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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 April, 2004, 20:56 GMT 21:56 UK
Why brave the dangers in Iraq?
By Duncan Walker
BBC News Online Magazine

Gary Teeley
Laundry manager Gary Teeley thought he was going to die
Chefs, builders, security guards, translators, missionaries - just some of the jobs foreign civilians have been doing in Iraq.

But after the kidnapping of Briton Gary Teeley, who was setting up a laundry, and with insurgent kidnap gangs increasingly targeting foreign nationals, who is choosing to stay on in the country, and why?

As job opportunities go, the offer of a posting to Iraq may not sound especially tempting.

The fall of Saddam Hussein's regime led to thousands of people flocking to the country for work, which often came with a big salary and a sense of adventure to match.

But while many are former soldiers working as hired muscle for private companies, others come from the more mundane worlds of catering, translating and business management.

Few would have expected their new jobs to be straightforward. But the very real dangers involved have become increasingly apparent - with a number of foreign workers killed and civilians from at least nine countries kidnapped in recent days.

So just who are the people who want to work in such a dangerous place and what responsibility do the coalition forces have towards them?

Tentative steps

One of the most striking things about the flow of foreign workers to Iraq is that nobody is sure exactly how many people are there, who they are, or what they are doing.

It's the usual thing, that if people chose to go into a country and they don't register with us, that's a matter for them
Foreign Office

The UK Foreign Office says there are more than 1,000 British civilians now in the country - in addition to at least 10,000 troops. Of these about 150 are employed by the Ministry of Defence - working as secretaries, kitchen staff, translators, advisers and so on.

It will not say how much they are being paid, beyond the fact it is their basic salary, plus an operational allowance and various other payments.

The ruling Coalition Provisional Authority has people in similar posts, although the temporary governing body is not quite sure how many civilians - British or otherwise - it employs. It says there are at least 1,500.

Yet more foreign civilians are leading an unknown number of private firms' tentative steps towards setting up shop in Iraq. There are also aid workers and missionaries.

It's all work which creates posts for private bodyguards.

'Widespread' violence

Keeping track of all these people is proving difficult. "It's the usual thing, that if people chose to go into a country and they don't register with us, that's a matter for them," says the Foreign Office.

Ralph Hassall
Ralph Hassall: Apprehension but not yet fear
Nevertheless, it points out that its advice on travel to Iraq - usually via a neighbouring country like Kuwait - could not make the extent of the dangers facing visitors much clearer.

Apart from advising against all non-essential travel to the country and talking of "widespread outbreaks of violence", it lists attacks against foreign civilians, terrorism, kidnapping, car-jackings and robberies as potential pitfalls.

Newborn son

Despite the stark warnings people still think the risks are worth taking. For Gary Teeley, a 37-year-old father-of-five from Woolwich in south-east London, it was a favour that saw him return to the country.

Mr Teeley, who works for a Qatar based firm, says his best friend wanted a week off to see his newborn son and so he offered to step in.

His mother, Patricia, says she would like to think he was getting paid well, but that a sense of adventure also played a part.

"Perhaps, like a lot of young men, he does not think he's indispensable, but that he will be okay," she says. "I think he saw it as an experience."

'Extremely worried'

Travel guide writer Catherine Arnold has recently returned from Iraq to complete her book on the country. Her partner Ralph Hassall is still in the country - clearing mines near Baghdad.

Ms Arnold says the shift towards kidnapping was naturally going to make anyone with loved ones in Iraq extremely worried, but says: "[Ralph] is doing an exceptionally good job and a very important one so from that perspective I'm glad he's out there."

Mr Hassall says that thanks to the security that surrounds their work, there was a level of apprehension about safety but it had not yet reached fear.

"We've always maintained a very low profile - in the past few weeks a lot of our clearance operations in the community have had to cease because it exposed workers... to a much increased risk of kidnapping and injury," he says.

'Adventurous' person

The parents of 21-year-old Exeter University student Laura Culley, on a 'gap year' in Iraq as a military translator, have also been alarmed by recent events in Iraq.

Her mother, Annette, says: "Laura is an adventurous type of person and she will always do something a little different to her peer group."

Mrs Culley says Laura always has bodyguards with her and is "exceedingly safe".

After two-and-a-half years as a student Ms Culley also has the lure of a salary of about £200 a day to help her pay off her debts and save for the future as an incentive.

£300 a day

While civilians are earning more than they do at home, some of the top salaries are going to those who are charged with making the work of others possible - the security guards.

CIVILIAN KIDNAPPINGS
12 April: Five Ukrainian, three Russian energy workers freed
12 April: Seven Chinese men released
11 April: British laundry worker Gary Teeley released
11 April: Two Czech TV crew members go missing
9 April: US lorry-driver Thomas Hamill captured
8 April: Three Japanese civilians abducted
8 April: Seven South Korean missionaries freed
8 April: Pictures of abducted Israeli Arab aid worker released
7 April: Canadian aid worker Fadi Ihsan Fadel abducted
They are paid an average daily wage of £300, but are perhaps in more danger than any other group.

On Sunday a Romanian security worker was killed and another injured in an ambush near Baghdad. Last week British security worker Mike Bloss, from Bridgend, south Wales, was killed protecting three electrical workers from a Western firm.

