By John Lee.

On 27th June, Hussein Al-alak and Tracy Hollowood will run the Media City 5K in Salford, UK, in aid of the AMAR International Charitable Foundation‘s work in Iraq.

Last year, they were ‘classically civilised’ in fancy dress, but who will they be this year?

AMAR works to ensure that vulnerable families in Iraq have access to healthcare, educational services and emergency aid.

To support them, please donate to .

(Source: @TotallyHussein)

By Robert Cole, for the AMAR International Charitable Foundation.

The AMAR-led initiative to bring to an end the horrors of religious persecution, which began with a series of high-level conferences in Windsor Castle, has now led to Baghdad.

The November event, held over two days in the Iraqi capital, attracted more than 200 delegates, including senior religious leaders and politicians. There were representatives from the Shia and Sunni community, Yazidis, Christians, Mandaeans, Chaldeans and Mormons.

AMAR’s chairman, Baroness Nicholson (centre right), and delegates.

It was the fourth in the Windsor series. AMAR believes that the recognition of the Yazidi faith by other world religions would prevent further genocidal attacks on this peaceful people once and for all.

In the summer of 2014, thousands of Yazidis were killed, and thousands more women and girls kidnapped, held as sex slaves by ISIS gangs. A further 400,000 were forced from their homes and condemned to a miserable life in the sprawling IDP camps of northern Iraq.

“AMAR is determined to end once and for all the dreadful scourge of religious persecution. We began by inviting many highly influential religious leaders and academics to Windsor Castle to discuss how best to achieve this, and over three separate meetings, we drew up a comprehensive and extensive plan,” explained Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, the AMAR Chairman and Founder.

She added: “The next step was to take this right to the heart of the Middle East, to a region that was the cradle of modern civilisation, one with a rich and diverse history, but a region where there has been so much religious and ethnic strife over the last few decades.”

The Baroness said it was vital that the Windsor plan got massive worldwide support. Gaining the backing of faith leaders in Iraq was the first step to getting this.

And support it they did. Speaker after speaker condemned the curse of religious discrimination. Television news crews spoke during breaks to leaders of every faith, and each time were told in no uncertain terms that murdering, raping, kidnapping and torturing in the name of god was an anathema and had no part in their religion.

A delegate listens to the speakers.

A leading Muslim academic and researcher, Dr Lahaye Abdul Hussein, said the conference was invaluable because its messages would help reduce tension between faith groups. She said Iraqis were beginning to understand the destructive nature of religious intolerance.

Dr Wathik Al Hashmi, President of an Iraqi strategic studies group, said that if religious leaders always spoke the language of tolerance and anti-extremism they would “completely destroy” terrorism.

Father Maysr Binyami, a member of the Chaldean Catholic Church, said the conference would help educate Iraqis on what needed to be done in order for the country to move forward.

“In order to fight extremism, it is critical that there should be tolerance towards different religions and societies,” he explained.

Reading the final communique to the packed hall, AMAR’s General Director in Iraq, Dr Ali Muthanna, said all were determined to discredit the Takfiri extremist ideology which sanctions violence against others in the name of religion, so that once and for all they could close the door on violence and extremism.

“Religious scholars of all faiths must take the lead in spreading a culture of tolerance and moderation, criticising extremist interpretations and misinterpretations of the religious texts used by the terrorist Takfiris and their followers.”

AMAR’s General Director in Iraq, Dr Ali Muthanna (centre), with delegates.

The delegates called on the new Iraqi leadership to “concentrates all efforts” on deepening the paths of co-existence and co-operation among all Iraqi citizens no matter what faith or ethnic origin.

This could be achieved by “building a society free from racism and sectarianism based on freedom of belief and opinion for all, renouncing all forms of violence and extremism and eliminating all forms of discrimination and hatred.”

The conference concluded that education was also invaluable in helping to spread the culture of tolerance and love and helping enshrine the values ​​of citizenship through the educational curricula.

Dr Ali continued: “We must empower women in our society, not only within their own families, but at work and in education. Women have a vital role to play in preventing violence and we must offer them legal and social protection to ensure they have a more active role in their communities.”

On the second day of the conference, delegates heard from three leading members of the Yazidi administrative council, and from a senior member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Elder Tony Perkins.

Elder Perkins pointed out that there were many similarities between the suffering experienced by members of the fledgling Mormon religion in the early 19th century and the Yazidis’ experiences today.

