By Hussein Al-alak. Republished with permission.

Iraqi Children Foundation, safeguarding Iraq’s future generations

For millions of people around the world, the welfare of Iraqi children is key to safeguarding the future peace and stability of Iraq. In this exclusive interview, Hussein Al-alak talks to Mohammed Khudairi, of the US based Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF), about their ongoing efforts in Iraq.

What is your name and what do you do?

My name is Mohammed Khudairi. I am the Chairman of Iraqi Children Foundation, as well as the Managing Partner of Khudairi Group.

Can you please tell us about the Iraqi Children Foundation?

The Iraqi Children Foundation intervenes in the lives of orphans and street children who are vulnerable to abuse, neglect, and exploitation by criminals, traffickers and extremists. The organization was set up ten years ago by Americans who saw the need to help rebuild Iraq after so many years of conflict. More than 800,000 children were orphaned as a result of the Iraq War, and the ISIS occupation displaced another 1.3 million.

How does the work of the Iraqi Children Foundation help vulnerable children?

Our vision is that all children in Iraq have a voice, and are empowered to reach their full potential. All our programs have this goal in mind. We help vulnerable children through several channels, including:

⦁ The Hope Bus program – we convert used city buses into colorful, child friendly classrooms. Each bus has two teachers and a social worker, and serves around 50 children with tutoring, nutrition, health care, social services, practical life lessons, community, and fun.

⦁ The Street Lawyers program – our lawyers provide legal protection for children who are targeted by criminals and traffickers, abused by employers, or are facing other risks. They also assist children to get their papers so that they can go to school.

⦁ Social Services program – social workers on our team work to end child labor and get children off the streets. They also work to stop domestic abuse, provide medical care, and help get access to psychosocial services for children with mental health issues.

As Iraq has experienced decades of conflict, can you please tell us how this impacts on children? Children who are displaced, or have been exposed to high levels of violence, are often left emotionally and physically vulnerable. Can you please tell us about some of the risks that children in Iraq now face?

Many children have been left orphaned (800,000) or displaced (1.3 million) as a result of conflict in Iraq. Children who are in this vulnerable position are less likely to reach their full potential, as they are less likely to have access to education, health care (both mental and physical), and community support.

These children are more likely to become targets for human traffickers or extremist recruitment. The importance of ensuring children are not radicalized in Iraq cannot be overstated; extremism is a destabilizing force in the Middle East and globally. This is not just a humanitarian issue, it’s a regional security issue.

In the past, there have been cases where children have also been used as weapons of war, or due to bereavement, have been forced into exploitative trades. Can you please tell us about some of the safeguarding measures that have been, or are currently being put in place?

As an organization, the Iraqi Children Foundation looks to empower children so they are less vulnerable to exploitation. This includes educating children about risks, and providing a safe space for them to learn and form a sense of belonging with caring adults, and other children.

We also try to protect children and give them a voice, by providing legal representation in cases where children are exploited. Other nonprofits, non-government organizations, and government organizations all contribute to safeguarding measures; there is still a lot of work to be done.

As the media often gives focus to human interest stories from Iraq, or children left disabled by war, what support is available for children born with either physical or learning disabilities?

For families stuck in cycles of poverty in Iraq, there is limited access to medical care for children with disabilities. Often, these disabilities go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. As a result, these children are unable to receive the treatment they need.

Our social workers spend time getting to know families who live in impoverished areas of Baghdad, and to identify cases where children are suffering due to disabilities. We will work with the families of these children to get the correct medical attention and ongoing support, providing financial aid where necessary.

As the Iraqi Children Foundation is based in the USA but are working with children, on a grassroots level across Iraq, can you please tell us how people in Britain and America can support your work?

We have extremely competent NGO partners in Iraq who deliver our services to the children. We have worked with our primary partner, Justice Gate, for the past 7 years. We partner with local NGOs because we believe it is important to invest in Iraqi organizations and build capacity to provide ongoing services and ensure the growth and success of the country.

Our team and donors in America, Britain, and across the globe are working hard to raise awareness and dollars so we can continue to invest in the children of Iraq. On a practical level, our greatest need is ongoing financial support – those interested can donate via Global Giving. For those located in or near Washington DC, we also have a fundraising 5K run each year.

This year the race is in June, and we would love to see you there! We are extremely transparent at ICF, and very focused on effectiveness and efficiency of our programs. We are always open to discussing our work and results, you can find more information and our contact details at our website.

Iraqi officers have committed torture at a detention facility in Mosul at least through early 2019, months after Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported on the abuses and shared information about those responsible, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.

The Iraqi government did not respond to two Human Rights Watch letters requesting an update on steps taken to investigate the allegations.

If the Iraqi government ignores credible reports of torture, it’s no wonder that the abuses persist,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “What will it take for the authorities to take torture allegations seriously.

More here.

(Source: HRW)

By John Lee.

Iraq is reportedly considering banning several popular video games over fears that they encourage violence and crime.