'Diverse' targets

There are around 15,000 security guards, including 6,000 who are armed, working in Iraq according to Dr Michael Donovan, of the Centre for Defence Information, based in Washington DC.

Despite the large numbers of guards and he fears it will be impossible to protect all foreign workers in Iraq - even with the help of coalition soldiers.

He warns there is a "large and diverse group of targets that's probably large enough that the coalition forces couldn't hope to provide protection for even if they had intended to do so".

The British Foreign Office warns it has "limited responsibilities" towards civilians and UK Trade and Investment, a government body advising firms, offers little more comfort for those determined go to Iraq.

It says companies should only go there if they have "strong commercial reasons" for doing so and that while the government will try to help if anything goes wrong, there is no guarantee it will be able to.


Your comments:

I have been working in Iraq since early April 2003 and experienced the entire build up to the coalition forces entering Iraq in March 2003 and the changes that have occurred to date. During this time, I have realized how different the American rules of engagement are to the British rules of engagement. It is my belief, if the American military leadership reviewed their operating practices, and rules of engagement with advice, then this may assist in harmony spreading in the north, instead of the shedding of blood, conflict and resistance spreading south... I don't think I am the only person operational in Iraq that is of this opinion!
Ian, NE, UK

I was offered a job in Iraq last June for $100,000 (tax free). The contract was for a year, helping the local police become wireless. I was told I would have a weapon and security personnel. I was going to take the job but the guy who was my contact suddenly stopped calling me. I figured it was fate and didn't try to locate him. Now that almost a year has gone by, I'm extremely glad I didn't go. Life and greed do not go together.
Mike, Memphis, Tennessee, US

My fiancé has been in Iraq since Jan. The opportunity and the money offered was a prime motivation for this trip - in the end no amount of money or opportunity has been worth the high risk. Everything can change in a minute there and I worry every minute whether that change has taken away my future.
Liz, Tarrytown, USA

I worked there for six months - for three of those unpaid, for three given a subsistence salary
EA, Portsmouth

I think it's unjust to see money as the prime motivator for those venturing out to Baghdad. I worked there for six months - for three of those unpaid, for three given a subsistence salary. Excluding any impulses of philanthropy that may induce many to work in Iraq, for young people willing to take the risk, being prepared to take a job in Iraq can open all sorts of doors as well as being an exceedingly character-building experience. I have seen several young people take on jobs up to 10 years in advance of anything they could reasonably have expected to get in our bottom-heavy job market. Quite apart from the satisfaction of knowing that you will have a supply of stories to last a life time, if any of your listeners stays awake beyond the opening "When I was in Iraq..."
EA, Portsmouth, UK

I work for an NGO in the south of Iraq and have been in Iraq for almost one year now. Despite the dangers I find the work very fulfilling. We are helping rebuilding Iraq and seeing the appreciation of the Iraqis we assist makes it all worthwhile.
Hussien Ibrahim, Croydon, London

My country used to have some companies working in Iraq territories, building highways. It was before the Gulf war. I had some friends over there when the war begun, I could see the fears into their eyes, they had families down here. Personally I would not leave my family and friends for such a risk. Every day I see on TV the strikes against civilians and foreigners in Iraq. Brazil lost a son in the attack against the UN headquarters and so I would like to see all foreign civilians out of Iraq until the war ends. Money is nice but life is better.
Francisco Antonio, Sao Paulo, Brazil

I have two friends in the TA who've been shipped out to Iraq recently as part of the peacekeeping force. They were given a few weeks training in riot control and how to use the equipment they'll have out there and that's it. I am shocked that the government needs to send in the TA for such tasks.
James, Croydon

My husband and thousands of other British armed forces personnel have risked their lives everyday in this conflict and countless others, often having to rescue these bounty hunters and adding another strain on their resources, all whilst earning an average British salary.
Ceri, UK

I worked in Iraq from June to November 2003. The current situation was predictable. In November I decided not to extend my contract, because although money is good, life is better.
LC, London

I work in telecommunications and I have been offered $1,000 per day to work in Iraq, even the chance to earn $20,000 per month does not justify the risk to my life; even when told that I would be given opportunity to carry a gun to protect myself and we would have close protection security team to look after us. However several of my friends are now working in Iraq on telecommunications projects so it seems some people are willing to take the risk.
Simon, UK

My brother left to work in Iraq three weeks ago, and ever since life has not been the same. Chatting with him online every morning has become my daily ritual and drive, as it is the only way I know he is alright. The worst times are when there is bad news on TV and I cannot "see" my brother online. This feeling of uncertainty, not knowing anything is devastating...it makes you wonder if anything is really worth jeopardizing your life in a war zone like Iraq.
Angie Hussami, Syrian living in Norway

I have a number of friends from the TA who are away serving as civilian 'contractors' for security firms in Iraq. They were deployed to Iraq on one of the Telics and then took the opportunity of going back again and being paid extremely well for the risks taken. The risk is one worth taking for $80k tax free, and who's to say they're wrong for doing it? The typical way that the very wealthy today got to be so was that someone in past took a risk and it came good.
Eddie, Glasgow, UK




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