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					Mennonite Central Committee
Peace Office Publication
October–December 2007
Vol. 37, No. 4

Iraq: Stories of Hope Amid Despair
IN THIS ISSUE                          Introduction
 3 Medical Challenges In Iraq:         by Janet M. and Rick Janzen
   One Response
                                          elcome to Kurdistan” were the words           Iraq or have left for neighboring countries.
 5 Delivering is Never Remote
   by Cedric Turlan
                                       Wthat greeted us when we landed in               And, as indicated by the example of the
                                       Sulaimaniyah in northern Iraq in May,            north, the country is ever-more being
 8 “You Are Ready”                     2006. Increasing numbers of international        divided along Sunni, Shi’a and Kurdish lines.
   by Ed Nyce
                                       flights were arriving and leaving the recently
                                       constructed or renovated airport. Kurdish        Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC)
 9 The 45-day Trip                     flags seemed to be flying everywhere. Those      most recent history in Iraq began in 1998
                                       in our group from the United States were         (MCC also worked in Iraq 1953–56, and
   by Ammar S. Hamad
                                       hailed as “liberators.”                          1991). That work since 1998 can be divided
10 Looking Deeper                                                                       into two eras: the era of international sanc-
   by Ed Nyce                          Everything we saw seemed designed to make        tions and the occupation era. Maintaining a
                                       northern Iraq as Kurdish as possible as          programmatic presence in or with Iraq has
12 Further Resources                   quickly as possible. The general understand-     been a challenge in both of these eras. How-
                                       ing appeared to be that the greater the gains    ever, it is noteworthy that even now, when
                                       could be now, the more would remain if the       the security situation is at an all-time low,
                                       situation rolled back on itself.                 MCC partners continue to function and
                                                                                        even material resource shipments find their
                                       At the same time, we agonized about              way to where they are most needed.
                                       whether it was safe to stop in Baghdad on
                                       the way back to Amman. The relative secu-        The following short review highlights
                                       rity of the northern part of the country high-   MCC’s recent work in Iraq, and also indi-
                                       lighted the tremendous insecurity in the rest    cates some of the challenges and changes
                                       of Iraq. Military actions, car bombs, kidnap-    over the years.
                                       pings and violence in any number of other
                                       forms had already become standard, daily         Personnel
                                       occurrences; a sense of chaos and lawless-
                                       ness had already steeped its way into the        MCC has assigned ten people to the Iraq
                                       Iraqi consciousness.                             program since 1998. The primary duties of
                                                                                        these MCCers have revolved around pro-
                                       These two inter-connected aspects of life in     gram coordination or management, and
                                       Iraq, growing division and escalating vio-       advocacy. These assignments have not been
                                       lence, have characterized the country since      without challenges. Obtaining or maintain-
                                       the invasion in the spring of 2003 and the       ing visas has been an ongoing issue; travel
                                       subsequent occupation of Iraq by foreign         back and forth from Amman to Baghdad
                                       forces. Horrific stories are told of people      has sometimes been difficult; MCC workers
                                       being thrown out of their houses and neigh-      have sometimes felt isolated or lonely; and
                                       borhoods during the night—or even being          the situation and relationships in Iraq have
                                       killed—for being associated with the wrong       been complex and confusing. The greatest
Thanks to Ed Nyce for compiling this   type of Islam. Patriarch Zakka of the Syrian     issue overall, however, has been safety or
issue of the Peace Office Newsletter   Orthodox Church estimates that 50% of his        security. MCC workers have been keenly
                                       Iraqi parishioners are either displaced within   aware of the potential danger of living or
                                     visiting Iraq. At the same time, they have         projects of MCC partners. The food and
                                     sometimes been caught between the feeling          material resources have included medical
                                     that they are abandoning Iraqi friends and         supplies, medicines, school kits, relief kits,
                                     partners when they have left the country,          lentils, wheat, oil and blankets.
                                     and the comments from some partners that
                                     having MCCers in the country endangers             In addition to supporting projects with its
Close personal relationships         them as Iraqis.                                    own resources, MCC has facilitated the use
                                                                                        of resources from other agencies that wanted
with a variety of Iraqis has         While there always were some questions             to work in Iraq but had no programmatic
been key to MCC’s program.           about how safe MCC workers were in Iraq,           presence there. The most significant collab-
                                     the situation became particularly uncertain        orative effort of this sort was the All Our
                                     following the 2003 invasion by the Ameri-          Children project through which MCC
                                     can-led coalition forces. Not only was there       provided the program management and
                                     significantly increased danger of being caught     implementation support in Iraq for about a
                                     in “random” violence, the incidence of “tar-       million dollars of funds from other United
                                     geted” violence also increased dramatically.       States organizations.
                                     The kidnappings of both Iraqis and expatri-
                                     ates was a crucial factor in, first, determining   Advocacy
                                     that MCCers should not live in Iraq and
                                     then, later, that visits to central Iraq would     An ongoing concern has been how to prop-
                                     be extremely limited or even curtailed.            erly advocate for the situation in Iraq. It has
                                                                                        not always been easy to determine what to
                                     As with many MCC programs, the presence            advocate for, or how best to do advocacy.
                                     of personnel has been the back-bone or
                                     framework for all the other work. An “on-          A significant amount of solid advocacy was
                                     the-ground” presence (even when that has           done around the issue of the humanitarian
                                     been in Amman, Jordan, these past years            cost of the sanctions. While in some ways this
                                     instead of Baghdad) has defined MCC’s role.        was a fairly straightforward issue—the sanc-
                                     Close personal relationships with a variety        tions were inflicting tremendous unnecessary
                                     of Iraqis, both MCC partners and others,           hardship on the civilian population—these
                                     has been key to MCC’s program. Some of             kinds of issues are easily politicized. So, one
                                     the details of the program are mentioned           of the politicized discussions became whether,
                                     below, but it is important to note here the        or how, an easing of sanctions might serve to
                                     significant contribution that MCC workers          prop up the existing political regime.
                                     have made to the vision, development and
                                                                                        Later, as a US-led invasion seemed immi-
                                     operation of the NCCI—the NGO Coordi-
                                                                                        nent, advocacy efforts became focused on
                                     nating Committee of Iraq. This consortium
                                                                                        avoiding the war. The objections heard were
                                     of both local and international Non-Govern-
                                                                                        from those who considered an overthrow of
                                     mental Organizations (NGOs) has served its
                                                                                        the Saddam Hussein regime a lesser evil than
                                     members well—from sharing programmatic
                                                                                        the war it would take to bring about the
                                     information to taking the lead on evaluating
                                                                                        regime change.
                                     and broadcasting security information.
                                                                                        In the past three to four years advocacy
                                     Partners and Projects                              efforts have been severely hampered by the
                                                                                        fact that MCC does not have staff living in
                                     As with programs elsewhere in the world,
                                                                                        Iraq, or even visiting with any regularity.
                                     MCC in Iraq has been doing programming
                                                                                        Nonetheless, efforts to help MCC con-
                                     through local partners. In the early years,
                                                                                        stituents and the governments of Canada
                                     MCC involvement included work in green-
While the current status                                                                and the United States recognize the futility—
                                     house/tomato projects and in school recon-
                                                                                        and tremendous human and fiscal cost—of
in Iraq remains dire,                struction, for example. More recently there
                                                                                        military solutions to “problems” like Iraq
remarkably, MCC partners             has been more emphasis on capacity build-
                                                                                        have continued. (This Peace Office Newslet-
                                     ing with and through Iraqi NGOs, and
continue to function.                                                                   ter is one more effort in that direction, as
                                     peacebuilding projects or programs. As one
                                                                                        was the Newsletter of July-September 2002
                                     part of the peacebuilding program MCC has
                                                                                        [see the website address on the back page of
                                     sponsored 16 Iraqis to attend Eastern Men-
                                                                                        this issue].)
                                     nonite University’s Summer Peacebuilding
                                     Institute in the past four years.
                                                                                        Current Status
                                     MCC’s expenditures in Iraq throughout
                                                                                        The current status in Iraq remains dire. The
                                     the last decade total over US$ 15 million,
                                                                                        number of deaths, injuries and interrupted
                                     including about US$ 10 million of food and
                                                                                        lives keeps mounting; the damage to the
                                     material resources. The grants and the food
                                                                                        infrastructure—physical and political—
                                     and material resources supported the various
                                                                                        shows no signs of abating. There is a major

