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RI: Millions of Iraqi Displaced are "Running out of Resources"
02/19/2009 4:10 PM ET

Refugees International has launched a new campaign to urge the Obama administration to enhance its policies to support Iraqi refugees. The Washington-based refugee advocacy organization has released a statement calling on the US to provide direct support for Iraqi refugees as well as to lobby the Iraqi government to step up its refugee assistance, and called on its supporters to sign a petition endorsing the campaign. RI also released two videos along with the campaign documenting conditions of Iraqi refugees living in Syria. The videos can be viewed above and below, and full text of the statement appears here.

Don't Forget Iraqi Refugees


Washington D.C. - As President Obama works to stabilize Iraq, he must be sure to comprehensively address the Iraqi refugee crisis. Five million Iraqis have been uprooted by conflict, forced to leave everything behind. They have sought refuge within Iraq, Syria, Jordan and other neighboring countries. They are running out of resources with little opportunity for employment; access to food, heath care, education and other essential services is extremely limited. The conditions for Iraqis to return home safely do not exist, and millions of Iraqi refugees are unlikely and unwilling to return to Iraq in the foreseeable future. The U.S. administration must lead international efforts to meet the long-term needs of displaced Iraqis. Failure to assist Iraqis will have dramatic impacts on security inside Iraq.

Refugees International has launched a new campaign urging President Obama to do more to help Iraqi refugees.

The campaign features a petition urging the Obama administration to:

  1. Assist Iraqi refugees.
  2. Ensure a safe, voluntary return home when possible.
  3. Pressure Iraq to meet its responsibilities to its own people.
  4. Increase resettlement for those who can't go home.

Supporters can sign the petition here:

The campaign also features two candid videos about the lives of Iraqi refugees in Syria, Iraqi Refugees: The View From Syria and Khaled's Story, which can both be viewed here:

In Iraqi Refugees: the View From Syria, Kristèle Younès, Refugees International Senior Advocate says, “At this stage, what we’re looking at is millions of impoverished people who have basically joined the ranks of the urban poor, wherever they have sought refuge, and who are quickly becoming desperate.”

Please sign the petition and share with others who demand a stable Iraq.

Refugees International is a Washington, D.C.-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises. Since November 2006, the organization has conducted seven missions to the Middle East to identify the needs of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people in Iraq. After ongoing pressure from Refugees International, the U.S. State Department increased its assistance for Iraqi refugees from $43 million in 2006 to $398 million in 2008.

See it here
Photoshopping the President, with Tread Marks; Shoe-Toss Game Logs 1 Mil "Hits"
12/16/2008 3:15 PM ET

After the infamous incident on Sunday when Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi, now in Iraqi custody, threw his two shoes at US President George Bush during a joint press conference in Baghdad with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, at least one Iraqi website known for its strong opposition to the policies of the two men has taken the shoe meme to the next level, showing images of Bush, Maliki, and other symbols, all digitally altered to celebrate the symbolism of the journalist's gesture.

The images shown here all appear on the Iraqi Rabita website, known for its strong opposition to the US presence in Iraq and the post-2003 Iraqi regime, which its editors frequently portray as representing Iranian and American interests in Iraq.

Rabita also carries a link to a newly created online flash video game, hosted on a Norwegian website, where visitors are challenged to lob digital shoes at an electronic caricature of the US president. As of the time of this posting, the game logged 1,106,390 successful shoe strikes, according to its internal counter.

Images: Iraqi Rabita.

"Iraq is One Sect": Alive in Baghdad on Integrating the Irregular Sunni Forces
11/21/2008 2:56 PM ET

What's next for the Sahwa forces of Iraq? Alive in Baghdad, the weekly video journal, probes this question with on-the-street interviews with Iraqis who share their views on the locally organized irregular Sunni Arab forces. Responsibility for which has recently been transferred to the Iraqi state, and the fate of the Sunni Arab men-at-arms hangs in the balance as Iraqi authorities appear to continue to resist the integration of Sahwa elements into the uniformed Iraqi security agencies.

