Sunday, 17 June 2018

  • June 17, 2018
  • Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra)
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In May 2005, the UN announced that Iraq was “about to become a transit station for heroine”, where after being "manufactured in Afghanistan is heading towards Europe through neighbouring Iran”. 

In 2013, I reported that “violence, unemployment and poverty” had led to a dramatic “increase" in drug abuse across Iraq and that drugs were becoming wide spread, in places where child labour is commonly used - such as in car repair shops and road junctions, where cheap goods are often sold. 

The Baghdad Post reported how the Islamic State were cultivating opium in Sharqat to finance their terror based operations. According to the online publication, opium was being used to extract heroin in the laboratories of the University of Mosul, after falling under IS control in June 2014. 

In Kurdistan, security forces raided a drugs farm in October 2016 and found narcotics with an estimated value of around $1 million. The mountainous nature and rough terrain of Northern Iraq, had made it difficult for security services to detect this and other drug farms in the area. 

In 2017, it was highlighted by the Associated Press, how Iraq’s national security agency confirmed the presence of facilities producing drugs - such as crystal meth - in Basra and Maysan provinces in the south of Iraq. 

According to anti-narcotics officers in Basra, since 2014 the drugs trade has flourished because of the vacuum left, when security forces were moved from the borders to join the fight against the Islamic State, which swept through nearly a third of Iraq that year. 

Those vulnerable to drug abuse and those experiencing drug addictions, are people living with conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - where extreme acts of violence and isolation due to instability - has left people turning to substances to "numb" the pain of conflict. 

While treatments for such conditions often vary, the Narconon rehabilitation service, holds a different perspective to other treatments for drugs and substance abuse. Narconon don’t have “patients”, “victims” or even “addicts” - they have "students who are learning to live a successful drug-free life." 

As people are often proscribed drugs - to suppress cravings or to dumb down the psychological element of addiction with anti-depressants - Narconon offers more therapeutic "natural" remedies, with "no substitute drugs" and seek long lasting solutions by addressing the question; "what drove a person to drugs in the first place?" 

Quite often, people living with PTSD can experience sleeplessness, feelings of detachment, alienation and a lack of motivation, suicidal thoughts and yes - drug abuse. The traumatic experience gives so much mental attention to the past - that even years after the traumatic incident - the person is often left with "little or no attention for the here and now." 

In an approach similar to other rehabilitation techniques - like Mindfulness or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy - Narconon recognises the connection between mental health and addiction. "A person’s attention can be stuck in thousands of different moments", where a persons "behaviour can be influenced by past experiences." 

As Iraq emerges from the battle with Islamic State and seeks to rehabilitate its infrastructure, people also need their own rehabilitation services to overcome the hidden wounds of war. People need to be mindful, Iraq's current approaches to overcoming addiction may also be under-developed. 

While the professional brain drain Iraq experienced due to conflict, may mean addictions have been left untreated, it's worth giving consideration to the fact; that bricks and mortar can replace the material scars of conflict but drug abuse and the absence of mental health services, can also lead to other long term conflicts. 

Hussein Al-alak is the editor of Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra)


Friday, 15 June 2018

  • June 15, 2018
  • Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra)
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On Sunday 20th May, I took part in the Manchester 10K - to raise awareness of the AMAR Foundation

Established 25 years ago by Baroness Emma Nicholson, the AMAR Foundation has grown into a dynamic organisation, whose work is playing a leading role across Iraq. 

The following articles represent just some of the conversations we had, in the run up to the Manchester 10K and provide some explanation to the reasons, why taking part in the Great Manchester Run - was and is an important feature - to supporting people in Iraq. 


Like most competitors, Manchester’s Hussein Al-Alak has his own unique training routine for the Manchester 10k. While not a serious athlete as such – “I like to walk, a fast walk,” he says – Hussein is deadly serious about helping make a difference in Iraq. 


Among those taking part in the Manchester 10K, is Hussein Al-alak a resident of Manchester, who has decided to run for the AMAR Foundation, in response to the services AMAR is providing. These include Escaping Darkness - a specialist mental health service that was established by AMAR, to support rescued Yazidi women overcome the trauma of kidnap, sexual abuse and modern day slavery. 


Baroness Emma Nicholson, chairperson of the AMAR Foundation and member of the House of Lords, has given her support for Hussein Al-alak, ahead of the Manchester 10K. Hussein is running to aid the work of AMAR in Iraq. The charity was founded by Britain's Baroness Nicholson twenty-five years ago. 


Among its projects, AMAR launched it's Bazwaya Health Centre in early 2018 - which now serves a minimum of 15.000 people in Mosul and later on this year, will also open the doors to it's new maternity and paediatric hospital in Basra. Baroness Emma Nicholson - AMAR's chairperson - described how through Escaping Darkness, the charity now provides specialist trauma care to 35.000 members of Iraq's Yazidi community.


Thursday, 31 May 2018

  • May 31, 2018
  • Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra)
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The following interview was conducted by Hussein Al-alak, with Cindy Fogleman of the Iraqi Children Foundation. The ICF is a US based charity, whose work takes a long term approach and seeks lasting solutions to support Iraq's orphans, street kids and displaced children. By providing a range of services in Iraq, ICF intervenes in the lives of children - who are vulnerable to abuse, neglect, and exploitation. 

