De-mining Operations Re-Start in Sinjar

Nadia’s Initiative is excited to announce de-mining operations in Sinuni, a sub-district in the Yazidi homeland of Sinjar have been restarted. This important effort comes after facing months of hurdles to re-establish operations across Nineveh Province.

We would like to give special thanks to President Macron of France for acting on his commitment to de-mine the region and the United States Weapons and Removal and Abatement Office, with support from the U.S. Vice President’s Office.

The Yazidis suffered an unimaginable attack in August 2014, despite having lived in Sinjar for thousands of years. IS continues to ruthlessly target the region because of its spiritual and cultural significance. Forcing the Yazidis from the area, destroying their villages, religious sites, and community structures is an attempt to erase them from history – an explicit genocidal program.

De-mining the region will help to ensure the survival of the Yazidi community. Nadia’s Initiative believes the world has a responsibility to act – to make “never again” a reality, not simply words without actions. Nadia’s Initiative is working to engage world leaders, encouraging them to recognize the moral imperative to offer assistance to demine the region.

Thus far, France and the US have committed funds to begin the process but we ask on world leaders to join the effort and save the Yazidi community from extinction.

It is possible for Yazidis living in Iraq to return to their homes. It is possible to rebuild infrastructure. Together, we have the capacity and common interest in de-mining the land.

As we proceed with this important work, we ask all nations, especially signatories of the genocide convention, to join us in cooperation and unity. A small contribution from everyone will make the collective burden light.

We need to see reconstruction, not as a competition for resources amongst victims, but a holistic and mutually supportive process that does not leave gaps in our collective security. We are asking the world to adopt a way of thinking that leads us away from the madness of genocide. How we recover and re-build can define us, leaving a powerful example and safer world for our children.

For Additional Information Please Contact:

Abid Shamden abid@nadiasinitiative.org

Elizabeth Schaeffer Brown elizabeth@nadiasinitiative.org

(Source: Nadia’s Initiative)

Crescent Petroleum, Dana Gas support Healthcare Centre for IDPs

By Robert Cole, AMAR Foundation.

Crescent Petroleum, one of the Middle East’s oldest and largest upstream oil companies, and Dana Gas, one of the largest private sector natural gas companies in the region, have joined forces to fund the running costs of a healthcare centre and vocational training centre for displaced people in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq for the next three years, the two companies today announced.

The three-year commitment will fund the entire running costs of AMAR International Charitable Foundation’s Primary Healthcare Centre and vocational training centre in Khanke Camp, which serve the whole community, including 16,000 Yazidi residents.

The healthcare centre plays a vital role in providing healthcare to those who would otherwise be unable to access medical support. In the second quarter of 2017, the clinic saw 26,404 cases, conducting 5,411 maternal health consultations and 2,034 child consultations.

Commenting on the donation, Crescent Petroleum’s CEO Majid Jafar said:

“At Crescent Petroleum, we aim to empower local communities by not only providing energy solutions to fuel their development, but also by responding to their social and economic needs. Internally displaced people (IDPs) are among the world’s most vulnerable populations but they are often overlooked by international relief efforts, and we are committed and honoured to assist their healthcare needs in partnership with AMAR Foundation.”

The natural gas produced by the companies from the Khor Mor field supplies more than 1,750 MW of affordable electricity to the Kurdistan Region, giving schools, hospitals and other vital entities a non-disruptive water and electricity supply for millions of people.

The Duhok Health Directorate has seen the population of the region more than double over the last two and a half years due to the massive influx of IDPs from the Sinjar and Mosul regions, putting increasing pressure on healthcare access.

Patrick Allman-Ward, Dana Gas’ CEO, said:

“Our corporate social responsibility programme has been at the heart of Dana Gas’ operations since its inception in 2005. Providing financial support to those in need is not only a moral obligation, it also has a positive impact on the communities where we operate.”

AMAR’s Chairman and Founder, the British Conservative Peer, Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, said she was “overwhelmed” by the generosity of Dana Gas and Crescent Petroleum:

“AMAR builds, staffs and runs five state-of-the-art heath centres on an extremely low budget. The generous donation from Crescent Petroleum and Dana Gas means we can continue with the marvellous work being done in Khanke by our locally trained doctors and nurses for the next three years.”