MP Sami’a Ghulab, who chairs the Parliamentary Committee on Culture, Information, Tourism, and Archaeology, is quoted as saying that games such as Fortnite, Apex Legends and PlayerUnkown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) are “affecting the social, psychological and educational level of everyone [who plays them]“.

According to The Independent, the MP provided no evidence for this alleged damage, nor any details about how the ban would be enforced. The newspaper also cites a recent study from the University of Oxford which suggests that links between violent video games and real-world violence have been overblown.

The National reports that Iraq’s 2005 constitution enshrines press freedom unless they “violate public order or morality.”

(Source: The Independent, The National)

GardaWorld, a global leader in comprehensive security and risk management, has made its weekly security report available to Iraq Business News readers.

Prepared by GardaWorld’s Risk Analysis Team in Iraq, this essential report includes short- and medium-term outlooks on the security situation, reports and commentary on recent significant events, and a detailed overview of developments across the country.

Please click here to download the latest report free of charge.

For more information on how GardaWorld’s services can support your business in Iraq, please contact Daniel Matthews, Senior Director Iraq, at daniel.matthews@garda.com

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) held its annual Spring Conference at the Mansion House in London on 10 April, hosting officials from the UK and Iraqi Governments and delegates from the major companies operating in Iraq covering all sectors of the economy.

The conference was entitled ‘Iraq – Financing a Modern Economy’ and was organised in conjunction with the Central Bank of Iraq and the Iraq Private Banks League. H.E. Dr Fuad Hussein, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance lead a high level delegation of Government officials alongside Dr Mehdi Al Alak, Secretary General of the Council of Ministers, Mr Abbas Imran Mousa, DG Technical Department, Ministry of Transport, Dr Falah Al-Amiri, Councillor for Oil & Gas supplies to the Iraqi Minister of Oil,  officials from the Central Bank of Iraq, a delegation from the Union of Private Banks and the Governors of Erbil and Sulamania.

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, President of IBBC and the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Iraq, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan & Kazakhstan opened the conference alongside Alderman Sir William Russell, H.E. Dr Fuad Hussein, The Rt. Hon. Alistair Burt MP, Graham Stuart MP, Minister for Investment, Department for International Trade and Jon Wilks CMG, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Iraq.

Dr Mehdi Al Alak presented a paper on ‘Private Sector Development and Investment in Iraq‘. Delegates received an exclusive insight into the Government’s planned measures and strategies to realise this ambition.

The event marked the 10th anniversary of the Iraq Britain Business Council and special awards were presented to Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne and Eng. Rasmi Al Jabri, Deputy Chairman of IBBC as a token of gratitude for their contribution to the organisation over the last decade.

Dr Renad Mansour of Chatham House, produced a paper on ‘The present situation in Iraq’ which was commissioned especially for the IBBC conference.

Conference Sessions & Speakers

The Banking Sector in Iraq

Chairman: Gavin Wishart, Consultant

Panellists: Dr Mazen Sabeh Ahmed, Central Bank of Iraq; Mohammed Delaimy, Standard Chartered Bank; UK Export Finance (UKEF); Ali Tariq Mostaf, Iraq Private Banking League; Richard Wilkins, JP Morgan

Stock Market & Investment Opportunities

Chairman: John Kemkers, Eversheds Sutherland

Panellists: Shwan Ibrahim Taha, Iraqi Stock Exchange; Dr Alaa Abdel Hussein Al Saadi, Iraqi Securities Commission; Abdulla al Qadi, Crescent Petroleum

Keynote Address: Dr Mehdi Al Alak, Secretary General of the Council of Ministers

Oil & Gas

Chairman: Prof. Frank Gunter, Lehigh University

Panellists: Dr Mark Wharton, Shell; Lawrence Coleman, BP; Bob Dastmalchi, Chevron

Capacity Building in Iraq

Chairman: Ambassador Stuart Jones, Bechtel

Panellists: Dr Renad Mansour, Chatham House; Prof. Mohammed Al-Uzri, University of Leicester; Samer Al Mafraji, AMS Iraq

The IBBC is especially grateful to the sponsors of the event: Shell, the International Islamic Bank, Standard Chartered, Rolls-Royce and Eversheds Sutherland.

Our Partners, Speakers & Contributors

(Source: IBBC)

US-based Textron Aviation Defense has been awarded a $15,350,000 contract for continued support for the completion of the reconstitution of 15 T-6A aircraft.

This modification provides for a schedule extension to complete the reconstitution of 15 T-6A aircraft and procure cartridge actuated devices and propellant actuated devices. Work will be performed at Imam Ali Air Base, Iraq, and is expected to be complete by July 31, 2019.

This modification involves 100 percent foreign military sales to Iraq, and brings the total cumulative face value of the contract to $35,338,422. Foreign military sales funds in the full amount are being obligated at the time of award. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Training Aircraft Division, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity.

(Source: US Dept of Defense)

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)

Empowering women in Iraq through Gender Equality Tool Seal

Gender mainstreaming is the cornerstone of development and peacebuilding, it occupied a very important part in SDGs and Agenda 2030. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had developed an assessment tool to track gender equality in the public institutions, in order to create a baseline and to prioritize the work for the coming years.