The video journal introduces its segment as follows:

VIDEO - Iraq, Baghdad – The Sahwa Councils or what are also known as “Sahwa Forces” had a strong impact and important role in bringing stability to some areas of Iraq such as Anbar province, Ramadi, Fallujah, and some other areas in Baghdad. Those forces were created after Sattar Abu Risha suggested the idea of creating local forces recruited within the same area the forces will be responsible for.

However, some Sahwa Forces succeeded in protecting their areas while others did not. There have been some rumors spread about cooperation between the Sahwa forces and Al-Qaeda, in some areas of Baghdad. Some Iraqis began to be afraid of the Sahwa Forces due to some accidents happening in Baghdad such as kidnappings and robbery under the Sahwa protection. In some cases the lack of training of Sahwa Forces has also caused problems.

On other hand many Iraqis welcomed the idea of Al-Sahwa; they considered them their sons due to the fact all Sahwa members are living within the same neighborhood where they live. Some of the Sahwa members are relatives or friends of the residents they are responsible for, and it became something common to see the neighbors providing food and greeting the Sahwa soldiers constantly.

The Iraqi government took control over the Sahwa forces recently, that garnered a strong fear among Sahwa members and pushed some of them to leave their work with the Sahwa, due to their belief that the Iraqi Government and Ministry of Interior is controlled by Shia militias. Despite this change, some of them stayed working with the Sahwa although the Iraqi Government technically controls the Sahwa now.

Alive in Baghdad has previously produced shows about the Sahwa forces in Adhamiya, Taji, Hawr Rajab, and now brings you Iraqi opinions on the Sahwa’s progress and its future form.

If you appreciate the insightful content provided by Alive in Baghdad, which you won’t find anywhere else, please consider becoming a paying subscriber, or making a donation to Alive in Baghdad. You can also purchase Alive in Baghdad T-shirts and DVDs to spread the word.

Alive in Baghdad returns, looking at the connection between gas and electricity
10/14/2008 10:06 AM ET
“Alive in Baghdad” continues, with another installation in its interesting series of interview-driven shorts.

This week, AIB braves the slow-moving gas lines of Baghdad, asking hopeful drivers what the cause for the gas shortage is. The unhesitating answer in every case is “electricity”. You see, when the power is out, generators need to run. Since they take the same kind of fuel that automobiles run on, when there’s no electricity... voilà!— an instant gas shortage.

“Alive in Baghdad” introduces this week’s episode as follows.
it’s well known that Iraq has one of the largest reserves of oil in the world, so it is quite ironic that the Iraqi people are constantly having problems obtaining various products produced from oil such as gasoline, propane, diesel, and kerosene. Furthermore, the prices of these products, when compared with the average income of an Iraqi citizen are barely affordable.

The average income of an Iraqi citizens is between $100 and $300 per month. The price of one liter of gasoline is 450 Iraqi Dinar, or approximately $.30. While on the black market the price of one liter of gasoline is nearly 1500 Iraqi Dinar or $1. These prices are not stable and depend on the current conditions, whether there is an oil crisis or electricity shortage. The prices could jump between 2000 and 5000 Iraqi Dinar, or between $1.50 and $4 per one liter. Reaching most any destination in Baghdad could cost you half to three quarters of your gas tank due to the large number of checkpoints, walls, and convoys causing traffic jams across the city.

Another side of the fuel crisis is the price of the diesel fuel that most of the neighborhood generators depend on. You can generate 5 amperes per month of electricity for approximately $150. However, 5 amperes are barely enough to power the fans, lights and some other simple household appliances. It is certainly not enough for turning on the water heater or air conditioner. The price is also dependent on the availability of diesel. One barrel of diesel that contains 200 liters costs approximately $200 and during a crisis or shortage, it could reach $400 and this is enough to fuel the neighborhood generators for only three days.