(Source: AMAR Foundation)

Following Video Leak, Minorities address Hate Speech

By Saad Salloum for Al Monitor. Any opinions here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

Following controversial video leak, Iraq minorities seek to address hate speech

In undated footage that leaked earlier this month, head of the Shiite Endowment Alaa Abd al-Sahib al-Musawi is heard saying that non-Muslims have three options: take up jihad alongside Muslims, convert to Islam, or agree to pay jizyah — a yearly tax historically levied by Islamic states on Christians and Jews. The video sparked outrage on social media.

Subsequently, a group of 180 Christian families filed a lawsuit against Musawi, accusing him of spreading hatred against the minorities in the country.

Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael I Sako, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq, issued a statement on May 5 to contain the anger sparked by the leaked video and alert religious leaders of their historic responsibility in such critical times in the nation’s history. He urged the religious leaders to “adopt moderate and open-minded measures as well as ban hate and discriminatory speech.” The patriarch clarified that hate speech “does not serve Islam. Rather, it establishes walls among people, divides them, entrenches Islamophobia, dissolves the fabric of the nation, undermines peace, and violates freedom and human rights.”

In his statement, Patriarch Sako stressed the important role played by the state, arguing that the absence of its authority leads to a breakout of destructive hatred: “We hereby call upon the government to enforce the law and work on respecting the religion of every human being pursuant to the legislation of the graceful Quranic verse that says: ‘So whoever wills, let him believe; and whoever wills, let him disbelieve.’”

As angry reactions emerged, parliamentarians called for reform to integrate the religious endowments in Iraq with a civil administration in order to achieve unity, taking fully into consideration that “the position is held by a secular figure, and whoever is proved to have incited religious dispute or sectarian strife in the country is dismissed,” according to the statement made May 12 by a representative from the parliamentarian Sadrist Al-Ahrar bloc.

Improving Women’s Livelihoods in Ninewah

For a young Yazidi woman who survived upheaval and displacement in northern Iraq, hope and stability finally arrived in an unexpected form: plump brown quails, and their tiny speckled eggs.

Gulistan, 23, lives in the predominantly Christian and Yazidi district of Alqosh in the northern reaches of Ninewah Governorate. In the summer of 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) swept through the city of Mosul and the surrounding Ninewah Plains in a wave that faced little initial resistance.

When ISIL approached Alqosh, Gulistan and her 27-year-old husband Nashwan frantically fled their home along with 14 family members, worried that as members of the Yazidi minority, they would be targeted by ISIL.

From struggle to hope

After months of displacement in the neighbouring Duhok Governorate, they returned to their home, but had trouble rebuilding their lives.

“We were struggling to make ends meet after we returned. We depended on financial support from our relatives. We were going through a terribly difficult time,” recalls Gulistan.

Things changed when Gulistan and her husband found a new way to make ends meet with help from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Part of UNDP’s Iraq Crisis Response and Resilience Programme (ICRRP), a livelihoods project is assisting nearly 900 households in Ninewah, helping displaced people, returnees, and host community members, earn an income through poultry breeding, bee-keeping, kitchen gardening and fish farming.

UNDP provided Gulistan and Nashwan with 250 quails and trained the couple in quail breeding, with help from the Duhok College of Agriculture, the local NGO Zakho Small Village (ZSV), and generous funding from the Government of Germany.

Quail farming is gaining popularity in Iraq because it requires relatively low investment and maintenance compared to other poultry farming. Quail eggs are known for powerful health benefits.

Empowered and more

Since late 2016, Gulistan and Nashwan have sold 10,000 eggs and 260 birds at local markets and supermarkets. “We now earn around US$250 (300,000 Iraqi dinars) per month,” says Nashwan, as he meticulously inspects the notebook where he and his wife track their earnings.

AMAR increases Mental Health Support for IS Victims

By Robert Cole.

The AMAR International Charitable Foundation has been providing vital mental health treatment for many hundreds of Yazidi Women who have escaped from Daesh (ISIS) captivity.

Thousands are still being held, but those that have managed to escape have returned, understandably traumatised by their terrible ordeals. The majority have been raped, beaten and tortured and are now struggling to cope.

With the full backing of the Dohuk Health Directorate, AMAR brought in expert professionals to train doctors and nurses in mental health practice and clinics are now running in seven IDP camps across the Kurdistan Region of Northern Iraq.

1,525 patients have already been seen by medical staff, of which more than 90% were Yazidis.

AMAR has also trained community-based workers, who promote gender equality, women’s rights, and an understanding of mental health issues, providing information about gender-based violence and available mental health support networks. More than 2400 people have already benefitted from this.

The success of the entire programme – called Escaping Darkness – has meant that AMAR has been very keen to expand it across Iraq.