2 MCC Peace Office Newsletter / October–December 2007
of issue of population displacement within       What the future holds is unclear. In May,             What the future holds
Iraq and to surrounding countries, recently      2006 one Iraqi partner told us, “We are               is unclear.
put at about four million people.                anticipating at least another seven years of
                                                 uncertainty in Iraq—an unwanted civil war
Remarkably, MCC partners continue to             and an unofficial federalism.” Sadly, that
function. From its base in Jordan, MCC Iraq      prediction of seven years might end up being
continues to support Iraqi partners as they      optimistically short.
valiantly try to maintain a program presence,
and a shred of hope. MCC has several staff       Janet Martens Janzen and Rick Janzen
assigned to the Iraq program, though the         are Europe and Middle East Directors for
summer of 2007 is a time of significant staff    Mennonite Central Committee.
transition. In addition to MCC’s ongoing
base budget for the program in Iraq, a recent
above-budget allocation of US$400,000 has
been designated for “Uprooted Iraqis.”

Medical Challenges In Iraq: One Response

“The hospital is re-opened again but not         ing hospital where the doctors of the med-
functioning. It is working at only 10 percent    ical schools are practicing.
of its capacity. There are snipers on the
roofs in the neighboring buildings targeting     The hospital is one example of many that
people and preventing them from accessing        describes the health services in Iraq, already
the hospital. Those who successfully reach       devastated by eight years of war with Iran
the hospital will find it empty of doctors and   (1980–1988), the first Gulf War (1991), and
supplies. The staff is reluctant to come in      over 12 years of UN sanctions (1991–2003).
this harsh environment and there is no           The health situation was tenuous before the
night-shift at all.”                             2003 war began. Four years after the begin-
                                                 ning of the war, the indicators reveal that the
  doctor was updating me about the work          health sector remains unimproved. No major
Ain an Iraqi hospital. The doctor and I          action was taken to support the reconstruc-
work with a humanitarian non-governmen-          tion of the health structure in Iraq. As an
tal organization (NGO). I used to work and       example, Qaim hospital in the west of Anbar           This hospital is one example
live in Baghdad but moved one year ago to        Province is still providing its medical services
our base in Amman after my family was            from tents after the destruction of almost 70         of the health services in
threatened. I work with the expatriate team      percent of the hospital caused by air bomb-           Iraq, already devastated
as the general coordinator to manage our         ing by the American-led Multi-National                by eight years of war with
programs from a distance in what we call         Forces (MNF) in late 2005.
                                                                                                       Iran (1980–1988), the first
“remote management.” This is one of the
consequences of the civil war and wide-          A study which we conducted regarding the              Gulf War (1991), and over
spread violence in Iraq.                         condition of “Burn Units” in the hospitals of         12 years of UN sanctions
                                                 Baghdad showed that in August 2005 there
Our organization has been working in Iraq        were seven units with a total capacity of 94          (1991–2003).
since 1997, mainly in the health sector. Our     beds. Two of the units were closed due to
strategy in post-2003 Iraq has focused on        deterioration of the physical structure of the
supporting the provision of life-saving and      buildings. The rest can provide only low
emergency health services, tasked to vie with    quality services, which results in the death
the increasing numbers of daily mass causal-     of the majority of patients affected by infec-
ities that can reach 125 victims per day.        tions. The context of burn management in
                                                 Baghdad has worsened in the past two years.
The Burn Unit in the hospital referred to        For all of Baghdad, there are only four units
above was recently rehabilitated by our          now working with only 69 beds.
organization to improve the provision of
medical services. It is one of the few such      This not due to lack funds for construction.
units working in the country, and the hospi-     Rather, it is a result of mismanagement and
tal is located in one of the most currently      corruption on all levels of the ministry and
dangerous districts in Baghdad. It is a teach-

