By Caroline Hawley
BBC News, Baghdad
In stifling summer heat, Dr Muthanna al-Assal
patiently waits his turn in a jostling queue. Like
many doctors in Baghdad, he is making preparations to
leave the country.
Iraqi hospitals have already been affected by the exodus
The main passport office in the city is crammed with
people, like Dr Assal, trying to get out of Iraq.
Some are planning holidays in neighbouring countries
but others are in search of a better, safer life
"If I can get a job elsewhere, I'll go," says the
35-year old chest and heart surgeon.
"Things are going downhill here both with security and basic services.
And there's no hope in the near future. I think conditions will take 20 years to improve."
And the long-term implications of the exodus are
Iraq suffered a massive brain drain under Saddam
Hussein, when an estimated four million people fled into
"Our best professionals left a long time
ago," says one government official.
But the haemorrhaging of talent is continuing - and
'I will return'
The government has no precise statistics on the
problem. But in June, it announced it would double
the salaries of university professors in a bid to keep
them from leaving the country.
"Scientists, doctors and engineers all feel they have
better chances outside Iraq," says Dr Assal.
makes me sad to leave because I know that my people
need me. But in these circumstances what can I do?"
Junior doctors in hospitals are already feeling the
gap left by specialists who have left.
exodus is having an impact on neighbouring countries
An influx of Iraqis into Jordan has already
pushed up rental prices in the capital, Amman.
"The situation in Iraq is miserable with all these
bombs," says 18-year old engineering student,
Al-Harith Hatem, standing in line for a new passport.
"We want to leave to escape it all."
But, he adds: "I will come back, for sure. I want
to return to work for my country."