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)

IBBC completes Trade Mission to Baghdad with largest ever delegation of UK, International & Iraqi Businesses 9-12 Feb 2019

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) visited numerous Iraqi government ministers and officials during a highly successful trade mission to Baghdad on 9-12 February 2019.

The delegation was the largest ever led to the Republic of Iraq by the IBBC and included meetings with the Prime Minister, H.E. Dr Adil Abdul-Mahdi and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister H.E. Dr Fuad Hussein.

The delegation was supported by Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Iraq Jon Wilks CMG and the UK’s Department of International Trade. A reception was held for members and guests at the British Embassy in Baghdad courtesy of the Ambassador on Sunday 10 February.

Meetings were held with the following officials:

  • H.E. Dr Adil Abdul-Mahdi, Prime Minister
  • Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Dr Fuad Hussain
  • Minister of Health Dr Ala Al Alwan
  • Minister of Transport Dr Abdullah Luaibi
  • Minister of Electricity Dr Luay Al Khateeb
  • PM’s Advisory Commission
  • Chairman of National Investment Commission Dr Sami Al Araji

Christophe Michels, Managing Director of IBBC stated:

“We were delighted to be able to organise such a large delegation of some of the most prominent UK, Iraqi & International companies operating in Iraq to meet with essential political figures in the new administration.

“After a series of highly productive meetings and discussions across a range of sectors, we feel confident that compared to previous years, Iraq in 2019 will see a significant level of progress in investment and economic growth to the benefit of the country and its people.”

The IBBC Spring Conference at the Mansion House taking place on 10 April in London will build upon the success of this mission. We expect a high-level delegation of Iraqi government figures to attend, as well a UK government presence and numerous senior industry and academic experts. For more information and registration: https://www.iraqbritainbusiness.org/event/spring-conference-at-the-mansion-house

Numerous IBBC Member companies joined the delegation, representing the major companies doing business in Iraq, across the most important sectors of the economy:

Al Bilal Group

Al Burhan

Al Nukhba-OFS FZCO

Al Maseer Insurance

ARCHS

Dar Group

EY

Exxon Mobil

Field Energy Services

G4S

GE

Gulfsands Petroleum

International Islamic Bank

Khudairi Group

KPMG

Management Partners

Menzies Aviation

Ratba’a Contracting Co. LLC

Serco

Siemens

Standard Chartered Bank

Zaha Hadid Architects

(Source: IBBC)

By John Lee.

Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi received Baroness Emma Nicholson, the Chairman of the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC), at his office on Sunday to discuss cooperation between Iraqi and British businesses, and proposed investment projects in Iraq.

The Prime Minister said that stability in Iraq provides an opportunity to increase reconstruction efforts, and welcomed cooperation between Iraqi and British companies through the IBBC.

Baroness Nicholson praised developments in Iraq, expressing the desire to expand cooperation and partnership further.

(Source: Media office of the prime minister)

The  Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) held its Council Meeting, dinner and eception for members on 28th January.

The Council Meeting, hosted by Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, President of IBBC and the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Iraq, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan took place in the House of Lords before a Reception and Dinner at the Cavalry & Guards Club, hosted by Brigadier James Ellery of IBBC Member Turnkey.

Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, Vice President of IBBC, spoke to members and guests in the after dinner address paying tribute to IBBC’s tenth anniversary as an organisation and outlining his positive expectations for Iraq in 2019. IBBC welcomed a delegation of Iraqi Members of Parliament to London for the event.

(Source: IBBC)

Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani received the UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Iraq Baroness Emma Harriet Nicholson, UK Ambassador to Iraq Jon Wilks, and UK Consul-General to the Kurdistan Region Martyn Warr.

Baroness Nicholson welcomed the progress made in the dialogue between the Kurdistan Region and Baghdad to settle outstanding issues.

She also expressed her country’s desire to encourage British investors to invest in the Kurdistan Region, contribute to economic development of the Kurdistan Region and Iraq, and share expertise in modernizing various sectors.

Prime Minister Barzani thanked the United Kingdom for its humanitarian and military assistance to the Kurdistan Region.

He highlighted the relations between Kurdistan and Baghdad, and affirmed that the KRG supports the new Iraqi Prime Minister, Mr. Adil Abdul Mahdi in restoring security and political stability of Iraq and developing its economy.

(Source: KRG)

His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, has agreed to continue his Patronage of the AMAR International Charitable Foundation.

Prince Charles has been AMAR’s Patron for the past 13 years, and during that time has attended a number of AMAR’s milestone events.

Last year he helped to bring our Silver Anniversary to a spectacular close at a special event on December 13th with staff, supporters, donors and trustees at London’s Lancaster House, where he was also part of a panel on AMAR’s campaign for world recognition of the Yazidi faith.

Speaking at that event, His Royal Highness told the guests that he was “extremely proud” of his tenure as AMAR’s Patron, and emphasised the value he saw in AMAR’s work:

“I am sure you will all agree that the scale of AMAR’s reach is profoundly impressive but, if I may say so, it is the ethos at the core of AMAR’s work which is the most impressive thing of all – even in the most desperate and heart-breaking situations, where conflict has shattered lives and persecution has wrenched societies apart.”

HRH has also cited AMAR’s “exceptional model”, which seeks to bring about sustainable change, combines both healthcare and education provision, and is cost-effective, as another reason why he is proud to be our Patron.

AMAR’s Chairman, Baroness Nicholson, said:

“We are incredibly honoured that His Royal Highness has agreed to extend his Patronage. His support has been invaluable to AMAR’s work over the past 13 years, and I am delighted that he will continue to play a leading role into the future.”

