Iraqi authorities in Nineveh are harassing, threatening, and arresting aid workers, even bringing bogus terrorism charges against them, undermining their work, Human Rights Watch said today.

In some cases, local authorities are also compelling organizations to stop providing services to families the authorities accuse of ISIS ties.

As if the their working conditions aren’t difficult enough, aid workers in Mosul and other parts of Nineveh have faced baseless charges of ISIS affiliation, and have even been arrested,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Charges of ISIS affiliation appear to be thinly veiled attempts to get some organizations to divert aid to corrupt local authorities or to stop giving assistance to some needy families accused of having relatives in ISIS.

More here.

(Source: HRW)

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 United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in Iraq has welcomed an additional contribution of AUD 2 million (approximately USD 1.5 million) from the Government of Australia to further enable stabilization and humanitarian efforts through explosive hazards management in liberated areas of Iraq.

This brings the current three-year contribution from Australia to a total of AUD 13 million (approximately USD 9 million).

The survey and clearance of explosive hazards are a crucial precursor to the commencement of humanitarian and stabilization initiatives, and the demand for assistance still exceeds the resources available. UNMAS in Iraq is working closely with the United Nations system and the Government of Iraq to enable humanitarian and stabilization efforts.

This contribution from the Government of Australia will further support UNMAS explosive hazards management activities to create safe conditions for the sustainable return of displaced people. It will also improve coordination, engagement and capacity enhancement of relevant government authorities, threat impact assessments as well as clearance and risk education initiatives. This will reduce the risk of explosive hazards in direct support of humanitarian and stabilization planning and delivery, while at the same time increase national capacities to manage the overall threat of newly identified explosive hazards in these areas.

The contribution comes in concert with a recent field visit organized for representatives of the Government of Australia to Fallujah in Anbar Governorate. During the visit, the delegation received a comprehensive briefing on UNMAS clearance activities inside the city’s most damaged areas, with its scale of destruction and contamination continuing to be prime inhibitors for the safe, dignified and voluntary return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their homes.

Australia’s Ambassador to Iraq, Dr Joanne Loundes (pictured), said:

“Although much progress has already been made, the huge scale of explosive hazards contamination in Iraq means there is still much to be done. We are increasing Australia’s contribution to UNMAS because we are committed to helping Iraq address these challenges and helping displaced families return to their homes.”

Mr. Pehr Lodhammar, Senior Programme Manager for UNMAS in Iraq, said:

“Through its continuous support and close collaboration with UNMAS, the Government of Australia is helping to reduce the threat posed by explosive hazards, including improvised explosive devices, thereby enhancing community safety and facilitating the return of displaced people to their homes.”

The Government of Australia is an essential contributor to UNMAS explosive hazards management activities in Iraq. This latest contribution brings to AUD 18 million (approximately USD 13 million) the total amount of funds donated since 2016.

(Source: UN)

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

Riyadh woos Iraqis with security talks, economic projects

Falih al-Fayadh, head of the Popular Mobilization Units and Iraq’s national security adviser, visited Saudi Arabia Jan. 31 in a sign of the new and improved ties between the two countries.

As Fayadh is close to Iran and widely viewed as a pro-Iran candidate for interior minister in the government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, his visit aimed to reassure Riyadh that the PMU will target neither it nor its interests in Iraq.

A few days before Fayadh’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Riyadh renewed its support for Baghdad, especially in terms of security, in a Jan. 24 phone call between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abdul Mahdi.

In light of the tension prevailing over the region, the phone call emphasized Riyadh’s desire to make up for the past and create a positive relationship with Iraq.

Click here to read the full story.

Head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) Ali Asghar Mounesan said removing visa restrictions on travels between Iran and Iraq could serve the interests of both nations.

Speaking at a meeting with Iraq’s Culture and Tourism Minister Abdul Amir al-Hamdani, Mounesan, also a vice-president, praised bilateral relations between Tehran and Baghdad as “brotherly and very cordial” and said the two countries enjoy good ties in all economic, social, and political areas.

“Each year, millions of Iranian and Iraqi tourists visit the two countries and there is a readiness to promote relations in the field of tourism,” he noted.

Referring to the abolition of the visa requirements for Iranians visiting Turkey and Oman, the official urged a similar move by Iraq and said an increase in the number of tourists from the two countries would be in the interests of both nations.

“We should make efforts to speed up this process by lifting visa requirements,” said the vice president.

Annually, millions of Muslim pilgrims, mainly from Iran, travel long routes to Iraq’s Karbala, where the holy shrine of Imam Hussein (AS), the third Shiite Imam, is located.