The Mormons were hounded out of many US States and had to flee further West each time, finally ending up in the desert of Utah where they eventually set up home. Along the way they faced extreme violence, threats and abuse. In the state of Missouri, they were even subjected to an “extermination order”.

Elder Perkins said they had overcome the relentless persecution of those early years and were now an extremely successful community with much influence not just in the United States but around the world.  This was an example that the Yazidis could take heart from and realise that there was a future beyond this recent dark period.

Members of the Yazidi panel took time to explain to the other religious leaders the suffering endured by their people at the hands of ISIS. Thousands murdered, kidnapped, tortured and enslaved.

More than 3,000 women and girls were still missing, the majority believed to be in Syria. Hundreds of thousands of others were still forced to live in IDP camps, uncertain of whether they can ever go home.

The Yazidis suggested that a way to keep their community safe was for the Iraqi government to create a new governorate exclusively for them in the Sinjar region. It would have its own police force, political leaders, courts and community centres.

In her closing remarks, Baroness Nicholson said so much physical violence comes from religious persecution and “violence leads to more violence. Violence does not make peace.”

She said she would be inviting those attending the conference to join the Windsor movement to pursue “the wonderful philosophy” contained in the first day’s final communique.

“I would suggest, for the Yazidis in particular, that we should be trying to assist their move from despair to success, from degradation to respect, from a hatred to a real human love for the other.”

The Baroness said it was all entirely possible. The Church of Jesus Christ the Latter Day Saints had shown that very clearly. “There is a map, a plan, that can be followed.”

(Source: AMAR)

By Kate Denereaz, for the AMAR International Charitable Foundation.

Work is a huge part of our lives. It provides security, meaning and a sense of belonging. It’s part of who we are.

Many AMAR staff, like the people they serve, have been displaced by war and violence. Working for AMAR provides structure and a semblance of normality.

But work means many different things to different people. To mark International Women’s Day, we’re asking some of the women of our workforce, “what does working for AMAR mean to you?

Click here to hear their stories.

(Source: AMAR)

The past year has seen many developments in Iraq, including the successful completion of parliamentary elections (admittedly with a low participation of voters), the installation of a new cabinet (with a few posts still to be filled), and a considerably higher oil price than in the previous year (although that has fallen back considerably towards the end of the year).

Protests over the summer have highlighted unemployment, corruption, shortages of electricity, and problems in the delivery of basic services.

In the year to come, the new government of Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi must focus on tackling these problems as a matter of urgency, while at the same time redoubling its efforts to rebuild the areas previously devastated by the Islamic State group.

There’s a lot of work to be done, but there are several factors at the moment pushing Iraq towards a favourable outcome: Despite the current low oil prices, Iraq’s oil production is at record highs; the new government appears highly motivated and seems to know it has a limited time to effect change; and international companies and institutions are keen to get involved.

If managed properly, this year could be the start of a real boom period for Iraq. The nearly ten-percent increase in the readership of Iraq Business News over the past year is just one indicator that more people are taking an interest in Iraq and the opportunities to be found there.

As we publish our first newsletter of the new year, we’d like to say a special word of thanks to all of our contributors, including our panel of Expert Bloggers, who have given us the benefit of their wisdom and observations over the past twelve months:

We look forward to reading more from them in the coming year.

We’d also like to thank all our readers and well-wishers for making Iraq Business News the must-read publication for everyone with an interest in Iraq, and we ask you to please support our valued advertisers, who make all of this possible.

It is also important to remember two Iraq-focussed charities that are doing amazing and much-needed work in the country:

Any donations made to them will make a big difference to the lives of so many vulnerable people in Iraq.

With another challenging but potentially rewarding year to come, Iraq Business News will be with you every step of the way, wishing all of you a happy, peaceful and prosperous 2019.

Years of war and the invasion of ISIS have torn through the fabric of family life in Iraq: loved ones have been lost, homes destroyed, communities ripped apart.

One of the most devastating effects has been the vast numbers of children left without parents.

The AMAR International Charitable Foundation has been delivering medical and educational support to these orphans and families, but we need your help to continue.

This Christmas families all over the world will come together to share in the warmth, pleasure and love surrounding the festivities. Together under one roof, they’ll celebrate, enjoy hearty meals, exchange gifts.

But for many in Iraq there can be no such celebration. Their lives have been devastated by conflict and persecution. Almost 2 million remain displaced.

One of the most devastating consequences has been the vast numbers of children left without parents. They have been left traumatised and unprotected, and risk becoming forgotten casualties of the war.

