Suleimani's murder sounds the alarms of Telangana workers in Iraq

HYDERABAD: Growing tensions following the assassination of Iranian General Suleimani near Baghdad airport have left migrant workers from Telangana worried. Around 5,000 workers from the state are employed in Baghdad and around 3,000 more in Erbil. The number is said to be much higher in Kurdistan.

While those working in Baghdad , mainly in the construction industry, have the requisite work documents (Aqama), workers in other regions don't. "There is a fear that the situation may worsen in Kurdistan too though it has been peaceful so far. But if one wants to leave, we are caught in a strange situation," explained Nagesh Kuramshetty, who works in Iraqi Kurdistan's Sulaymanyiah city.

Nagesh, who is from Jinnaram in Mancherial, said a peculiar situation has arisen in which local authorities have halted the renewal of Aqamas since December last year. We hope that the decision to renew our work permits will be taken on Sunday when a meeting is supposed to be held, Nagesh told STOI by phone. Only when a worker has a valid Aqama can he leave the country. Otherwise, you will have to pay a huge fine that most cannot pay.

"Telangana workers are in a state of fear after the Baghdad airport incident. If facilitated, many will want to return but only when they realise it is difficult to stay there any more," said Patkuri Basanth Reddy, president of Gulf Telangana Welfare and Cultural Association.

Kundha Srinivas of Nirmal who has been working in Erbil is currently on a visit home. While the incident in Baghdad has disturbed him, he is only hoping that it does not become too problematic.

According to the migrant rights activist, Mandha Bheem Reddy, Telangana workers have become accustomed to working in dangerous conditions. It is sad that despite knowing the danger involved, they go to places where they are banned, he said and noted that after the murder of 39 Indians by the Islamic State in Mosul, the Union government banned travel to Iraq.

It was only on September 13, 2019 when the Foreign Ministry issued a circular that foresaw legal migration to Iraq, but not to places like Nineveh, Salahuddin. Diyala, Anbar and Kirkuk. The relaxation occurred recently, the smuggling of workers to Iraq has been going on for quite some time, Bheem Reddy said.

Despite knowing that it is a war zone, workers have been traveling to Iraq, he added, noting that now, the problem is mainly for those who have been smuggled and do not have valid work permits.