                                                                                  MCC Peace Office Newsletter / October–December 2007   3
We doctors dare not                  its departments. In addition, under-              governorate, staff again faces risks to get
announce immediately                 resourced state hospitals struggle to cope        the supplies to the hospitals in the different
                                     with the carnage from suicide attacks and         towns of the governorate. In addition, the
the death of a victim. We
                                     car bombings. All the health facilities are       amount of supplies and medicines provided
pretend we are still trying          suffering from a severe shortage of medi-         by the MoH is never enough to cover the
to do something, otherwise           cines, medical consumables and equipment.         increasing needs of the health facilities.
we might be attacked by                                                                All groups within Iraq suffer due to these
                                     “The ER gets HYS,” said a doctor working          realities.
the relatives.                       in Yarmouk hospital, who requested his
                                     name not be mentioned. He was bitterly            Our organization’s field team is receiving
                                     describing a day in the Emergency Room            almost daily requests from emergency depart-
                                     (ER) after an explosion happened. HYS             ment managers for emergency supplies of
                                     means “Hysteria” in Doctor’s slang.               consumables and drugs. The requests seldom
                                                                                       vary: “We have just received xx (usually
                                     “In a moment the ER becomes full of peo-          20–30) car bomb/mortar/gun shot casualties,
                                     ple,” he said. “Ambulances drop down three        our stock will not cover the needs. We con-
                                     bodies at once, private cars bring the injured,   tacted the Ministry of Health, but as usual,
                                     we keep jumping between victims trying to         there was no response. Can you send us
                                     find the critical case to save, and more and      some medical supplies, please?”
                                     more are coming to the ER. Relatives hearing
                                     about their victims are surrounding the doc-      Through our program we are trying to fill
                                     tors and shouting and crying for them to          this gap and support the emergency rooms
                                     save them. We doctors dare not announce           with essential medical consumables and
                                     immediately the death of a victim. We pre-        life-saving items like cotton, gauze, sutures,
                                     tend that we are still trying to do something,    IV fluids, and X-ray film. Equipment is also
                                     otherwise we might be exposed to be               supplied. Assistance is based on a needs
We are trying to support             attacked by the relatives.” Policemen and rel-    assessment, and our team is supporting hos-
the emergency rooms with             atives of victims often threaten the staff and    pitals in almost every governorate in the cen-
                                     shoot outside and inside the hospital and the     ter and south of Iraq. What we distribute
essential items like cotton,         emergency rooms. “There are not enough            can help the hospital to continue working
gauze, sutures, IV fluids,           beds for all the injured, corridors are full      for one to two weeks depending on the
and X-ray film.                      with them lying on the ground, which is all       load it faces, but the needs are still big and
                                     covered by blood. Many of the injured could       require serious action by the government
                                     have been saved, but we do not have enough        and the humanitarian agencies.
                                     supplies, sometimes, even for basic first aid.
                                     All hospitals are far from being prepared         The shortage will undoubtedly increase
                                     to face the increasing needs and to help the      after damage resulting from a big fire set by
                                     daily casualties.”                                arsonists in one of the warehouses not long
                                                                                       ago. Expectations for the losses are about
                                     The system of delivering medical items to         $150 million in drugs and medical supplies,
                                     health facilities in Baghdad supplied by the      including the reserve of vaccinations sup-
                                     Ministry of Health (MoH) fails to cover the       plied by UNICEF.
                                     needs, for many reasons. The main MoH
                                     warehouses where the strategic reserves are       Our organization cannot intervene in all
                                     stocked are located in a very dangerous dis-      types of shortage. Hospitals are also suffer-
                                     trict of Baghdad. Staff from many hospitals       ing a dearth of medical staff. One doctor
                                     in Baghdad hesitate to go there to collect        from our organization who is currently
                                     their monthly share. Four staff members           employed part-time in a hospital in Baghdad
                                     from Imam Ali hospital, one of the biggest        has seen the numbers of that hospital’s staff
                                     hospitals in the Shia’a Sadr city, were killed    decrease in the past two years from 60 to 70
                                     when they were getting their allotment. Con-      doctors until only 37 are now left to treat
                                     ditions are not better for hospitals in Sunni     severely injured casualties. Four were killed
                                     areas as they have to cross dangerous dis-        in the past year, three of whom were senior
More than half the registered
                                     tricts on the way to and from.                    doctors with extensive experience. This situ-
Iraqi doctors have fled the                                                            ation has been verified in most major hospi-
country since 2003 because           Outside Baghdad, in the various governates        tals across Baghdad and the Western and
of threats, kidnappings and          of Iraq, delivery of medical items is also        Central Governorates. According to figures
                                     risky and uncertain. Trucks carrying materi-      from the Iraq Ministry of Health, more than
                                     als from Ministry of Health warehouses in         half the 34,000 registered Iraqi doctors have
                                     Baghdad to other parts of the country are         fled the country since 2003 because of
                                     often attacked on the roads between cities        threats, kidnappings and murders. More
                                     by militias and are prevented from delivering     than 2000 registered doctors have been
                                     supplies on time. Once the supplies reach         killed since 2003, and more than 200 have
                                     the Directorate of Health in the center of the    been kidnapped. Other estimates put the
                                                                                       figure higher.
4 MCC Peace Office Newsletter / October–December 2007
Hospitals are not safe places anymore, nei-       working there. Strict safety measures have to         I feel proud that we have
ther for doctors nor for patients. Many hos-      be taken wherever we act, whether to do               succeeded in maintaining
pitals have been targeted and affected by         assessments or carry out distributions. We
                                                                                                        the spirit of brotherhood
military operations that are taking place in      must have people of different sects on the
different parts of the country. No humani-        team to enable us to serve all locations. The         among our teams.
tarian law is respected by any of the fighting    selection of the drivers and the trucks is also
forces, even the government and the MNF.          subjected to these realities.
Al Qaim hospital, on the border with Syria,
was destroyed in a shelling. Numan Hospital       We used to live with a spirit of brotherhood
in Baghdad’s Adhamiya district was raided         among ourselves in Iraq. I feel proud know-
by Iraqi forces: many patients were arrested,     ing that we have succeeded in maintaining
the rest fled, and the hospital was closed for    the spirit of brotherhood among our teams. I
two days. The water and electricity were cut      note it when I see everyone keen to respond
from Samarra hospital in Salah Adeen for          to needs from any side without first check-
more than a week like the rest of the city.       ing the sect or eyeing the location. This seed
The news told of seven infants needing incu-      will grow and become strong one day.
bators who died because of the power cut.
                                                  The difficulties of the work increase day
Sadly, this happens often. Power is usually
                                                  after day. When violence is a way of life and
fed to the city for a few hours per day, and it
                                                  killing is the daily ration, one might feel suf-
is cut during military operations by the gov-
                                                  focated and near despair. Indeed, we often
ernment and MNF. The hospital cannot run
                                                  feel helpless and hopeless, because what we
the generators all of the time that the power
                                                  are doing is like a drop in the sea. We work
is off due to lack of fuel. Meanwhile, the
                                                  hard and try to fill the gaps, but the gaps are       To consider how the mother
water station that provides water to Samarra
                                                  increasing and the situation is deteriorating.
is not working because there is no electricity                                                          of a patient would feel if
                                                  But we only have to look into wounded eyes
and fuel to operate the station. In addition                                                            she could have her child
                                                  or to consider how the mother of a patient
to the major shortages, there are the sectar-
                                                  would feel if she could continue to have her          alive is enough to give us
ian abductions and assassinations by militias
                                                  child alive with her, and that is enough to           a push to continue the work,
on medical premises and in hospitals, target-
                                                  give us a push to continue the work, relying
ing both patients and personnel.                                                                        relying on God.
                                                  on God and hoping things will get better.
This hazardous environment does not make
                                                  Editor’s Note: The author and other people
an exception for aid workers and our team
                                                  mentioned in this article remain anonymous
                                                  due to consideration for their safety.