This Christmas families all over the world will come together to share in the warmth, pleasure and love surrounding the festivities. Together under one roof, they’ll celebrate, enjoy hearty meals, exchange gifts.

But for many in Iraq there can be no such celebration. Their lives have been devastated by conflict and persecution. Almost 2 million remain displaced.

One of the most devastating consequences has been the vast numbers of children left without parents. They have been left traumatised and unprotected, and risk becoming forgotten casualties of the war.

How can I help?

£14 for an emergency winter blanket
£85 for food box feeding a family for a month
£49 for a Woman Health Volunteer to travel and visit families for a month
£77 for one adult wheelchair
£290 for an English teacher for a month
£244 for an ambulance driver for a month

Please help us to help them.

(Source: AMAR)

By Robert Cole, for the AMAR International Charitable Foundation.

For hundreds of millions of families around the world, this month’s Mawlid al-Nabi commemoration to mark the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday will be a time for family, friends, joy and celebration. A time of prayer, exchanging gifts, embracing the wider community and extending to others their religious generosity.

But for millions more, particularly widows and children, there will be no celebration as they continue their battle against war, hunger, and disease.

In Iraq alone, there are one million widows and, tragically, more than four million orphans.

AMAR International has been delivering urgent medical and educational support in the Middle East for the last 26 years. Using a staff comprised almost entirely of national professionals and volunteers, they have treated more than 10 million patients and have opened 46 medical centres across Iraq.

But we couldn’t have done any of this without your help. Today we are launching a new, urgent appeal for emergency funds to help widows and orphans in the most desperate need.

Please help us to help them.

(Source: AMAR)

Amar and Coca-Cola Foundation Start Project to Replenish Water in the Iraqi Marshes

The AMAR International Charitable Foundation has begun construction of a domestic-wastewater-purification system in the Mesopotamian Marshes, where all 30 houses in the village of Al Adhaima will be connected to the network.

The project, which is being funded as part of The Coca-Cola Company’s global “Replenish” water initiative, will employ traditional methods, largely using the area’s natural reed beds as a filtration system for the village’s wastewater. The urgent need for the scheme has only been increased by a summer of drought, which has hit water levels and quality badly.

The Mesopotamian Marshes, thought by many to be the location for the Garden of Eden, are a rare wetland at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. As well as being a unique ecosystem, the area is home to around 300,000 Marsh Arabs, whose own rich culture centres on the Marshes’ natural resources.

Sadly, the area has a long and troubled history of drainage, drought and displacement. In the 1990s Saddam Hussein drained around 90% of the Marshes in an effort to crush the Marsh Arabs. Hundreds of thousands were displaced. After his fall from power in 2003, the waterways were reopened and the Marshes replenished, and the locals began to return.

But the recovery has been only partial. This year reduced river flows, compounded by drought, have led to a drying-up of parts of the Marshes, as well as increased water salinity. Pollution is also a growing problem as population and industry grow but aging infrastructure struggles and decays. The agriculture and livestock that underpin local livelihoods are under severe threat.

Many farmers in the marshes keep water buffalo, but high water salinity is depleting herds.

AMAR’s Replenish Project is seeking to tackle some of these issues in the Hammar Marshes. It will use the existing natural reedbed systems for the final process in the collection and treatment of domestic sewage and wastewater. Once treated, aerated and filtered, the cleaned water will be redirected to the river, where it will flow into and recharge the Marshes. The project is being carefully monitored and evaluated in close co-ordination with the Directorate of the Environment, who has been part of the project team throughout.

AMAR has long been an advocate for the survival of the Marshes and its people. In 2016 it successfully campaigned for the area’s recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, affording it an increased level of protection. In 2012 AMAR ran a Heritage Project in the marshes, funded by the US State Department, which included the publication of a book documenting the history and culture of the region, The Southern Mesopotamian Marshlands: Reclaiming the Heritage of a Civilisation.

The Replenish Project seeks to continue this work. It will improve the water quality of the targeted area of the Hammar Marshes and preserve the unique marshland environment. This, in turn, will support the Marsh Arabs in re-establishing their ability to manage the marshes, and sustain livelihoods there, which has been so disrupted by historical persecution.

The reintroduction of managed reedbeds, which can also be used for farming and harvesting, also provides the local community with raw materials for traditional crafts and construction techniques. As such, this project has the potential to position the local community as a cultural hub and centre for access to the Marshes.

A woman collects reeds for the construction of a mudhif, a traditional reed house.

