanctions and sectarian violence drove them away, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki asked the elite diaspora to help rebuild Iraq.

"We say frankly the country cannot be built without you," he said in a speech to open the forum on Monday.

"We cannot fully assume responsibility in your absence and the absence of the capabilities and qualifications you have."

Doctors, engineers, lawyers and lecturers fled Iraq in their droves after the 2003 US occupation.

Others had already left during the hard years of U.N. economic sanctions preceding it.

Many of the 200 professionals attending the conference on Tuesday had reservations about returning to a country where civilians still die.

"I'd take it slow and think 100 times before coming back," said Ahmed Mousa, a development studies professor now living in Norway.

Others complained about the lack of water and electricity.

"My ambition is to come back. The problem is (finding) ... an environment we can live in," said Iyad Kuba, a pathology professor teaching in the United Arab Emirates.

The government says up to 350,000 Iraqis living abroad have university degrees. That is 17 percent of the 2 million Iraqi citizens who have fled overseas in recent years.

Around 10,000 Iraqi doctors are living and working in Britain alone, officials said. Iraq says some 800 doctors returned to Iraq from around the world this year.

"Migrations of the elite and brains have left colleges and government establishments almost empty of their cadre," said Khalid al-Attiya, the deputy parliamentary speaker.

Some professionals agreed there was one thing the Iraqi authorities could do to tempt them back.

Majida Abdul Latif, a professor living in Jordan, just accepted a job back home, saying she had been offered an irresistably good salary by Iraq's higher education ministry.


Reuters
Last Mod: 24 Aralık 2008, 13:56
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