Delivering is never remote
by Cedric Turlan

  he Iraq crisis might appear to be over-         tries like Jordan and Syria are already over-
Treported in the media, especially regarding      whelmed with Iraqi refugees who have fled
violence and the death toll. There is also,       their own country.
in fact, coverage about the issues of human                                                             Support is urgently required
rights or refugee matters, and that coverage      But the refugee problem is only the tip of the        for Iraqi refugees, for the
has increased since the United Nations High       iceberg of Iraq’s humanitarian crisis. The
                                                                                                        hosting countries, and for
Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) confer-            situation of Iraqis who are still living in Iraq
                                                  is much more worrying. Consequences of                international resettlement.
ence held in Geneva on April 17–18, 2007.
However, because so much of the media             the violence in Iraq are under-reported in the        But the situation of Iraqis
coverage focuses on the violence and death        mainstream media, particularly on the front           who are still living in Iraq
toll in Iraq, the refugee and human rights        pages.
                                                                                                        is much more worrying.
crises may seem “forgotten” in contrast.
                                                  The present reality is that Iraq—once the
The refugees’ situation is worrying and           Middle East’s most developed country—
needs to be highlighted globally. Support is      today has indicators of well-being that are
urgently required for the refugees and for        normally associated with much poorer coun-
the hosting countries, but also through inter-    tries. More than 11 million people are esti-
national resettlement. Indeed, some coun-         mated to be living below the poverty line.

