IRAQ

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Introduction

Iraq is a county that America should know a lot about, but doesn't. The U.S. went into Iraq for many reasons,
but does anyone really know what they were? This page is our way of connecting the world to a crisis that is ongoing.
We are a 10th grade English class, but our words are strong. The purpose of this page is to offer condolence and help to refugees
around the world. However, our main focus is Iraq. Most people know we are at war, but don't know the political situation,
or about the traditions and culture. The more you read, the more you make a difference. This page can teach you about the geography,
statistics, politics, before the refugee crisis, tradition and culture, the refugee cause, stories, more stories, professional viewpoints, and gives you the opportunity to view media to understand what the Iraqi people are going through. We have taken extremes to educate, you, the reader, about why you should make a difference. We have provided a link at the bottom of the page to a video showing the refugee crisis. We have interviewed an IRC worker who talks about helping the escaping refugees. Read, enjoy, and make a difference.

Here is a link to another Iraqi website that provides ample information about the country.
Iraqi ReliefNet

Geography/Statistics

Iraq is located near the Persian Gulf bordered by Iran, Kuwait, Syria, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. Average temperatures range from above 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer to below freezing in the winter. The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers run through the country, and the capital city of Baghdad lies on the banks of the Tigris. The total size of the country is about 437,072 sq km.7

For more information, visit the geography page.
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Population: 26,880,000
Ethnic groups: Arab 75-80%; Kurd 15-20%; Chaldean, Assyrians, others less than 5%
Religions: Muslim 97%, Christian 3%, Others less than 1%
Official Languages: Arabic and Kurdish7

For more numbers and stats go to the statistics page.

Politics

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Iraq has very little freedom politically and socially because Saddam Hussein has suppressed the country to the point that no one feels safe in their own homes and people must face the fact that if they leave their house, it may be the last time they are there.
external image t.gifBy its constitution, Iraq has a democratic structure, where there are parliament elections where all citizens can vote.
Then based on the votes, the parliament elects a president to rule. The system is flawed, however, because Saddam Hussein has been in power so long and has developed so much power that no one has the ability to run against him. The states must permit a candidate to run but because Saddam Hussein controls the state, no one is ever allowed to challenge his authority.
external image t.gif Iraq is ruled by the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) which is best equated to a government but Saddam has moved in and taken his place as the head of the RCC, as commander of the armed forces, and secretary general of the Ba'th party meaning he always knows what is happening and he is in control of all public affairs.
external image t.gifThe opposition of Iraq was granted limited rights in September 1991, and free elections were held by the Iraqi Kurds in May 1992.⁵

Timeline

This is a timeline that breaks down the path of control in Iraq (once Mesopotamia) from 3100 BCE until April 2005. Iraq has had
power trade hands so many times throughout history and this gives a brief intro into how many rulers there have been. In this
summary, 'Mesopotamia' is used for the region, while 'Iraq' is used from the time of the Arab conquest.
Timeline

To find out more go to the Iraq politics page or visit Iraq History-wikipedia


Before Refugee Crisis

“Women in Iraq”
Iraqi women and girls have had more rights than many of their counterparts in the Middle East. The Iraqi Provisional Constitution formally guaranteed equal rights to women. Other laws specifically ensured their right to vote, attend school, run for political office, and own property. Since the 1991 Gulf War, the position of women within Iraqi society has deteriorated. Women and girls were affected by the economic consequences of the U.N. sanctions and lacked access to food, health care, and education. These effects were compounded by changes in the law that restricted women’s mobility and access to the formal sector in an effort to ensure jobs to men and appease conservative religious and tribal groups.
Until the 1990s, Iraqi women played an active role in the political and economic development of Iraq. In order to further its program of economic development, the government passed a compulsory education law saying that both sexes attend school through the primary level. Although middle and upper class Iraqi women had been attending university since the 1920s, rural women and girls were largely uneducated until this time. In 1979, the government passed legislation requiring the suppression of illiteracy. All illiterate persons between ages 15 and 45 were required to attend classes at local literacy centers. Although many conservative sectors of Iraqi society refused to allow women in their communities, the literacy gap between males and females narrowed.
The Iraqi government also passed labor and employment laws to ensure that women were granted equal opportunities in the civil service sector, maternity benefits, and freedom from harassment in the workplace. The fact that the government was hiring women contributed to the breakdown of traditional reluctance to allow women to work outside the home. Women constituted approximately 28.5% of those in the education profession, 31% of the medical profession, 25% of lab technicians, 15% of accountants, and 15% of civil servants.
While most advances in women's status occurred in the political and economic spheres, the government also made little changes to the personal status laws in 1978. For example, divorced mothers were granted custody of their children until the age of ten. The child could then choose with which parent to live. Changes were also made to the conditions under which a woman could seek divorce and regulations concerning polygynous marriages and inheritance. These reforms reflected the Ba'ath Party's attempt to modernize Iraqi society.
Women attained the right to vote and run for office in 1980. In 1986, Iraq became one of the first countries to ratify the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against women. ⁴

