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The New Arab

Wounded Iraqi military personnel used in 'Baghdad corruption scheme'

Iraqi soldiers endured injuries in the battle for Mosul against Islamic State [AFP]

Date of publication: 18 May, 2017

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Fake invoices for the treatment of injured Iraqi soldiers have become the latest example of corrupt practises by various officials in Baghdad.
Iraqi soldier Talib Khalil al-Mousawi never left Iraq for treatment after his stomach was torn by shrapnel during a battle against Islamic State group militants in Mosul last February. Instead, he was treated in a local hospital in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

It was to Mousawi's surprise when he discovered an official report that says he had travelled to Iran to undergo surgery for his abdominal injury. The trip cost the state $2,500, and it remains unclear where that money went.

"I found out about my [alleged] trip to Iran for treatment when I returned to my service and to my surprise the army chief asked me if I had brought him a gift from Iran. When I told him I did not go there, he shook his head in disappointment. I discovered then that my name was wrongly listed among those who left for treatment in Iran," Mousawi told The New Arab.

"Unfortunately, even members of the army who are in charge of defending the blood of Iraqis have been manipulating [soldiers'] blood for money," he added.

The falsification of invoices for the treatment of injured Iraqi soldiers have become the latest phenomena in manifestations of corrupt practises by various officials that have ravaged Baghdad since the US occupation in 2003.

Governmental and parliamentary sources revealed to The New Arab information about rigged data and forged reports concerning injured military personnel allegedly transferred abroad for treatment.

It was to Mousawi's surprise when he discovered an official report that says he had travelled to Iran to undergo surgery for his abdominal injury

The cases of dozens of soldiers with minor injuries being treated in hospitals inside Iraq are being labelled as "extremely severe" in order to qualify for treatment abroad.

It is estimated that the number of alleged wounded Iraqi soldiers getting treatment in private hospitals in Iran stands at around 300, according to a report issued by by a joint committee from Iraq's ministry of health and ministry of defence.

The full number of soldiers being treated abroad is likely far higher as the amount given excludes those wounded who are being treated in Turkey, or in other countries.

A parliamentary source, who spoke to The New Arab on condition of anonymity, said inquiries into these cases were underway.

"Some hospitals in Tehran were selected for the alleged treatment of Iraqi soldiers based on illicit commission-based agreements between some Iraqi officials and the management in those hospitals," the source told The New Arab.

"There are even some soldiers aware of this scheme and they do not need to travel, but they are being evacuated for an alleged treatment simply because they want to take a long vacation," the source added.

"Meanwhile, there are soldiers who really do need treatment for injuries outside Iraq but refuse to travel, yet their names are included in the list of those transported outside Iraq."

Another soldier gave his own account on how personal connections are also being manipulated to secure treatment abroad.

Khalid Hussain al-Obaidi said he was paralysed in a landmine explosion but was not given permission to travel abroad for treatment.

"I do not have the required connections to get approval for treatment abroad," he told The New Arab. "As a result I now wet myself in bed, while another soldier who was injured in the same blast as me was transferred to Iran for treatment because he knew all the right people.

"Corruption has infiltrated everything in this country while officials who we defend with blood have stripped us off our rights."

Corruption has infiltrated everything in this country while officials who we defend with blood have stripped us off our rights
- Khalid Hussain al-Obaidi, injured Iraqi soldier

A source in Iraq's ministry of health confirmed to The New Arab that there are "suspicions of corruption" in the government body.

The health ministry's inspector general receiving a number of complaints in this regard, "but no official steps have yet been taken [so far]".

The source, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the issue, believes there are not many cases of corruption, but cases involving people travelling frequently outside the country should be investigated.

The Iraqi ministry of defence also announced it has opened an investigation into the theft of an Iraqi soldier's kidney inside a hospital, where he was being treated for an arm injury. The incident sparked public outrage across the country.

The phenomenon of corruption inside various Iraqi ministries has led to major protests and calls for reforms;

There have been mutual accusations of graft by members of different political parties.

Seven anti-corruption activities who led weekly demonstrations against graft were kidnapped in earlier this May.

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