What is your name and what is the role you have with the Iraqi Children Foundation? 

My name is Cindy and I currently serve as a full time volunteer for ICF. My professional background is in foreign policy and legislation, as well as finance. I provide staff support to ICF Chairman Mo Khudairi and the President Barbara Marlowe in carrying out our vision to intervene in the lives of Iraq's orphans and most vulnerable kids who are at risk of abuse, neglect, and exploitation by criminals, traffickers, and extremists. 

Who are the Iraqi Children Foundation and what is their background?

ICF was founded about 10 years ago by Americans working in Iraq during the war. Today, our Board and Advisors include Iraqi-Americans, veterans, lawyers, former US and Iraq Ambassadors, and one of America's leading experts on child welfare. 

Can you please tell us about the work of the ICF in Iraq? 

Glad you asked! So often we get questions about adoption or orphanages. We do neither. Many desperately poor orphans, street kids, and displaced children in Iraq live with widowed mothers or extended family so we focus on providing support "in place" through education, nutrition, legal protection, stopping child labor, health care, and more. We work through competent, trusted Iraqi NGO partners to ensure effective solutions in the Iraq context. 

How does the ICF support children inside of Iraq? 

Through our Baghdad Street Lawyers, we have provided legal protection and aid to kids who are picked up for begging, targeted for trafficking, unfairly charged with a crime, and other cases. These lawyers also provide kids with missing legal identity documents that are needed to enrol in school or to get government food and financial benefits. 

Social workers help kids by ending child labor, obtaining health care, mediating in cases of abuse, accessing orphanage care (as a last resort), and other cases. Our first "Hope Bus" is a colorful school-on-wheels, decorated with Dora Explorer and Sponge Bob, that provides 50-55 kids in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Baghdad with tutoring in reading, writing, science, and other academic subjects as well as a nutritious lunch, health care, life lessons, recreation, and art. 

But an estimated 100 more kids need the same loving care so we are currently raising funds to launch "Hope Bus 2!" 

ICF holds the "In Their Shoes 5K" run for Iraq, can you please tell us about this? 

The 5K has been held for 6 years and is our annual fundraising event for Iraq's orphans and most vulnerable children. It is a run/walk followed by an after-party of Iraqi food, gelato, and - this year - live music by the "Salaam Band" and dancing. We also have face painting and balloons for kids. 

It is a great way to gather the Iraqi-American community, veterans who served in Iraq, Iraqi and US diplomats, students, families, and business people who are interested in Iraq. It is fun but also does a lot of good by generating support for our projects and bringing like-hearted people together. 

"In Their Shoes" is held annually in the USA, how can people in Britain get involved? 

This year, BP joined ICF by hosting a "sister" 5K in Basra, Iraq and raised thousands of dollars for Iraqi orphans and vulnerable kids! It would be great fun to have a "sister" In Their Shoes 5K in Britain too! There is always 2019! 

If not, mobilizing an ICF team for Iraqi kids at another 5K or 10K, like in London, Manchester or Scotland - to help raise funds, or even supporting our US 5K by being a business sponsor are ways to help. We are happy to explore these and other ways to do more, to provide care to the Iraqi children we love and serve. Just reach out to us!


Saturday, 26 May 2018

  • May 26, 2018
  • Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra)
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On Thursday 24th May, highly acclaimed Iraqi author Ahmed Saadawi spoke in the city of Manchester, about his award winning novel "Frankenstein in Baghdad". 

Hosted by the Manchester Metropolitan University, Mr. Saadawi was joined by guests and fellow speakers, who recited excerpts from his book in both Arabic and English. 

Below is a clip of Ahmed Saadawi reading from his award winning book "Frankenstein in Baghdad", which is available to purchase from all good bookshops.



Sunday, 13 May 2018

  • May 13, 2018
  • Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra)
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It was a pleasure to attend the unveiling of a plaque in Chorlton-Cum-Hardy, Manchester, on Saturday 12th May, in honour of Madge Addy; a former nurse in the Spanish Civil War and World War Two agent for the Special Operations Executive. 

The mission of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) was sabotage and subversion behind enemy NAZI lines and upon the instruction of then Prime Minister Winston Churchill, SOE were ordered to ‘set Europe ablaze!’ 

SOE are known for the heroic role that women played during WW2, with agents including Noor Inayat Khan, who died in Dachau Concentration Camp and Odette Hallowes, who later testified against guards charged with war crimes at the Ravensbrück Trials. 

Other known names include Violette Szabo - whose legacy was cemented due to the smash hit film Carve Her Name with Pride - after being executed in Ravensbrück Concentration Camp and “the white mouse” Nancy Wake, who died in London in 2011. 

Madge Addy is the second known member of Special Operations Executive, to have lived in the Chorlton area of Manchester. A Mr. Patrick Fleury, who lived on Barlow Hall Road and died in the Wythenshawe Hospital in 2007, also served with SOE during World War Two. 

Among those who spoke at Saturday’s event, included Eddy Newman, the Lord Mayor of Manchester, Jeff Smith MP, Alison Bunn of the Royal British Legion and the International Brigade Memorial Trust, who organised the event.


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