Traditions and Culture

"All wars, with their turmoil, maiming and killing, wantonly destroy the soul and disfigure the memory of what constitutes a people’s very identity, in other words its culture. In Iraq, as a result of thirteen years of sanctions and the chaos that followed the recent armed conflict, eight thousand years of human history now hang in the balance. Arsonists have burnt libraries and archives, looters have plundered historic buildings and cultural institutions and items of unique value have disappeared from museums and archaeological sites."
-UNESCO

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) response to these events was prompt. The first task was to ascertain the extent of the damage. Based on the findings of meetings they UNESCO had in 2003, projects were formulated. These projects have created the opportunity to make life better for the refugees and as the problem is brought into the open, people have added more projects to fight the refugee hardship.¹

Interpersonal Relations


- In Iraq, little details mean a lot in a conversation and a very small gesture can say a lot. People are very private but despite all of the hardship they must endure, they still have many positive aspects in their way of life. In Iraqi culture, it is rude to turn one’s foot out (or on the table) so that the sole is facing the other person. The left hand is used for sanitary purposes, therefore, it is never used when eating – aside from using forks and knives.

Iraqis are very close to one another and they often show affection when they meet. It is common for women to hold hands when talking, stand very close, or kiss another woman on the cheek when they meet but men and women do not show affection in public because Iraqis are very private. Men and women are very separated and the gender roles are clearly defined so people don't break the rules.

Iraqis talk a lot but have the ability to say a lot with a small gesture.
Some common Iraqi gestures are:

  • Eyebrows raised and head tilted back = “No”
  • Clicking the tongue with a tsk sound = "No"
  • Forefinger moving right-to-left repeatedly = "No"
  • Hand moving up and down palm facing down = "be quiet"
  • Hand moving away from the body the palm facing down = "Go away!"
  • hand reaching out while opening and closing the hand palm facing up = "come here"
  • Right hand on heart after shaking hands = show of sincerity
  • shaking the head from side to side = lack of understanding, not necessarily disagreement.⁶

For more go to the Iraq tradition and culture page and check out Culture of Iraq


Refugee Cause

The United States (and other countries) have been resettling Iraqi refugees (especially the Kurds and anyone with connections to the US government) for years following the Gulf War in 1991 and under the Saddam Hussein Regime.
For more information about the refugee cause and current refugee situation in Iraq visit the refugee cause page.

Stories

"I was kidnapped and nearly died beause I am Shi'a"
In August 2006, Ali was driving from Beirut to Baghdad and was stopped by a militant group near Fallujah. He was 9680_image1_Leb06_iraqifamily.jpgkidnapped when his Iraqi papers were reviewed and identified him as a Shi'ite religious leader. He was then sold to a sunni militia, where he awaited execution with dozens of other Shi'a, told by his captors that killing a Shi'a got them closer to heaven. After two months in captivity, the Iraqi National Guard raided the compound, freeing Ali. He returned to Lebanon in November of 2006 to reunite with his family, who were told that he had been killed. Suffering from mental trauma, Ali can not work. His wife Nada ia beginning beauty school to support the family, and they hope to raise $10,000 to buy fake documents to move to Europe. In the meantime, they live in a small apartment in Beirut, and lack electricity because they cannot afford it. Their two children are in school thanks to the generosity of neighbors who are taking collections to pay for uniforms and school supplies.

"Our two sons were kidnapped. As Sunnies, we were told to leave or die"
Hussein, Alimah, Bashir, and Fadi moved to Damascus, Syrica in November 2005, feeling religious persecution and financial extortion in Baghdad. In 2003, Bashir, the family oldest don, was kidnapped by a local criminal gang and held for ransom. Hussein sold one of the family businesses to raise $40,000 to pay the ransom, and retrieved his son. Shortly thereafter, the family moved to Syria for three months seeking safety. They returned to Baghdad in 2004, hoping their lives could return to normal. In November 2005, Fadi, Bashir's younger brother, was kidnapped and again held for ransom. The family again sold assets to save their son, and he was returned with a shattered hand due to abuse during his captivity. When Fadi was released, the family reveived a warning - as Sunnis, they should leave their neighborhood or be killed. The family gathered the few resourced that remained, and fled to Syria. They now live in a poor neighborhood in Damascus, and none of the family members has been able to find work. They have pain for multiple surgeries for Fadi's hand injury from their savings. As a result, their resources are being quickly depleted. Two younger children are not currently in school. They vow never to return to Iraq, and hope to be resettled in a third country where they can work. ³

Click here for more stories.