Now, thanks to a generous grant, centres will open across the country over the next few months.

The total number of centres in the Kurdish region will be expanded to 12. There will be eight more in Baghdad, eight in Najaf, and another eight in Babil.

Victims of Daesh violence of all faiths – Yazidi, Muslims, Christians – will be treated and the most serious cases quickly referred for specialist psychiatric treatment.

In addition to these centres, the project will include six children’s activity clubs (two in Dohuk, two in Baghdad, then one each in Najaf and Babil) to support children who have been emotionally affected by conflict through the provision of fortnightly therapeutic activities such as chess, music and art.

Click here to help.

(Source: AMAR International Charitable Foundation)

IS’ “Most Wanted” Woman Awarded Lantos Prize

The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice has announced that its highest honor, the Lantos Human Rights Prize, will be awarded to Iraqi parliamentarian and ISIS’ “most wanted” woman, Vian Dakhil, at an award ceremony in Washington, D.C. on February 8, 2017 at the U.S. Capitol.

Dakhil will be given the 2016 award for her courageous defense of the Yazidi people as they faced mass genocide two years ago at the hands of the Islamic State and for her ongoing rescue mission on behalf of enslaved Yazidi women. Former recipients of the Lantos Prize include, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Professor Elie Wiesel, and Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Lantos Foundation President Katrina Lantos Swett said in a statement regarding the selection of Dakhil,

Two years ago, MP Vian Dakhil, through an eloquent speech before the Iraqi parliament, single-handedly moved the governments of Iraq and the United States to intervene on behalf of the Yazidi people. As a result of her impassioned plea, thousands of lives were saved. However, her efforts did not stop there.

“She has done more than almost anyone else to try to free women and children who have been enslaved and brutalized by ISIS. In addition to using her membership in parliament to advocate on behalf of the Yazidi people, Dakhil has also led dangerous rescue missions – one of which almost took her life. Vian Dakhil is truly a hero and savior, and we are tremendously excited to present her with this award.

The Lantos Foundation established the Lantos Human Rights Prize in 2009 to honor and bring attention to heroes of the human rights movement. It is awarded annually to an individual or organization that best exemplifies the Foundation’s mission, namely to be a vital voice standing up for the values of decency, dignity, freedom, and justice in every corner of the world.

The prize also serves to honor the memory and legacy of the late Congressman Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to the U.S. Congress and a leading advocate for human rights during his nearly three decades as a U.S. Representative.

(Source: Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice)

Yazidi Survivors win EU Human Rights Prize

Yazidi survivors and public advocates Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar were announced as this year’s Sakharov Prize laureates during this week’s plenary session in Strasbourg.

The annual Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded to individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to the fight for human rights across the globe, drawing attention to human rights violations as well as supporting the laureates and their cause.

This year’s Sakharov Prize laureates Murad and Aji Bashar survived enslavement by Islamic State and have sought refuge in Europe. They have become spokespersons for women afflicted by the terrorist group’s campaign of sexual violence and are also public advocates for the Yazidi community. The winners were announced on Thursday. The Sakharov award ceremony will be held in Strasbourg on 14 December.

On 3 August 2014, IS slaughtered all the males in the village of Kocho, Aji Bashar and Murad’s hometown in Sinjar/Iraq. Following the massacre, women and children were enslaved: all young women, including Aji Bashar, Murad and their sisters were kidnapped, bought and sold several times and exploited as sex slaves.

During the Kocho massacre, Murad lost six of her brothers and her mother, who was killed along with 80 older women deemed to have no sexual value. Aji Bashar was also exploited as a sex slave along with her six sisters. She was sold five times among the militants and was forced to make bombs and suicide vests in Mosul after IS militants executed her brothers and father.

In November 2014, Murad managed to escape with the help of a neighbouring family who smuggled her out of the IS-controlled area, allowing her to make her way to a refugee camp in northern Iraq and then to Germany. A year later, in December 2015, Murad addressed the UN Security Council’s first-ever session on human trafficking with a powerful speech about her experience.

In September 2016, she became the first United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking, participating in global and local advocacy initiatives to raise awareness around the plight of the countless victims of trafficking. In October 2016, the Council of Europe honoured her with the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize.

Aji Bashar tried to flee several times before finally escaping in April with the help of her family, who paid local smugglers. On her way over the Kurdish border, and while racing towards Iraq’s government-controlled territory with IS militants in pursuit, a landmine exploded, killing two of her acquaintances and leaving her injured and almost blind.

