Friday, May 30, 2008

What Bassam Sees

The Philadelphia City Paper has a feature cover story on Iraqi journalist Bassam Sebti.

What Bassam Sees
Philadelphia City Paper, 28 May

Bassam Sebti lived through the first three years of the war as an Iraqi in Baghdad. He's watched the last two from Philadelphia.

The Iraqi Displaced (AP Interactive Website)

The Associated Press has produced an interactive website focused on the Iraqi displacement crisis. Take a minute to check it out. You will find stories, photo galleries and maps charting the monthly displacement and the violence that created the crisis. The data is based on figures from the International Organization for Migration.

The Iraqi Displaced – Interactive Website
Associated Press, May 2008

Welcoming Iraqi Families - Celebrating Iraqi Culture

This is a unique opportunity to meet Iraqi families who are being resettled in Philadelphia. You will learn more about the important work of the Nationalities Service Center, and find volunteer opportunities with the Iraqi Refugee Advisory Committee. The event is in honor of world refugee day celebrated on 20 June.

Welcoming Iraqi Families Celebrating Iraqi Culture

Saturday, June 21, 2008
10:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Arch Street Meeting House
4th and Arch Streets
Philadelphia, PA

To see the day’s events, visit


Philadelphia is one of many cities across the U.S. currently welcoming and resettling Iraqi refugees. Local agencies, including the Nationalities Services Center (NSC), are helping these new Philadelphians get established by finding housing and jobs, completing studies, boosting English skills, and learning about daily life in the City of Brotherly Love.

These families are the human face of war—people whose lives have been turned upside down from the violence of war. One in five Iraqis has been displaced from their homes making it the largest refugee crisis in the Middle East since 1948. Among those being resettled are students, teachers, those needing special medical treatment and single parent families. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about Iraqi and Iraqis; the stories, the culture and the passion. You will also meet many of the individuals who make up the Iraqi Refugee Advisory Committee.

Raffle tickets will be sold in an effort to raise funds to support Iraqis who will be arriving in the coming months.

Please join us in celebrating their arrival to Philadelphia

Nationalities Service Center
Iraqi Refugee Advisory Committee

Monday, May 12, 2008

NGO's and Residents Welcome Sadr city Truce

Aid organizations and residents of Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood welcomed a weekend truce between Shia militiamen loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr and US-backed government forces, ending seven weeks of clashes that left daily life almost paralyzed since 25 March.

"We welcome and encourage any act, agreement and dialogue that helps end the bloodshed of Iraqis and helps aid organizations do their work properly in reaching all needy persons," said Basil al-Azawi, head of the Iraqi Commission for Civil Society Enterprises (ICCSE), a coalition of over 1,000 Iraqi non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

"The deteriorated security situation that Sadr City witnessed over the past seven weeks hindered all aid operations and, in our estimation, only 1 percent of the City's medical, food and public services needs are being met. There is a lot to be done," al-Azawi told IRIN.

Al-Azawi added that there are plans and programs to assist residents of Sadr City "but all these plans are still in theory as we are monitoring the situation on the ground fearing that this lull [in fighting] could be a fragile one".

Friday, May 9, 2008

Sadr City Update | First International NGO to Begin Working in Syria with Iraqi Refugees

Continued attacks in Sadr City threaten to create a new community of displaced. While the international community is beginning to try and address the humanitarian crisis for so many Iraqis who have fled the country, the 2.7 million internally displaced are incredibly vulnerable. Leila Fadel reports on the Iraqi Governments call for people to evacuate to two soccer fields and through testimonials, Shashank Bengali illustrates the humanitarian work of the Sadr movement. There is a history in the Middle East of political movements growing out of institutions that first start with addressing social services that a rueling government is unable or unwilling to address.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has signed the first contract with an International NGO to work with Iraqi Refugees in Syria. The group, International Medical Corps also has very large contracts for work in Iraq with Internally Displaced. It has been difficult for large international NGO’s to work in Syria.


Iraqi military orders Sadr City residents to evacuate
Leila Fadel McClatchy Newspapers (8 May 2008)

Iraqi security forces, after more than of 40 days of intense fighting, on Thursday told residents to evacuate their homes in the northeast Shiite slum of Sadr City and to move to temporary shelters on two soccer fields.

The military's call indicated the possibility of stepped-up military operations and came as Iraqi security forces raided a radio station run by backers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr. In the southern port city of Basra, militants launched rockets that struck a coalition base, killing two contractors and injuring four civilians and four coalition soldiers.

