Iraqi police applicants unhappy with delays
April 7, 2008
BAGHDAD — Delays in hiring “Sons of Iraq” volunteers into the Iraqi police are frustrating applicants whom the program aims to recruit away from competing militia groups.
Leaders say the recent fighting around Baghdad has delayed the hiring process, but others blame the government’s Ministry of Interior for just one more holdup in a process that was supposed to have finished before the fighting began.
Nearly 100 applicants formed up Saturday in the Ghazaliya area of Baghdad to talk with Capt. Rob Gillespie — commander of B Troop, 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment — about their complaints.
American and Iraqi officials originally latched onto the Sunni-initiated “Sons of Iraq” movement, which in this area is called the Ghazaliya Guardians, as a temporary security solution against sectarian violence. The movement has since spread across Iraq, including Shiite-dominated areas like the one in which Gillespie spoke Saturday.
Yet leaders have also pitched the movement as a way to move jobless young men into temporary employment prior to hiring them into permanent jobs either with Iraqi security forces or as civil servants in the Iraqi government.
The transition from “Sons of Iraq” to Iraqi police can mean all-important employment in a country that is sorely lacking. Recruiting drives aimed at Sons of Iraq volunteers can draw hundreds of applicants hoping to make the cut.
“By this job, we can protect our families and provide our families what they need,” IP applicant Walid Sami Majid said through an interpreter.
Gillespie initially blamed the delays on heavy fighting that started two weeks ago. The turmoil had forced officials at the Iraqi government’s Ministry of Interior to push aside the regular day-to-day business, he said.
“The Ministry of Interior is in a little bit of confusion the last couple weeks based on the stuff that you saw,” he said. “Now that things are getting back to normal, we should be able to get all that stuff processed.”
But upon questioning from the applicants, Gillespie quickly conceded that the Americans have been pressing the ministry to move along to no avail.
“Every day we call the Ministry of Interior and harass them,” he said, adding later. “We keep pushing them as much as we can, but we can’t make the Iraqi government do things.”
If they can’t find jobs, American leaders fear that these military-aged males may turn to one of Iraq’s militant groups for badly needed cash. Ghazaliya borders the Shula area, a strongpoint of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army. The area saw heavy fighting during the violence the other week, and a 1/75 platoon took sniper fire the same day Gillespie spoke to the “Sons of Iraq” volunteers.
“I know there’s bad people out there who can offer you a whole lot more money really quick,” he said. “I just ask you to ask your friends to resist the temptation to take that money.”
Rumors have accompanied the delays, as well. One Sons of Iraq volunteer said the Iraqi police unit told them that their applications had been canceled, something Gillespie said definitely wasn’t true.
Gillespie told the applicants that they should be hired by the second half of April or the beginning of May, but the answer didn’t completely reassure some in the group. Applicant Ala Hammad said he worried that the May date would move into June and then on into July since they were originally supposed to have been hired in early March.
“I’m sorry I haven’t been able to reward you as you deserve,” Gillespie responded. “You have definitely earned our trust, and our respect and our admiration.”