Friday, October 31, 2008

Some Christians returning to Mosul

Some good news from Iraq today... After a few days of calm in Mosul, a small number of displaced Christian Iraqis are beginning to return home. Flush with a budget surplus, the Iraqi government has tried to lure persecuted Christians back with payments of 1 million dinars ($865), a tactic it has also used to bring back refugees from Syria. Still, according to a recent report published by Refugees International, Iraq should not be encouraging refugees' return because it has not established "security and essential services Iraqis need to return and rebuild their lives."

When we attended a recent Rutgers Law School symposium "Iraq at a Crossroads," there seemed to be a consensus among the politicians, activists, aid workers and lawyers in the room that, while the "surge" has partially stabilized the country, Iraq is still a long way from achieving the kind of political stability and security that will allow refugees to return in large numbers.

Stay tuned for some video from the symposium, including a keynote speech from Rajiv Chandrasekaran, National Editor for The Washington Post and author of Imperial Life in the Emerald City.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Half of Mosul's Christians have fled the city

A lot of press has been devoted lately to the continued persecution of Iraqi Christians in the city of Mosul. CNN International reports today that an estimated 13,000 Christians have fled the northern Iraqi city amidst rising sectarian tensions in the area. There has been much debate in the international community about how to respond to this new wave of refugees, with Germany arguing back in April that the EU should give preferential treatment to Christians over other religions and groups. The proposal was rejected, but with this latest wave of violence, there have been renewed calls from Pope Benedict XVI for assistance to persecuted Christians, both in Iraq and India.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

George Packer's "Betrayed" airing tomorrow at 9pm on WNET New York

For those in the New York area, a performance of George Packer's acclaimed play "Betrayed" will air tomorrow night at 9pm on Thirteen/WNET. Packer is a writer for The New Yorker and author of The Assassin's Gate: America in Iraq, one of the definitive books on the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq. His new play focuses on the plight of Iraqi interpreters and is an extension of a widely-read article he wrote back in March 2007. Both the article and the play are well-worth checking out.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Kirk Johnson profiled in the Chicago Daily Herald

The Chicago Daily Herald has written a nice profile piece of Kirk and the origins of The List Project. Kirk is one of the main subjects of our upcoming documentary The Promise of Freedom.

Here's a video profile we recently did on Kirk as a sample for the Pulitzer Center-sponsored YouTube contest Project:Report...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Is Iraq losing it's youth?

Elizabeth Ferris and Navtej Dhillon wrote an interesting piece in The Guardian yesterday that explores the demographic effects of the Iraqi refugee crisis. Here's an excerpt from the article, entitled "Iraq's Missing Generation":

Youth, not oil, is Iraq's most precious asset in building a stable and prosperous future. In 2002, before the US invasion, around 60% of Iraq's population was under the age of 30 – many with high school and university education. Today, too many of those young people are among the 2.2 million Iraqi refugees living in countries such as Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.

As Iraq takes important steps towards national reconciliation and economic development, no one is paying attention to young Iraqi refugees. Their plight is largely portrayed through a sectarian lens. But when the focus shifts to the age of those uprooted, it is clear that a large number are young men and women, struggling with displacement at the prime of their life. Rather than building their future careers and families, their plans are on hold and their hopes are in limbo.

Indeed, many of the Iraqis on Kirk Johnson's list are young, educated people in their 20's and 30's. In the face of death threats from radical militias, these Iraqis often have no choice but to flee the country, but questions remain about how Iraq's "brain drain" will affect the long-term stability of the country and it's capacity to rebuild. Is Iraq in danger of becoming another failed state like Afghanistan?

Friday, October 03, 2008

New Bill to Help Displaced Iraqis

From the website of Sen. Robert Casey:

WASHINGTON, DC- U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced legislation that would require the Secretary of State to develop a comprehensive regional strategy to address the mass displacement of Iraqis. To date, Congress has not passed any significant legislation addressing the needs of millions of Iraqis who have been forced to flee from their homes.

“The Bush Administration lacks a comprehensive regional strategy to address the mass influx of Iraqi refugees into neighboring countries,” said Senator Casey. “We have a moral responsibility to help the millions of Iraqis who have been displaced from their homes. It is my hope that this bill will take the necessary first steps to develop a long-term strategy to address the needs of vulnerable Iraqis.”

“The lack of planning on the part of this administration and the absence of any long-term comprehensive plan to deal with refugees, threatens to destabilize the entire region and undermine security in Iraq,” said Senator Cardin. “We must act quickly and coherently. Too many of the 4.7 million displaced Iraqis remain stranded, jobless, and deprived of essential services with their conditions worsening by the day.”

The Support for Vulnerable and Displaced Iraqis Act of 2008 would:

Address the serious challenges facing Iraqi refugees, including: lack of legal status; inadequate U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and nongovernmental organizations resources; limited access to education and healthcare; critical food shortages; and inadequate shelter, drinking water, sanitation and protection;

Address the responsibility of the Government of Iraq to help meet the urgent needs of its citizens in Iraq and in the region and steps the United States can take to provide support in this area;

Include an assessment of needs of vulnerable Iraqis in Iraq and an estimate of assistance required in order for the United States to help meet these needs;

Include the number of refugees from Iraq the United States plans to resettle in the United States;

Include an assessment of what conditions are necessary for the voluntary, safe, sustainable return of displaced Iraqis;

Include a description of the steps the U.S. Government has taken and will take to engage the international community to implement the strategy; and

Include plans to assess the impact of the strategy.

Since the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003, it is estimated that as many as two million Iraqis have fled their homes to neighboring countries to avoid sectarian and other violence while over 2.7 million have been displaced internally in Iraq. The massive displacement of Iraqis in Iraq and the region has overwhelmed existing social, economic, and security capacities of countries in the region, particularly Iraq, Jordan and Syria. Increasing poverty and despair among displaced populations may provide fertile ground for possible recruitment by extremist groups.

To find out more about what you can personally do to help displaced Iraqis, visit The List Project.