                                                                                   MCC Peace Office Newsletter / October–December 2007   5
                                     According to the United Nations (UN)               Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)
                                     Strategic Framework for Humanitarian               as key actors on the field
                                     Action published in April 2007, eight mil-
                                     lion people-one Iraqi in three-are estimated       The overall objective of humanitarian aid is
                                     to be in need of immediate assistance as a         to provide lifesaving assistance and alleviate
                                     consequence of the Iraq humanitarian crisis.       suffering. However the conflicts in Iraq are
                                                                                        saturated with multiple stakeholders’ strategic
                                     In central Iraq, the entire population suffers     interests and agendas, politicizing the context
                                     and may be targeted by violence at any             and compromising conditions of humanitar-
                                     moment. Personal security, health care, edu-       ian access to the vulnerable. Prior to 2003 the
                                     cation and public services—including access        few International Non-Governmental Orga-
                                     to clean water, electricity and sewage—are         nizations (INGOs) operating in Iraq were
                                     almost all non-existent or, at best, a fraction    labeled as spies by the regime. In 2003, the
Prior to 2003 the few                of pre-war standards. Countrywide, only 32         en-masse arrival of NGOs in Iraq with the
International Non-                   percent of Iraqis have access to safe drinking     American-led Coalition Forces reinforced the
Governmental Organ-                  water while, in some tense areas, inhabitants      perception that NGOs were linked with the
                                     are reduced to drinking water from rivers.         West. This misperception still exists in the
izations operating in
                                     Over 4 million people were considered sub-         current atmosphere of distrust today. Several
Iraq were labeled as                 ject to food insecurity in 2005 when the over-     non-humanitarian actors (military, private
spies by the regime.                 all situation was not as bad as it is today.       companies, non-state armed groups) have
                                     The health system is collapsing because of the     presented some of their activities as “humani-
                                     lack of medicine, the targeted violence against    tarian,” thereby blurring the line and rein-
                                     health workers that has pushed many of them        forcing misperceptions.
                                     to flee, and the occupation and destruction
                                     of health facilities by belligerents. The sewage   The Iraqi Government’s capacity to adminis-
                                     system has almost collapsed and only 19 per-       ter and guide the country and to enforce the
                                     cent of Iraqis have access to a functioning        rule of law is extremely limited. Likewise,
                                     sanitation system. Even in the capital, entire     with the notable exception of the Red Cross
                                     neighborhoods may lack electricity for several     and Red Crescent movement (and the local
                                     consecutive days, which is a torment in sum-       NGOs), many international organizations
                                     mer temperatures that reach 50 degrees centi-      have failed to respond to the needs in Iraq
                                     grade (122° Fahrenheit). Four million Iraqis       because they have not adapted their
                                     are reportedly displaced now. There is also a      responses to the evolving and complex con-
                                     high level of psychological trauma, millions       text. Additionally, their acceptance amongst
                                     of people injured, families destroyed, and         the Iraqi population has been affected by 12
                                     some 80 percent of children do not attend          years of sanctions against Iraq and the use
                                     school regularly.                                  by many International Organizations of the
                                                                                        Multi-National Forces (MNF-I) for security
                                     The analysis of the humanitarian situation         and logistics. On their side, NGOs have con-
                                     inside Iraq is severely constrained by the         stantly adapted to seize opportunities as they
                                     extreme difficulty encountered to collect          arise at the local level through localized
                                     accurate data that is vouched for by all par-      micro approaches and strategies. Difficulties
                                     ties. The best that can be done currently is to    in access mean that methods of delivery
                                     examine as many indicators of welfare as are       must be very innovative to address the needs
                                     available. The main challenges are to deter-       of the affected. Establishing trust with
Several non-humanitarian             mine numbers and locations of the most             affected communities is a priority. Through
                                     affected people, to determine standards and        flexibility and adaptability and community-
armed groups have                                                                       based interventions, NGOs are often the
                                     methods to provide assistance, to advocate
presented some of their              for resources to provide the assistance, and       only humanitarian agencies remaining on
activities as “humanitarian,”        to plan for the possible further deterioration     the field, and are always concerned about
thereby blurring the line and        of the situation. It is certain that conditions    the quality of aid they can provide. They
                                     are not uniform countrywide, and the spread        continue to extend their services to numer-
reinforcing misperceptions.          and intensity of humanitarian needs must be        ous communities by building up the capacity
                                     carefully estimated at the local level so that     of local organizations and their staff.
                                     relief activities can be planned. The available
                                     data and indicators suggest that humanitar-        Nevertheless, humanitarian aid organiza-
                                     ian conditions have continued to deteriorate       tions and NGOs in the field have to strike a
                                     in the past 12 months. Even if conditions          balance between the principles of the Code
                                     remain unchanged it is urgent for humani-          of Conduct for the International Red Cross
                                     tarian assistance to be increased for the peo-     and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in
                                     ple of Iraq immediately.                           Disaster Relief (CoC), which remains non-
                                                                                        negotiable, and how to manage everyday
                                                                                        realities to achieve their stated goals without

6 MCC Peace Office Newsletter / October–December 2007
compromising their integrity. In this context           to have diversified, creative and adaptable              Through flexibility and
it is important for NGOs to remember that               staff requires adequate funding, since multi-            adaptability and community-
there is a hierarchy within the principles of           ple staff means more expenses. NGOs have
                                                                                                                 based interventions,
the CoC. At the top of this hierarchy is the            adapted and responded to the changing
statement “the humanitarian imperative                  landscape in Iraq by using their mandates,               NGOs are often the only
comes first.” NGOs that adhere to the CoC               charters and the CoC as reference points to              humanitarian agencies
to deliver humanitarian aid need to distin-             guide their actions. Their ability to respond            remaining on the field
guish themselves from other types of agen-              however is often constrained by a lack of
cies and to emphasize their neutrality and              flexible funding from a neutral source that
impartiality.                                           supports their staff and other core costs as
                                                        opposed to specific time-bound and donor-
As a coping mechanism, NGOs currently                   defined activities.
operating in Iraq decided to maintain low
profiles to avoid being targeted. Aid workers           Furthermore, the withdrawal of some
on the ground do not advertise where the                donors and limited funds from other sources
aid is being brought from or whom they                  for humanitarian assistance provided by
partner with, nor do they communicate their             many NGOs may significantly decrease
programs or interventions. In terms of per-             the number of active NGOs at a time when
ception this is a double-edged sword. One               humanitarian needs are at their most acute.
of the most perceptible results is that it is           The strategies of many stakeholders are
common to read in newspapers that NGOs                  elaborated at headquarters level, without
are not present in Iraq. Yet, there are still           an adequate knowledge of realities on the
tens of International NGOs and hundreds of              ground. The result is lots of guidelines,
Iraqi NGOs active in Iraq. On one hand the              administrative requirements and rigid frame-
NGOs need to distinguish themselves from                works that are not adapted to the Iraq con-
other groups so that they are not wrongly               text and which often hamper the needed
affiliated or perceived. At the same time,              creativity, flexibility and non-formal inter-
to build trust they need to be more visible             vention on the ground.                                   It is common to read in
in the community. The question invariably                                                                        newspapers that NGOs
arises; does community acceptance improve               Despite their presence on the ground and
                                                                                                                 are not present in Iraq.
security especially since the communities               their capacity to deliver, it must be stated
themselves are often not safe? In gaining               clearly that NGOs cannot independently
acceptance, and providing aid, perceptions              provide all the solutions nor respond to all
are nonetheless built.                                  the needs. A coordinated and inclusive strat-
                                                        egy with locally-based approaches is needed
Most foreign organizations working in cen-              in order to provide appropriate responses
tral and southern Iraq have adopted remote              to the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. There are
programming strategies.1 This complicates               urgent needs to which humanitarian actors
the efforts of Iraqi NGOs to develop rela-              can be expected to respond, and ways in
tionships with international actors. This               which they can do so. Humanitarian agen-
imposed distance has also raised a number               cies have obligations to uphold the rights
of concerns with respect to the quality of the          of the people of Iraq. At a minimum, those
aid delivered, the Iraqi NGOs’ accountabil-             rights include the right to receive humanitar-
ity, and the donor’s ability to appreciate and          ian assistance through the provision of ade-
respond to the needs on the ground.                     quate shelter and resources including clean
                                                        water, food rations and nutritional supple-
The need for Flexible, Inclusive and Locally-           ments, and provision of medical attention to
Based Strategies and Diversified Resources              those who are injured or sick. Humanitarian
                                                        agencies and individuals can also play a vital
In Iraq it is obvious that Humanitarian                 role as advocates concerning the needs and
Operational Space and access to persons in              situation of the people within Iraq.
need can never be taken for granted. Many
access points have already been identified,             Cedric Turlan is Information and Commu-
and some are already in use. Facilitators,              nication Officer for the NGO Coordination
often at a local level, have to be used to help         Committee in Iraq (
with improving or creating access. The need             NCCI is a network of about 80 interna-
                                                        tional and 200 Iraqi NGOs.                               In Iraq it is obvious that
                                                                                                                 access to persons in need
                                                                                                                 can never be taken for
1. Many International Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) working in Iraq are said to be doing “Remote
Programming”, meaning that part of their intervention and much of their management is run from safer areas.
For more information regarding Remote Programming options, see NCCI report at:
spip.php?article 1222.