The minster of Oil Hussein al- Shahristani has blamed most of the problems regarding oil production and refining on the security situation and the lack of electricity. He has also specified that a part of the problem with lack of oil products is due to the lack of oil refineries. It has been a common occurrence in Iraq that the trucks transporting these products such as propane, gasoline, or diesel are regularly attacked by different militias and insurgents, due to the belief that the trucks are working for the US military.

As if these difficulties weren’t enough, gas stations have become particularly dangerous places themselves. Many stations have been attacked by car bombs, mortars, or gun fire. Normally the distribution centers for propane tanks are in the gas station, where people must wait for up to three hours to get one tank. If they decide to buy from the black market it will cost approximately 3000 Iraqi Dinar $2.50, and this tank is enough for just one week.

In this week’s video from Iraq, Alive in Baghdad brings you some opinions about this problem that began in 2003, and has not yet been solved. Although not all Iraqis believe their is a fuel crisis, they share one question, “Is it reasonable for Iraq citizens to have a problem with electricity and gas while their country has one of the largest known oil reserves?
Alive in Baghdad Samples Baghdadis' Opinions on Checkpoints and Walls
10/08/2008 6:18 PM ET

Checkpoints and concrete barriers have become routine features in the Baghdad landscape. This week, Alive in Baghdad interviews several residents of the Iraqi capital who give their accounts of what the security architecture of the capital means for them. Several express frustration at the traffic circulation difficulties caused by the checkpoints and barriers, while one truck driver says that Iraqi police often shake him down for bribes at checkpoints.

The weekly video journal introduces this week's segment as follows:

Baghdad, Iraq - The ongoing fighting in Baghdad pushed the Iraqi and US forces to establish checkpoints all over the city to secure the roads and neighborhoods. Controlling the cars inside the city and preventing them from distributing weapons or bombs was the first aim of these checkpoints. There are four main types of checkpoints in Baghdad, the checkpoints made by US forces those of the Iraqi National Guard, and finally those established by the Iraqi Police or the Ministry of Interior.

There are approximately five hundred checkpoints deployed around the perimeter as well as inside the city. Most of the checkpoints are directed by the Iraqi National Guard or Coalition forces. These checkpoints are getting attacked repeatedly by IEDs, car bombs, and sniper attacks. Many Iraqis were killed because of these attacks, for example, they may be driving into a checkpoint or getting killed by stray bullets fired after a car bomb attack.

On the other hand, starting several years ago, militias began using what are known as “fake checkpoints” in order to kidnap or kill people. The fake checkpoints generated great fear among the Iraqi people agains Iraqi forces whether they were military forces or police. It become something very familiar within Iraqi society that if someone was kidnapped or disappeared at one of the “fake checkpoints,” the family should go and look in the morgue looking for that person.

Another type of checkpoint began appearing in late 2007, these ones have been run by the Sahwa “Awakening” Forces, in order to control the Sunni Areas and keep them out of Al-Qaeda control and free of any other groups that may be related to Al-Qaeda. These Sahwa Forces were selected from the same area they work in, their local knowledge helps them to know everyone coming in or out of neighborhood. These forces have assisted in establishing many of the stability gains in the Sunni neighborhoods.

The Iraqi security forces used to wear masks to hide their identity form other extremist insurgents, and not to be followed when they return home. Many militias also used masks to hide their faces and keep a low profile. In late 2007 the Iraqi government ordered all security forces to take off their masks to give a greater impression of honesty and trustworthiness to the Iraqi people and prevent them form being afraid due to the threat of fake checkpoints.

Today, although security appears to have returned to much of Baghdad, blast walls and checkpoints continue to choke the city streets. These measures helped re-establish security in the capital, but today many people question them and have begun pushing the Iraqi government to take down the walls that block much of the city.

If you appreciate the insightful content provided by Alive in Baghdad, which you won’t find anywhere else, please consider becoming a paying subscriber, or making a donation to Alive in Baghdad. You can also purchase Alive in Baghdad T-shirts and DVDs to spread the word.


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