Media:


Historical Overview of the Iraqi War:




More Stories:

Iraq Conference: After fleeing twice inside Iraq, a family receives refuge in Spain


An Iraqi policeman outside a Catholic church in Baghdad. There were 1.4 million Christians in Iraq in 1987, but now there are less than a million in a country of 26 million people.
MADRID, Spain, April 12 (UNHCR) – In a country where anyone can become a victim of violence, minorities in Iraq feel especially threatened. Among those forced to flee the danger was a family who had converted to Christianity and now live as refugees in Spain.

Palestinian refugees in Iraq have been attacked. Sunni Moslems have been forced from Shi'ite Moslem areas, Shias from Sunni areas. Kurds have fled Arab areas, Arabs from Kurdish areas. In this brutal environment, Christian Iraqis – an ancient but dwindling part of the Iraqi population – have frequently been targets.

Close to 2 million Iraqis are currently displaced internally while up to 2 million others have fled abroad. The UN refugee agency has invited all 193 UN member states to a conference on the humanitarian needs associated with displacement in Iraq and nearby countries in Geneva on April 17-18.

"Christians are leaving Baghdad and the whole centre of the country. The churches are empty," said Tessa*, who fled to Spain with her husband and two children in 2005. She worries that the Iraqi Christian community, almost as old as the religion, might soon disappear altogether.

For Tessa and Nabil*, the threat was greater because they had been Muslim. Nabil decided to convert to Christianity in 2001. The situation worsened when Tessa also converted in 2003 after she almost died from cancer. Tessa's Sunni family cut off contact.

Nabil started receiving threats and in January 2005 found a bomb in front of his house. His workers were threatened and his shop was burned. Their two children, baptised in 2005 at the ages of 10 and 12 years, faced the risk of kidnapping by groups who demand "taxes" for observing their religion.

In the 16th Century, Christians were half the population of Iraq. In 1987 there were still 1.4 million Christians, but now there are less than a million in a country of 26 million people. After a wave of violence against Christian churches in October 2004 – five churches were bombed on a single day – discrimination rose. Militants attacked liquor stores and warned Christian women to wear Islamic dress.

At 48-years-old, Nabil and his family were relatively wealthy. He owned an aesthetician centre, while his wife was a professor at the University of Agriculture in Baghdad. But they made the decision to flee. "Christians are being terrorised in Iraq. They have no peace and no safety with the death squads and car bombs," said Nabil.

With help from his church, the family moved to Dahuk in the north of Iraq. However, this city proved safe for only a few months before they started again receiving threats. Even local members of their church began to fear hosting them. Their children could not attend school.

Nabil and his family headed further north to Arbil in the Kurdistan region, which had become a haven for 20,000 Iraqis displaced from elsewhere in Iraq. After two months, it was clear Arbil was also not a sanctuary. Rumours spread around the city about the "danger" the family represented for Islam.

"Our presence was creating problems for the people surrounding us," Nabil said. He decided in May 2005 to leave the country. Wearing a disguise, Nabil returned to Baghdad a lone and got visas. The day after he returned to Arbil, the family went by car to Syria. The next day they proceeded to Amman and after four days flew to Spain to request asylum.

Last November, Spanish authorities granted all Nabil's family refugee status under the 1951 Refugee Convention because of their well founded fear of persecution for their religion. Spain currently hosts 45 Iraqi refugees and during 2006 a further 42 Iraqis requested asylum.

"Spain gave us the opportunity to profess freely our religion, without feeling guilty. My children can go to school or play in the park without being surrounded by people with Kalashnikov rifles standing guard over them and my wife no longer feels in prison, thought she does not work anymore," said Nabil.

The family, now living near the centre of Madrid, are integrating slowly as they overcome the language barrier. There are no regrets about leaving. "When life is at risk you do everything to protect yourself and your family," Nabil says of the desperate measures Iraqis take to reach safety.