                                                                                            MCC Peace Office Newsletter / October–December 2007   7
“You Are Ready”
by Ed Nyce

                                      t was the final morning of the two-and-a-        Most of REACH’s work is focused through
                                     Ihalf day training event. Dana Mohammed,          a network of CBOs. Doing so is part of
                                     Director of the Iraqi Non-Governmental            REACH’s commitment to contribute to the
                                     Organization (NGO) REACH, and the facil-          capacity and sustainability of Iraq’s local,
                                     itator for this training event, was addressing    nongovernmental efforts to rebuild and
                                     the eight participants. “You are ready,” he       maintain Iraqi society.
Another requirement                  told them. “You are ready.”
                                                                                       There were three goals of the November
was openness to working              The participants could have been forgiven         2006 conference. First, the CBO leaders
together with people from            if they harbored some lingering doubts. Not       were to be enabled to discover ways to
different groups within Iraq.        because of the training, which was compre-        increase income resources for their CBOs,
                                     hensive, focused, and sensitive to individual     including methods to generate resources
                                     needs. Rather, they and the facilitator knew      themselves. Second, they would be equipped
                                     the circumstances waiting for them upon           to widen their funding base to decrease their
                                     their return to their own communities.            dependence on one or two donors as well as
                                                                                       increase the total amount of funds received
                                     From November 20–22, 2006, eight repre-           from the donor community. And, third, they
                                     sentatives of grass roots organizations from      would work at capacity building for the
                                     various parts of Iraq gathered in Sulaiman-       CBO itself.
                                     iya, in the northern and Kurdish region of
                                     the country.                                      In line with his own and REACH’s philoso-
                                                                                       phy, throughout the training Dana stressed
                                     Each person represented a different commu-        themes such as the following.
                                     nity-based organization (CBO). The CBOs’
                                     missions ranged from women’s and chil-            1. You are in your community for the long
                                     dren’s rights to development and aid distrib-        haul, you have your ear attuned to the
                                     ution. Participants came from Baghdad,               people, and you know what they need.
They would be equipped               Mosul, Samawa, Nasiriya, Basra, and               2. International donors sometimes come and
to widen their funding base.         Diyala.                                              go, but your ongoing presence gives you
                                                                                          credibility and insights that outsiders can-
                                     The focus of the training was “social market-
                                                                                          not match.
                                     ing.” If this sounds like it was a step up from
                                     a basic introductory level training session,      3. Do not alter your mission for the sake of
                                     that is true. Those who came were invited            governmental or NGO funding. Other-
                                     because their existing experience demon-             wise, you will not be doing that for which
                                     strated a clear sense of mission, and a visible      you came into being in the first place!
                                     commitment to serving their communities via          Rather, let your mission be the attraction
                                     that mission.                                        to those donors who will in the end be
                                                                                          the best match with you, your CBO, and
                                     It was obvious that another requirement was          your community’s needs and dreams.
                                     openness to working together with people
                                     from different groups within Iraq. Either         Encouragement
                                     as trainer or participant, there were one or
Let your mission be the              more representatives from the following           There was another benefit that REACH
attraction to those donors           majority and minority groups: Shi’ia, Sunni,      hoped to provide for the participants. The
who will best match with             Kurd, and Yazziidi.                               REACH Program Manager, Saman Ahmad
                                                                                       Majeed, explained why the group of partici-
your community’s needs
                                     Working Through Community-Based                   pants had been taken out to a restaurant for
and dreams.                          Organizations                                     lunch rather than have the meal be provided
                                                                                       at the training site. “We went to the restau-
                                     REACH was founded in 1995. The acronym            rant and are doing some other similar things
                                     stands for “Rehabilitation, Education and         so that the participants can get out and have
                                     Community Health.” Mennonite Central              some good, relaxing times,” he said. “In
                                     Committee (MCC) has partnered with                many of the places where they live, they
                                     REACH since 2004. This 2006 workshop              cannot just go and enjoy an afternoon or
                                     was made possible in large part via a grant       evening somewhere, due to the difficult situ-
                                     from OXFAM.                                       ation in their part of Iraq.”