Sadr City has been a battleground since late March, enduring U.S. airstrikes, militia snipers and gunbattles between U.S. and Iraqi forces and the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to Sadr.

Already some 8,500 people have been displaced from the sprawling slum of some 2.5 million people, according to the Iraqi Red Crescent. For weeks, food, water and medical shortages have affected about 150,000 people.

Charity work shows another side to Sadr's movement in Iraq
Shashank Bengali McClatchy Newspapers (8 May 2008)

When Ali Ateya was killed last month at the age of 23_ a victim of an American airstrike on a block of concrete tenements in Baghdad's Sadr City slum, according to his family — there was no money for his burial.

Within days, two officials from Sadr City's main humanitarian organization showed up at the family home. Unsolicited, they offered to pay for Ateya's Shiite Muslim burial service and provide food for three days of ritual mourning.

Then they handed the parents an envelope. It was stuffed with 500,000 Iraqi dinars — about $400 — and on it was printed: "A gift from Sayyid Muqtada al Sadr."

UNHCR signs landmark accord in Syria with international NGO
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Boudewijn van Eenennaam, head of the UN refugee agency's governing body, on Thursday attended the signing of a landmark contract between UNHCR and the International Medical Corps (IMC), paving the way for the aid agency to become the first international non-governmental organization (INGO) to work with Iraqi refugees in Syria. IMC will run three health clinics for refugees in Damascus under the agreement. The Danish Refugee Council and Premier Urgence are also slated to start work in Syria soon in support of UNHCR community services and education programmes.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sadr City Death Toll Passes 1,000 | War Funding Vote Delayed

The Christian Science Monitor confirms that seven weeks of fighting in Sadr City has left over 1,000 Iraqis dead. That is according to Iraqi health officials. The NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq editorial this afternoon addresses the broader legal and ethical issues with wire stories reporting on humanitarian crisis that has been created by the siege and curfews. AP documents

“Entire sections of Baghdad's Sadr City district have been left nearly abandoned by civilians fleeing a U.S.-led showdown with Shiite militias and seeking aid after facing shortages of food and medicine, humanitarian groups said yesterday.

The reports by the agencies, including the U.N. children's fund, added to the individual accounts of civilians pouring out of the Sadr City area as clashes intensify.

U.S. forces have increased their use of air power and armored patrols in an attempt to cripple Shiite militia influence in Sadr City, a slum of 2.5 million people that serves as the Baghdad base for the Mahdi Army….”

War Funding

The Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives will push back the war funding vote to next week. Sadly it is not the humanitarian crisis or crisis of conscience that delayed the vote, but procedural concerns. Erik Leaver has an article that helps explain what is happening behind closed doors. That means there is still time to act on our action alert call your representatives.


Editorial: Lethal ghettoes - Ignored legally and ethically
NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq, 8 May 2008

“The citizens of the sealed off areas of Sadr city, in East Baghdad are isolated from the rest of the world, secluded with most probably no access to basic facilities and goods such as food and water for seven long and agonizing weeks. Under curfew, partial or total, under siege and sealed off, enwalled and banned from movement for seven weeks. Official forces, MNF-I and non state armed groups are celebrating the freedom of movement in Sadr City.”

Baghdad’s Sadr City Residents Fear Intensifying Fight
Howard LaFranci, Christian Science Monitor (9 May 2008)

Aid Groups: Sadr City Devastated by Fighting
Bradley Brooks, Associated Press (8 May 2008)

Residents Told to Leave Sadr City
Associated Press, 8 May 2008

War Funding

The Iraq Supplemental: A Three Ring Circus
Erik Leaver, 8 May 2008

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Stop the House from Funding the War into 2009

The House of Representatives will vote as soon as tomorrow (Thursday, May 8) on an additional $162.6 billion for the war and occupation in Iraq.

Sadly, the bill includes $66 billion for fiscal year 2009. This means the funds for the occupation will keep flowing well into the next administration, allowing the new president to continue the war and occupation with little or no accountability to Congress until next spring.

At a time when money is urgently needed in our communities, the new bill would bring the total for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to $859 billion. By including fiscal year 2009 (FY09) funding, the House leadership is effectively taking the war off the congressional agenda for the rest of this year. This might be our last opportunity to stop war funding during this Congress and presidency.

Call Congress