"I don't think violence and inequality in my country will cease in a few years. All the Iraqis – Christians and Muslims – are living in a situation without solutions," he said. "You find tragedy after tragedy and they are fleeing every day to look for safety in neighbouring countries or in another continent."

*Names changed for protection reasons

Click here for more stories!

Professional viewpoints

8. Founded in 1933, the International Rescue Committee is a global leader in relief, rehabilitation, post-conflict development, advocacy and resettlement services for refugees and others uprooted or affected by violent conflict and oppression. In their professional opinion, they urge you to take a stand from your own home, by donating to chariteis all around the globe, but they urge you to take care when donating, and to double check the source you are donating to.
http://www.charitywatch.org/hottopics/iraqaid.html (This link goes nowhere, you need to fix this.)


United Nations-
"The U.K. has done nothing to allow Iraqi refugees displaced by the conflict the chance to resettle in the U.K. -- including people who have shown great loyalty and service to the U.K. in Iraq,

International Rescue Commitee-

Amnesty International-
"The Middle East is on the verge of a new humanitarian crisis unless the European Union, U.S. and other states take urgent and concrete measures to assist the more than 3 million people forcibly displaced by the conflict in Iraq," Amnesty said.

They called on Western countries to set up a resettlement program for Iraqis that goes "far beyond token numbers and should constitute a significant part of the solution to the current crisis

Condoleezza Rice-
She has given the U.S. embassy in Syria authorization to discuss Iraqi refugees with Damascus.

U.S. diplomats were given authorization to discuss the flow of refugees with the Syrian government, but the talks are not to be part of a larger discussion with the country about Iraq

"I am concerned that given the circumstances of Syrian behavior in Lebanon ... talking with Syria now about Iraq would have downsides for us in terms of Lebanon, in terms of what Syria would be looking for, in terms of how it would be perceived."

Edward M. Kennedy-
(The writer is a Democratic senator from Massachusetts and incoming chairman of the Senate immigration, border security and refugee subcommittee.) This year especially it is essential that we also reflect on another human cost of the war -- the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women and children who have fled their homes and often their country to escape the violence of a nation increasingly at war with itself.

An essential first step could be to hold an international conference on the issue -- ideally sponsored by the countries in the region and the United Nations -- to begin to deal with the growing number and needs of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons. The United States should participate in the conference and provide substantial support for the refugees. Doing so would encourage other nations to address the crisis, help the refugees and displaced persons, and assist the countries shouldering the greatest burden

There will soon be an interveiw with an IRC worker who will talk about helping refugees get to america and the transition process.

http://themoderatevoice.com/society/history/11956/will-president-bush-congress-listen-to-iraq-study-group/

There are many forums on the web about Iraq and walutions to help. If you google "Iraqi veiwpoints," then you will see many forums that you can add to and can find ideas to help.


Resources

10. Links to resources /websites pertaining to cultural awareness, stories, facts
About your country and the people.

Sources:

(1) Bouchenaki, Mounir. "War in Iraq and Its Consequences for Cultural Heritage." UNESCO. 29 Mar. 2007. Crisis in Iraq. 20 Apr. 2007
<http://portal.unesco.org/culture/en/ev.php-URL_ID=8442&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html>.
(2) Elass, Rasha. "Iraq Refugee Crisis Engulfs Women Silenced by Rape." Women's E News. 01 Apr. 2007. 19 Apr.
2007 <http://www.womensenews.org>.
(3) "Iraqi Refugees: Stories of Persecution and Flight." Refugees International. 30 Nov. 2006. 18 Apr. 2007
<http://www.refugeesinternational.org
(4) "Iraq: Refugees Speak of Escape From Hell." Inter Press Service News Agency. 2007. 19 Apr. 2007
<http://ipsnews.net>.
(5) Kjeilen, Tore. "Iraq:Political Situation." Encyclopaedia of the Orient. 2007. LexicOrient. 18 Apr. 2007 <http://lexicorient.com/e.o/iraq_1.htm>.
(6) "My Iraqi Culture." My Arabic Story. 19 Apr. 2007
<http://www.myarabicstory.org/IRAQ/iraqi_culture.htm>
(7)Rosenberg, Matt. "Geography: Iraq." CIA Factbook. 01 Nov 2005. About.com. 20 Apr 2007 <http://geography.about.com/library/cia/blciraq.htm>.

The Video:
"Cohasset Political Forum (historical overview of Iraq War)." January 27, 2007. Online video clip.
Youtube. April 26, 2007. http://www.youtube.com.