Iran and Iraq enjoy cordial political, security and cultural ties but due to some internal and regional problems including Daesh (also known as ISIS or ISIL) terrorism in Iraq, they have not been able to increase their trade volume in the past years.

Iran’s main exports to the neighboring country include agro products, foodstuff and fruits such as watermelon, tomato and cucumber, which account for 37% of the total exports.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

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

Conflict over Shiite and Sunni Endowments erupts in Mosul

The northern Iraqi city of Mosul is on guard about the possibility of an outbreak of sectarian strife between Sunnis and Shiites following allegations that the Shiite Waqf (religious endowment) is seeking to seize Sunni-held land in the area.

The head of the Iraqi Al-Qarar Coalition, Osama Najafi, said Jan. 30, “The Shiite endowment in Ninevah [province] is trying to register hundreds of property bonds belonging to the Sunni Waqf in its name, using its influence through official books issued by the General Real Estate Registration Directorate.”

Najafi said the Shiite endowment was also “pressuring and threatening staff in the real estate registration office in Mosul.”

Click here to read the full story.

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

By the Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR).

IWPR-trained activists have launched a successful series of initiatives to promote reconciliation between Iraq’s different faith communities.

In one striking success, an Assyrian Christian church that had been closed for 15 years was renovated and reopened thanks to the efforts of a group of IWPR mentees.

The Mar Korkis church in Anbar’s Al Habbaniyah district had been abandoned since 2003, when around 1,000 Christian families left the area due to the deteriorating security situation. Partially destroyed by an explosion in 2005, the church had been semi-derelict ever since.

IWPR-trained journalist Aya Al Mashhadani highlighted the church’s plight in a report on coexistence in Al Habbaniyah for which she interviewed the Shia security guard who still watched over the site.

In response to the story, Sawt Al Shabab radio station – itself headed by IWPR-trained journalist Mohamad Sleiman – launched a campaign for the church’s rehabilitation.

Volunteers, local civil society organisations and municipal officials all joined together in a mass cleanup just before Christmas, braving heavy rain to light candles, decorate a Christmas tree and ring the church’s bell.

Christians who heard the Sawt Al Shabab follow-up report on the clean-up campaign said that they were deeply moved, and the Assyrian Church diocese in Baghdad decided to hold a mass in the church in response. Their delegation, welcomed by local Muslims holding olive branches, hosted a service on January 11, 2019 attended by 250 Assyrian Christians.

Valentiana Yuwarich, 46, a Christian from Baghdad who was among the visitors, said, “Thank you so much to the beloved people of Habaniyah and to Sawt Al Shabab radio. This visit will be always remembered in the history of Iraq as a birth for a brighter Iraqi future.”

Other deeply symbolic initiatives over the festive season included efforts by IWPR activists Manar Al Zobeidi, a Muslim, and Nazek Barakat – a Yezidi – whose projects promote empathy towards minority communities in northern and southern Iraq.

Al Zobeidi, whose campaign Gypsies are Human was launched in 2016, organised a visit to the village of Al Zohour village on the outskirts of Diwaniyah city to mark Christmas and New year.

Despite being from a religiously conservative background, al Zobeidi issued a call on social media for other female volunteers to don Santa costumes and visit the gypsy village.

Five women answered her call and joined her in her visit, all wearing Santa costumes and pushing a decorated cart loaded with gifts for the children.

The celebration was attended by international media including Reuters, France-Presse 24 and AlHurra TV.

After the event, London-based al-Arabi TV broadcast a talk show dedicated to the issue of gypsies in Iraq and Kurdistan, with Al Zobeidi as the main guest.

Meanwhile, Barakat raised 200 dollars to buy Christmas presents for internally displaced people (IDPs) in camps in Dohuk.  Barakat, herself displaced from Sinjar after it fell under the control of the Islamic State, said she hoped her initiative would help IDPs feel integrated and thus contribute to the reconciliation process.

Her efforts received widespread coverage in various media and she was nominated for the Al Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Prize in the Emirates. Launched in 2018, this prize aims to honour individuals who create outstanding social initiatives.

(Source: IWPR)

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

Accusations are flying about oil smuggling in Iraq’s Ninevah province, and many accusers say government officials, armed factions and other powerful parties are involved.

Representatives of the province, including parliament member Ahmed al-Jubouri, have said recently that oil is being smuggled from the Ninevah wells.

That news coincided with Osama al-Nujaifi, head of the Iraqi Decision Coalition, telling the media Feb. 1, “Security forces sent out military vehicles to halt the smuggling operations, but armed parties controlling the wells stood in the way.”

Click here to read the full story.

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