July 20, 2004 – Iraq's fledgling passport offices have been flooded by thousands of people seeking official travel documentation following the US-installed interim government's July 1 announcement that the offices would be reopened.
Iraqis are enduring lines that begin as early as 3 a.m., mid-day temperatures that soar above 125 degrees and thronging crowds that are held back by aggressive police officers, all in hopes of receiving the necessary papers to leave Iraq's widespread unemployment and daily violence. Wesam Mohammed, 22, explained his presence in the crush outside of one of Baghdad's five passport offices to the New York Times: "There is no comfort here. No stability. Explosions everywhere. This is impossible," he said.
To apply for a passport, citizens must present identification as well as an Oil-for-Food ration card issued under the United Nations administered plan dating back to the 1990s. During the Saddam Hussein-era, travel was almost exclusively the domain of party loyalists, academics and those wealthy enough to pay the necessary bribes.