This tool is divided into six parts related to tracking progress on gender equality goals: Framework, capacities, enabling environment, partnership and engagement, laws, policies and programmes and results and impact.

A workshop was held on Public Sector Gender Equality Seal in Dec. 2018, in addition to two consultations meetings with the Women Empowerment Directorate in the General Secretariat for the Council of Ministries and the Ministry of Planning (MoP), to choose the public institutions which will be assessed.

As a result, the Women Empowerment Directorate was chosen as an implementer for the Gender Equality Tool, due to its mandate in empowering women in Iraq, and for being the umbrella for gender units and departments all over the ministries, which can be used to implement the tool.

Deputy Minister of Planning, Dr. Maher Johan, stressed the importance to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 agenda, particularly SDG 5 which states on achieving gender equality and empowering women, and SDG 16 which states on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, and also agreed on selecting MoP as a sample.

UNDP in cooperation with Women Empowerment Directorate and MoP conducted a workshop on 7th Jan. 2019 in Baghdad, attended by 39 representatives from the gender units of line ministries. The workshop presented the Tool of Gender Equality Seal in order to enhance the capacities of Women Empowerment Department to implement the tool in Public Sector, and discussed the important of Gender Statistics as well as it presented the gender mainstreaming into the national development plans and strategies.

It was mentioned by the Deputy Country Director Mr. Vakhtang Svanidze that:

“UNDP chose Iraq to be part in this pilot as we believe that the Government of Iraq had taken critical steps towards gender equality and women empowerment in different levels, in additional to its efforts to implement the sustainable development goals and leaving no one behind. This pilot is an opportunity for Iraq to share its work globally, and advance gender participation within public-sector institutions”.

This workshop was part of the efforts to integrate SDG 5 into policies and plans, UNDP cooperation with gender units on the Gender Equality Seal Tool which has been developed by UNDP to measure Gender Mainstreaming within institutions will create solid working places.

Gender mainstreaming is considered as one of the main pillars of the mandate of gender departments, in coordination and follow up with gender units and departments within Iraqi’s ministries and provinces. this tool will be the bedrock for true and genuine work to empower women in Iraq.

(Source: UNDP)

Iran’s Top General Unveils Plan for Air Defense Cooperation with Iraq

Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri said Tehran and Baghdad have agreed to launch air defense cooperation to combat possible threats to Iran’s western border.

Briefing reporters on the results of a meeting with his Iraqi counterpart in Tehran, Major General Baqeri said Iran and Iraq have warm relations in military areas.

“Iran and Iraq have deep commonalities. Our relations with Iraq are different from those with other countries because Iran and Iraq enjoy common interests and are exposed to common threats,” IFP quoted him as saying.

The general then referred to the great number of Iranian religious tourists visiting Iraq each year, noting that the militaries of the two sides need to establish further cooperation to preserve regional security and achieve their common goals.

He also pointed to his recent visit to Damascus for a trilateral meeting with his Iraqi and Syrian counterparts on regional security, adding that during the meeting, he held some discussions on military cooperation between the three countries.

“And during my meeting with Iraqi commander in Tehran, we discussed border issues. Meanwhile, based on an agreement reached by two sides’ high-ranking officials, Iran and Iraq are set to dredge the Arvand river in the near future. The security of the project is expected to be provided by the two sides’ militaries. We also exchanged views on Iran and Iraq cooperation in the river to strengthen the Persian Gulf’s security,” he said.

Elsewhere, the top general said during the meeting, he also urged reopening of the Khosravi border checkpoint for Iranian religious tourists.

“The Iraqi official promised to provide Iranian religious tourists with a safe road through Diyala province and reopen the Khosravi border checkpoint in the near future so that Iranian pilgrims could also travel to Syria through Iraq. The Iraqi side also expressed his country’s readiness to prepare the border routes. Meanwhile, the Syrian side has already announced its readiness to take part in the project,” Baqeri said.

He further said that he and his Iraqi counterpart have discussed air defense cooperation between the two neighbors.

“We sense some air threats from our western borders. To cope with any potential attack, we feel that Iran and Iraq should establish air defense cooperation”, he added.

The brigadier general also referred to the presence of American forces in Iraq and said the Iraqi officials have ensured the Islamic Republic that they won’t participate in the US sanctions against Iran.

“So far, they have had good cooperation with Iran and the Iraqi commander ensured that his country would have more controls over US forces. He maintained that the US forces are stationed in Iraq for only training purposes,” Major General Baqeri said.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

GardaWorld, a global leader in comprehensive security and risk management, has made its weekly security report available to Iraq Business News readers.

Prepared by GardaWorld’s Risk Analysis Team in Iraq, this essential report includes short- and medium-term outlooks on the security situation, reports and commentary on recent significant events, and a detailed overview of developments across the country.

Please click here to download the latest report free of charge.

For more information on how GardaWorld’s services can support your business in Iraq, please contact Daniel Matthews, Senior Director Iraq, at daniel.matthews@garda.com