8 MCC Peace Office Newsletter / October–December 2007
Indeed, one participant who wore a tie and         spend their lives enabling and empowering             Even capable, committed
coat during some of the training sessions          others, can use some encouragement, no                people who spend their
remarked that, in his area, he can no longer       less so if they are returning to danger. Fully
                                                                                                         lives enabling and
dress up if he goes out to eat, lest someone       aware of their reality, Dana Mohammad
think he is wealthy or an official of some         poignantly, respectfully reassured them.              empowering others can
kind, and thereby be more likely to do him                                                               use some encouragement,
harm.                                              “Intu jaheziin,” he said, and repeated, “You
                                                   are ready.”                                           no less so if they are
And then, after all the dedicated group                                                                  returning to danger.
work, after the several hours of homework          Ed Nyce served with MCC in Amman as
assigned to the participants during two of         Iraq Advocacy Coordinator through August,
the evenings, after the engaging manner in         2007. He was MCC Peace Development
which the practical material was shared,           Worker in Bethlehem, West Bank, 1999–
after the opportunities to dress up to go out      2004. He currently lives in Lancaster, Penn-
to eat, it was almost time to head home. The       sylvania. Giacomo (Jack) Hijazin and Sar-
room was quiet, the atmosphere reflective.         war Ibrahim Arif assisted in the preparation
Even capable, committed people, those who          of this article.

The 45 Day Trip
by Ammar S. Hamad

Introduction                                       My place of residence at EMU, Hillside,
                                                   played a big role in introducing me to the
On May 8, 2006, I went with three of my            participants from all around the world.
Iraqi colleagues to the Summer Peacebuild-         There I was able to have discussions on a
ing Institute (SPI) at Eastern Mennonite Uni-      variety of topics. It gave me the chance to
versity (EMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia.           increase my awareness of many cultures and
After the long travel, I arrived at 3:00 in the    to benefit from others’ experience and                There is no doubt that
morning. It was raining. The next morning          knowledge. And it gave me the opportunity             Iraq is experiencing an
the program’s activities began with a won-         to communicate the reality of what is hap-            acceleration of conflict
derful opening. I was one of a collection of       pening in Iraq, such as the conflicts and
participants from many countries, religions                                                              on many levels.
                                                   killing and destruction. We also exchanged
and cultures. There, the 45-day trip started.      information about other subjects in our lives.
There is no doubt for anyone that Iraq is          The diversity in the seminars and in the
experiencing an acceleration of conflict on        trainers’ styles and discussion methods
many levels—political, economic, social, cul-      among the participants had an impact on me
tural, religious. This creates a big challenge     by increasing my abilities and skills in peace
for the activists in the peace-building and        building and conflict resolution. I did have
conflict-resolution field to contribute to civil   some difficulty with the language that the
peace building in Iraq. The small number of        Americans spoke. But I received great bene-
peace builders here feel under-equipped with       fit through the participatory style, the tech-
the knowledge and experience necessary to          niques represented, and the working groups.
form peace-building and conflict resolution        These learnings continue to influence my
teams inside Iraqi society. Therefore, we          training style since coming back to my
were eager to get a chance to learn and            peace-building work in Iraq.                          We were eager to spread the
increase our experience and skills, to carry                                                             principles of a peace culture
this knowledge to our society, and to spread       At SPI, I participated in the following four
the principles of a peace culture and civil liv-                                                         and civil living between the
ing between the factions in Iraq.                                                                        factions in Iraq.
                                                   • Introduction to Conflict Transformation
Participation in SPI was very important            • Practice: Skills for Conflict Transformation
toward this end. It has given me a sub-
stantial opportunity to acquire additional         • Conflict Sensitive Development &
knowledge, skills and experience in the              Peace-building
peace-building field.                              • Researching: Qualitative Evaluation

                                                                                    MCC Peace Office Newsletter / October–December 2007   9
                                     The impact                                         5. I participated as a trainer and program
                                                                                           designer in the workshop, “Analyzing
                                     Since my return I have felt the influence of          Conflict and Civil Peace in Iraq,” with
                                     SPI in my work in many ways. Some exam-               the Amman Center for Human Rights
                                     ples include:                                         Studies in March 2007;
                                     1. We implemented a workshop at the Iraqi          6. I designed the program “The Role of
                                        Youth League (IYL) office in Baghdad               Youth in the Constitutional Modifica-
                                        for the IYL team about conflict resolution         tions and Peace-building Process in Iraq,”
                                        and civil peace building in Iraq;                  funded by the United Nations Office for
                                     2. I participated as a facilitator with the Non-      Project Services (UNOPS) which was held
The Iraqi Youth League                  Governmental Organization Coordination             in Al-Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, in May 2007;
implemented a project                   Committee in Iraq (NCCI) in the work-           7. I have begun to prepare a training man-
                                        shop, “National Dialogue and its Influence         ual to improve the skills of conflict reso-
of conflict resolution and
                                        in Conflict Resolution” in Amman, Jor-             lution and civil peace building in Iraq;
peace building among                    dan, in November 2006. I presented a
students in the Universities.           concept paper, participated in forming          8. IYL has designed programs and projects
                                        the agenda of the program, and was a               for many local Iraqi nongovernmental
                                        member of the committee that formulated            organizations (NGOs) like the Baghdad
                                        recommendations;                                   Humanitarian Organization, the Iraqi
                                                                                           Foundation for Development, the Sadaa
                                     3. IYL implemented a project of conflict              Center for Human Rights.
                                        resolution and peace building among the
                                        students in the Universities, funded by         These are some of the ways in which attend-
                                        Mennonite Central Committee (MCC);              ing SPI has been useful in my peace-building
                                        one result of this program was preparing        and conflict resolution work. The “45 days”
                                        a Youth team, or as we called them, a           continue to multiply into many more days of
                                        Peacemakers Team;                               creatively addressing such needs in Iraq.
                                     4. Growing out of this, some of the Peace-         Ammar S. Hamad is Director of the Iraqi
                                        makers Team participated as facilitators        Youth League (IYL), an independent local
                                        in the next programs of IYL in the peace-       non-governmental, non-profit, non-political,
                                        building field;                                 non-religious organization, established in
                                                                                        2003. IYL is an organization with which
                                                                                        MCC partners.