Luckily she managed to escape and was eventually sent for medical treatment in Germany, where she was reunited with her surviving siblings. Since her recovery Aji Bashar has been active in raising awareness about the plight of the Yazidi community and continues to help women and children who were victims of IS enslavement and atrocities.

(Source: European Parliament News)

Religious Minorities find Protection in Southern Iraq

By Wassim Bassem for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

Minority populations are suffering in areas under the control of militants in northern and western Iraq, where their temples have been destroyed and they are forbidden to build new ones.

Meanwhile, these groups are enjoying freedom and safety in the predominantly Shiite southern areas, where the Iraqi government sponsors and supervises construction and renovation projects and allocates large sums to protect the holy places of minority groups.

The Iraqi Cabinet’s Office of Christian, Yazidi and Sabean Endowments oversees several temple construction and renovation projects, including the construction of the administrative building of the Church of Saint Mari, the Apostle of the Assyrian Church of the East.

This building has been allocated 250 million dinars ($214,000), and 90% of the project has been completed, the office’s head Raad Kajaji said Oct. 1.

One such project, a Sabean “mandi,” was completed Sept. 20 in the predominantly Shiite city of Diwaniyah, south of Baghdad.

Ayham Nasser, a Sabean Iraqi from Diwaniyah, told Al-Monitor, “The community members chose the Tigris River as the project’s location due to a link between their beliefs and the water.” He said that the mandi will begin operating in early 2017, adding, “The local government in Diwaniyah, in collaboration with the Ministry of Construction, has greatly helped facilitate the construction of the mandi.”

Nasser said, “Many Muslims living nearby are proud of this achievement, which they see as a symbol of religious tolerance at a time when religious extremism is widely spread across the region.”

Iraq’s Turkmens call for Independent Province

By Wassim Bassem for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

Iraqi Turkmens, who are citizens of Iraq with Turkish origins, have been calling for their own independent province in the Tal Afar district west of Mosul, located in the center of the Ninevah province.

The Turkmens’ demands coincide with calls for the establishment of other new provinces in Ninevah, such as the Ninevah Plain province for Christians and Sinjar province for the Yazidis.

All of these projects are based on religious or ethnic division, whether among Turkmens, Kurds, Arabs, Sunnis or Shiites. Some see these proposals as the solution to the sectarian, religious and ethnic diversity problems that have caused so much killing and displacement of minorities since the Islamic State (IS) took over the areas in June 2014.

But others fear the proposals would further divide the country into regional fiefdoms, fending off peace and causing new conflicts for power and influence.

Turkmens are a mix of Sunnis and Shiites and are the third-largest ethnicity in Iraq after Arabs and Kurds, numbering about 3 million out of the total population of about 34.7 million, according to 2013 data from the Iraqi Ministry of Planning. Turkmens have escalated their demands as the battle to retake Mosul from IS approaches.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Oct. 2, “After liberating Mosul from [IS], only Sunni Arabs, Turkmens and Sunni Kurds should stay there.” His remarks drew wide divisions between the Turkmens regarding their areas in Iraq. The Turkmen Rescue Foundation on Oct. 4 denounced Erdogan’s statements, demanding that he respect the ethnic and sectarian diversity in Iraq, since Mosul is home to a variety of social components, not only the ones he mentioned.

Yezidi Survivors “Neglected by Int’l Community”

Yezidi survivors of horrific abuse in IS captivity neglected by international community

Yezidi women and girls who have been enslaved, raped beaten and otherwise tortured by the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS) are being failed by a lack of adequate support from the international community, said Amnesty International today.

Researchers from the organization interviewed 18 women and girls abducted by IS, during a visit to the semi-autonomous Kurdish Region of Iraq in August 2016. The women and girls had either escaped or were released after payment of ransom by their families. Several were driven to the brink of suicide or had sisters or daughters who killed themselves because of the appalling abuse they endured in captivity.

The suffering of survivors is compounded by their current destitute living conditions, their grief for relatives killed by IS and their fears for those who remain in captivity.

The unimaginable horrors faced by these Yezidi women and girls in IS captivity shed new light on the ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by the group. Many women and girls were repeatedly raped, beaten or otherwise tortured and continue to suffer from the trauma of their harrowing experiences,” said Lynn Maalouf, Deputy Director for Research at Amnesty International’s Beirut regional office.

“These distressing testimonies highlight the urgent need for greater international support to help survivors cope with the long-lasting physical and psychological trauma of the abuse they have endured and witnessed.”

More information here.

(Source: Amnesty International)