AMAR will be working closely with The Coca-Cola Foundation throughout the project. Once the pilot scheme is complete, with further funding and support from the Iraqi Ministry of Environment and local Directorates, it hopes to roll out the project as a sustainable model in other marshland communities.

(Source: AMAR)

For hundreds of millions of families around the world, the recent Eid celebrations were a time for family, friends, joy and celebration. A time of prayer, exchanging gifts, embracing the wider community and extending to others their religious generosity.

But for millions more, particularly widows and children, there could be no celebration as they continued their battle against war, hunger, disease.

In Iraq alone, there are one million widows and, tragically, more than four million orphans.

AMAR International has been delivering urgent medical and educational support in the Middle East for the last 26 years.

Using a staff comprised almost entirely of national professionals and volunteers, they have treated more than 10 million patients and have opened 46 medical centres across Iraq.

To commemorate this Summer’s Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, we are launching an urgent appeal for emergency funds to help many more people in desperate need of your support.

Please donate by clicking here, or by using this donation form.

Crescent Petroleum and Dana Gas deliver vital support to AMAR IDP clinics

As Iraq’s security conditions have improved, international donors have turned their attention to other troubled parts of the world, leaving many IDP camps in the country on the brink of closure.

Thanks to the continued support of Crescent Petroleum and Dana Gas, however, AMAR have continued to deliver much needed healthcare and support to Khanke Camp’s 16,000 residents

Nearly 2 million Iraqis remain displaced within Iraq, a vast proportion of them still in camps for internally displaced people (IDPs). From victims of conflict who have lost homes and livelihoods to families too afraid to return to their homes after the violence of recent years IDPs remain among the most vulnerable population in the country.

After the trauma of violence and displacement, families in the camps continue to rely on the safe, supportive and nurturing environment in the camp to start rebuilding their lives. But with charitable funding drying up, many camp facilities, especially health care centres, are facing imminent closure.

Dana Gas and Crescent Petroleum, which have contributed considerably to causes within Iraq, remain committed to AMAR’s services in Khanke, delivering vital health and wellbeing services to the thousands of residents at the camp.

Crescent, one of the Middle East’s oldest and largest upstream oil companies, and Dana, one of the largest private-sector natural gas companies in the region, are committed to helping AMAR deliver vaccinations, antenatal care and child health monitoring at the camp.

IDPs are among the most vulnerable people in Iraq, but sadly they are often overlooked by donors,” said Majid Jafar, CEO of Crescent Petroleum. “We are proud to be partnering with AMAR to provide critical healthcare services and training to the people in Khanke camp.

A key part of the health programme at the camp are the Woman Health Volunteers (WHVs), who are the front line to identifying health and wellbeing issues among the residents and are trained to deliver health care when needed. Between April and June of this year, the WHVs made thousands of home visits to families at the camp, providing basic healthcare services and delivering health advice, in addition to providing mental health outreach. In all, the WHVs offered support and services to more than 15,000 people during the spring period.

One AMAR WHV, Thikra, for example, recently paid a visit to the Jamila family in the camp. One of the family’s sons had been showing distressing changes in behaviour, including fatigue, excessive sleep and weight gain. Thikra identified the signs of depression in the boy and confided in Mrs. Jamila to openly discuss her son’s symptoms. She then advised the mother to seek a medical assessment for boy’s the condition and set the family on the path to recovery.

Thikra’s work is funded by Dana and Crescent, and is emblematic of the kind of support the companies are funding and promoting in the community.

The companies also provide funds for vocational training programmes in the camps, including sewing and design, IT, and English lessons, providing residents the opportunity to develop skills that can boost their chances of finding employment or to set up their micro-business of their own.

Crescent Petroleum and Dana Gas are among the largest private foreign investors in Kurdistan. Their focus is on developing the region’s natural resources in sustainable way to deliver lasting benefits to local communities. Their US$1.1bn development of the Khor Mor gasfield provides the natural gas to power electricity plants in Erbil and Chamchamal, delivering 1,700 MW of electricity to over 4m people living in the region.

LPG Plant in Kor Mor

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

“We are committed to developing resources in Kurdistan to provide power to communities and build the structures for inclusive growth, as well as to tackle the economic and social factors that are a barrier to this development. We look forward to strengthening our partnership with AMAR in the future so that we can continue working towards these goals across the region.”

Other projects Dana and Crescent have funded in Kurdistan include renovating and supplying schools, funding hospitals and providing potable water to villages.