Looking Deeper
by Ed Nyce

                                       am one of many people who wonder when            teaches us that in an occupation, the aims
                                     I US troops will leave Iraq. Actually, I con-      and deeds of the occupier matter. Such is
                                     fess to wondering more “if” they will leave        true even if asking when the occupier’s own
                                     than “when.”                                       troops will “come home.”

                                     In fact, it seems to me that another question      There are many issues to engage when want-
                                     is even more important than when soldiers          ing to broach the topic of superpower pres-
There can be little move-
                                     will leave. And that question is, “When will       ence and purposes in Iraq. For instance, one
ment toward lasting peace            the United States leave Iraq?”                     could ask what the values and worldviews
when talking about Iraq                                                                 are of those who led the United States (US)
                                     This is one example of the deeper probing          into going to Iraq in the first place. Then
unless one refers to the             that is often missing in North American dis-       must come the questions of whether these
presence and aims of                 cussions about “the situation” in Iraq. In         views and values are representative of many
the occupying power,                 my view, there can be little if any movement       in the US (perhaps they are!), and whether
                                     toward real, lasting peace when talking            these views and values lead to peace for all
the United States.
                                     about Iraq unless one refers to the presence       concerned parties.
                                     and aims of the occupying power in Iraq,
                                     the United States.                                 Another important query is the degree to
                                                                                        which the aims and priorities of regional
                                     This is not the only piece of the puzzle, of       US allies have played a role in US policy
                                     course. Bombings, kidnappings, and internal        decisions.
                                     sectarian violence are also real. But history

10 MCC Peace Office Newsletter / October–December 2007
Nonetheless, it seems that no issue holds the       center rather than an embassy helping to lib-
attention of the US public like the “troops”        erate the Iraqi people? And how will the US
question. More broadly, that troops ques-           “win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi peo-
tion is of major significance regarding the         ple” with never-ending supplies of water and
well-being of Iraqis and “the situation” in         power for its embassy, while the Iraqi people        Embassies are not known
Iraq.                                               regularly do without?
                                                                                                         to consume 104 acres
On April 15, 2006, an article by Associated         It seems unlikely that security for such an          (42 hectares) of land.
Press Special Correspondent Charles J. Han-         operation would be left totally to non-US
ley was published, entitled, “Vast new Bagh-        entities, or even to non-military contractors.
dad embassy dwarfs other U.S. missions.”            The question of whether US soldiers stay in
According to Hanley, this “embassy” is to be        or leave Iraq must be placed in the context
set on 104 acres (42 hectares) of land, and to      of the emerging new embassy and all it rep-
comprise 21 buildings. It is being built in the     resents, while raising these two additional
“Green Zone,” in the center of Baghdad. The         questions: (a) To what degree does the US
embassy will have its own water and electric-       genuinely seek to contribute to a decrease
ity sources, which are expected to be opera-        in the chaos in Iraq which the ongoing pres-
ble even when the actual residents of the city      ence of its troops may abet? (b) To what
are facing shortages.                               degree is the presence of the troops designed
                                                    to serve US goals in Iraq and in the region,
Embassies are not known to consume 104              whether or not those goals are shared by
acres of land. Hanley quotes the Interna-           Iraq or its neighbors?
tional Crisis Group (ICG) as calling the
embassy “‘by far the largest in the world.’”        Without engagement of the questions above
It is difficult for some to believe that such an    and others like them, “the situation” will
entity could really be an embassy. Rather,          continue in its long, gradual, downward spi-
says ICG, it “. . . is seen by Iraqis as an indi-   ral in and around Iraq for a very long time.
cation of who actually exercises power in           The occupation of Iraq, even if more behind          Is the United States ever
their country.”                                     the scenes than presently, directed from a           planning to leave Iraq?
                                                    21-building embassy, will go on. Iraqis will
The embassy’s construction raises other             continue to bear the brunt of the violence,
questions when one thinks about the run-            be it state-sponsored or otherwise.
ning of Baghdad, the flow of oil dollars,
control of natural resources, potentially           Meanwhile, remarkable, courageous, com-
competing interests in the region between           mitted peacemakers continue to do their
the US and Iraq or its neighbors. Is the            work in Iraq; you have met some of them
United States ever planning to leave Iraq?          in this Newsletter. They are bright spots in
When is the United States planning to be            a bleak situation. These bright spots are not
“just another country” in Iraq? Will the US         to be confused with lights at the end of the
do anything from its 21-building, 104-acre          tunnel. But they are bright spots nonetheless.
embassy that it would not favor other coun-
tries doing from their embassies in the US?         Ed Nyce served with MCC in Amman as
How is the construction of what appears to          Iraq Advocacy Coordinator through August,
many in the area to be a regional control           2007. He currently lives in Lancaster,

                                                                                   MCC Peace Office Newsletter / October–December 2007   11
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  The Peace Office Newsletter is pub-
  lished quarterly by the Mennonite          Further Resources
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  Office. Editor is Lawrence Rupley. Con-
  sulting Editors are Bob Herr and Judy
  Zimmerman Herr. Opinions expressed         Kenneth Cragg, The Arab Christian. West-         area of which Thesiger writes was drained in
  in this newsletter reflect those of the
                                             minster, 1991. (From the author of Call of       the 1990s by Saddam Hussein. Attempts are
  authors and not necessarily those of
  Mennonite Central Committee.               the Minaret and other noted resources on         being made to reintroduce the marshes.)
                                             religion in the region.)
  Additional subscriptions welcome—                                                 
  see address below. To keep paper and       Seymour Hersh, Chain of Command.                 (articles on Iraq from Mark Danner in the
  energy waste at a minimum we ask           Harper Collins, 2004. (A description of          New York Review of Books.)
  you to inform us if an address should be   the decisions and their makers leading up
  changed or if a name should be dropped
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                                             Wilfred Thesiger, The Marsh Arabs.
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