(Source: AMAR)

From the AMAR International Charitable Foundation.

Baroness Nicholson visits Najaf to mark the continuing success of AMAR’s busy public health clinic:

Please click here to help AMAR in their valuable work in Iraq.

By

Chris Frost, the Chairman of the AMAR International Charitable Foundation’s Finance Committee, has retired from the position after five years at the helm.

Since he began his Chairmanship, Mr Frost has skilfully overseen AMAR’s already excellent financial arrangements.

A frequent visitor to Iraq and the wider Middle East region during his many years as a Partner at the multi-national professional services business, PwC, he has brought enormous experience and vast knowledge to the role.

Mr Frost, who was also a founder Board member of the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) – AMAR’s sister organisation, recognised the vital importance of AMAR’s work to the Iraqi people.

However, he will not be leaving the AMAR family. Now that he has fully-retired from PwC, Mr Frost has been asked, and has accepted, a full-time position at the charity.  He will start as Treasurer on April 1st.

Mr Frost’s brief will be to oversee AMAR’s continued growth and development and strengthen the charity’s core principles; Good financial management, transparency, accountability and low administrative costs with high field output to defined, professional world class standards.

AMAR Chairman, Baroness Nicholson, said today that she was “absolutely delighted” to have persuaded Mr Frost to stay within the AMAR family:

People of Chris’s standing in the financial world are not available very often, so we had to strike while the iron was hot. He has done a fantastic job with our Financial Committee over the last five years, so we are very much looking forward to him working here on a full-time basis.”

“Chris will also travel to Basra, Baghdad and the North of Iraq regularly to meet and work with the local financial teams to develop an understanding of their working practices and help them work more effectively and efficiently.

Baroness Nicholson added:

“His particular background also allows us to implement our long-held plan to breakout with new fundraising approaches to funding institutions and city guilds.”

(Source: AMAR)

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) held its bi-annual Council Meeting on 30 January, followed by a Reception & Dinner for IBBC members and guests.

Both the meeting and the reception and dinner were hosted by Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, President of IBBC and Trade Envoy to Iraq, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

The Meeting was Chaired by IBBC’s Deputy Chairman Alistair Kett of PwC and discussed at length the current state of Iraq and presented over 30 members present with a detailed brief of events in the last six months.

The Council also discussed future events and the progress of IBBC’s Sector Tables. Several exciting new developments were reported, including the launch of a new Iraq Britain Business Council website, which is expected to go live in the coming weeks and the development of the Young Executives Network.

The Council Meeting was followed by a Reception & Dinner hosted by Baroness Nicholson in the House of Lords, where the 80 guests present were privileged to hear from Baroness Fairhead, Minister of State for Trade & Export Promotion at the Department for International Trade (DIT), the Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP, Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign and Commonwealth and Minister of State at the Department for International Development.

After dinner, Ambassador Jon Wilks, her Majesty’s Ambassador to Iraq, gave an address to members, which highlighted his vision for UK-Iraq relations. The Ambassador spoke at length about the need for a coordinated and fruitful relationship between business communities of both countries to enhance the encouraging signs of stability witnessed in the last six months since the defeat of Daesh.

The Ambassador also touched upon the critical need to redevelop infrastructure in the newly liberated areas and the pivotal role of the private sector to facilitate further economic growth. Ambassador Wilks reaffirmed the Embassy’s longstanding commitment to promote trade and investment with the support of organisations such as the Iraq Britain Business Council.

Christophe Michels, MD of IBBC said:

“2017 has been an exceptional year for IBBC both in the volume and quality of attendees to our conferences in UK and Dubai, the very well attended and successful trade missions to Baghdad and Basrah and for the number of International and Iraqi companies that have joined our network.

“IBBC has welcomed Chevron, Al Burhan, Shamara, Ratba’a and Al Bilal groups, Leicester and Northampton University, Serco, Rolls Royce, MenziesAviation, GulfTek and Al Jaber Company. All in all we are seeing confidence and opportunity return to Iraq with overall economic perspectives for the country being at its best since 2010 – 2011.”

IBBC and its members are determined to build on these foundations to continue building economic and political ties, industry capabilities, knowledge sharing for UK, Iraqi and international businesses sharing the same high values and standards.

(Source: IBBC)

By Padraig O’Hannelly.

HRH The Prince of Wales has paid tribute to the work of the AMAR International Charitable Foundation on the occasion of its 25th anniversary.

Addressing the celebration in London’s Lancaster House on Wednesday, Prince Charles said:

Today is an opportunity to honour the work of the remarkable AMAR teams … whose professionalism has delivered extraordinary outcomes in health and education for so many people over these twenty-five years.

“Each and every one of them, whether they work in Iraq or in another part of the Middle East, or in London or Washington, should feel deeply proud of all that AMAR has achieved. So too, should the many businesses and commercial entities – and in particular the Iraq Britain Business Council [IBBC] – whose magnificent support over the years has made all of this work possible.

“If I may, I would also like to pay a special tribute to Baroness Nicholson whose indefatigable leadership and extraordinary professionalism has been so crucially important to this endeavour for so many years.

He continued:

“AMAR has given us all reason to have faith in humanity. It has saved countless lives, created hope from despair and achieved nothing short of miracles.”

AMAR thanked the Prince for his wonderful support of the organisation since its founding, and in particular as its Patron for the past thirteen years.

Please help ensure Iraq’s children have the childhoods they deserve — support AMAR’s work today: https://appeal.amarfoundation.org/

(Sources: AMAR International Charitable Foundation, Clarence House)