Baroness Nicholson, AMAR’s Founder and Chairperson said:

“It is vital that we continue to provide healthcare and education in the camps, as people living there continue to experience extreme deprivation. Thanks to the exceptional generosity of Dana and Crescent, we are able to do this in Khanke. We are very grateful to them for giving us the opportunity to bring relief and support to communities in real need.”

(Source: AMAR)

By Hussein Al-alak.

Running with history, for modern education across Iraq

On Thursday 19th July, myself and Tracy Hollowood are taking part in the Run Media City 5K – to raise awareness of the educational achievements and mental health services of the AMAR Foundation in Iraq.

This run is different to my involvement on the Great Manchester Run in May – as this time we are paying tribute to the North of England’s relationship, with Iraq and the wider Middle East. As John F Kennedy stated; “geography has made us neighbours” and “history has made us friends”.

The reasons for this start with Notitia Dignitatum, a Roman document from around AD400, which describes how Roman Mesopotamian’s -modern day Iraqi’s- patrolled the UK’s South Shields, whilst bargemen from Iraq’s famous Tigris River once patrolled the River Tyne.

I have laughed with Tracy about our “Anthony and Cleopatra” 5K run for AMAR but when General George Keppel was travelling along Iraq’s Tigris River in 1824, he painted vivid descriptions of boatmen who resembled the “ancient heroes of Greece and Rome“.

It’s not just Britain’s occupation under the Roman Empire, which establishes a historic link between the North of England and Iraq. Archaeologist, spy and creator of “modern Iraq” Gertrude Bell – was born and raised in the North East – infact Washington – part of historic County Durham.

Further tributes to Britain’s relationship with the region, are acknowledged by the arrival of Siegfried Sassoon’s grandfather from Basra to Manchester in 1858. The famous historian of Lebanese descent Albert Hourani, was also born in Manchester but in 1915.

Author of “A History of the Arab Peoples”, Albert Hourani’s book has been described by Harvard University Press – as being “the definitive story of Arab civilisation” which became “an instant classic”upon publication.

It was Maya Angelou who said “the more you know of your history, the more liberated you are” and growing up, I was fortunate to be raised in a mixed heritage family, where an understanding of history was appreciated and a study of history encouraged.

I was incredibly fortunate to have a grandmother, who was born in 1917 and raised in Newcastle during the Great Depression. My grandmother could recall the many struggles that families went through, during the economic downturn of the 1930’s, prior to the creation of the Welfare State.

I was also lucky to have a grandfather, who was born in Manchester’s Moss Side in 1907 and in 1945; was among the British forces who helped liberate the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp. In post-war Britain, my grandfather then took an active role in helping with the city’s reconstruction, as a member of Manchester City Council.

After attending the AMAR Foundation’s recent dinner at the Foreign Office, I visited Great Uncle Ron Fisher, who as a member of Britain’s merchant navy, lost his life when the Empire Gilbert ship was torpedoed in 1942. Uncle Ron’s name at-least, now rests on the Tower Hill Memorial, facing the Tower of London.

As world events “have rumbled on since those gagged days”, the past would never have known that in 2018, taking part in the Run Media City 5K and asking for help to advance AMAR’s efforts in education, would be following a family tradition in rebuilding lives after war.

Because of reforms brought in by the British Government, following the Allied victory in World War Two, education became accessible for all children, allowing for my grandparents to raise children in a post-war environment, which enabled them to pursue a college and university education.

Those same reforms also allowed for Uncle Ron’s widow, my great Aunt Jean and her second husband David (a veteran of the Merchant Navy), to dedicate their lives, to educating young people in a private boarding school. The young people they taught had been excluded from the mainstream education system.

Whilst at the AMAR Foundation’s dinner at the Foreign Office, Lord Mark Price praised the efforts of Baroness Emma Nicholson – AMAR’s founder and chairperson – along with praising everyone who has helped AMAR remain a tour de force for 25 years.

Lord Price gave mention to the fact, AMAR has helped educate 5 million people across Iraq, with each person having experienced conflict or the loss of loved ones as a result. The people educated by AMAR are diverse and their circumstances often reflect the country’s recent history with conflict.

But AMAR also recognise, the future does not have to be determined by Iraq’s recent past, as it was once stated “they who ignore history are destined to repeat its mistakes”. This determination, is something that we can only carry with us but it’s something that only we the people can also change.

Hussein Al-alak is the editor of Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra). To support Hussein and Tracy on the Run Media City 5K, they are asking that people donate to the AMAR Foundation: please click here.