UPDATE regarding the Medicine and Clothes drop for Internally Displaced Iraqis.
Our in person delivery of your reparations started in Dohuk, in the north of Iraqi Kurdistan. The majority of Yazidi have fled to Dohuk over the past year. Thousands are living in unfinished construction sites, under trees and highway barriers, and anywhere they can lay down a mat. Others live in even worse conditions in refugee camps outside of the city. Around every corner and in every alley a family has set up a make- shift shelter. Some landowners have allowed people to live in their construction sites for free, but others are charging rent!
Most families lack access to basic hygiene, clean water, or privacy. Heat exhaustion was killing Yazidi children and elderly: now cold winter weather is the primary concern. The camps are overcrowded, with poor sanitation and a lack of nutrient rich food is always a problem. Medicine is especially difficult to access. From visiting Yazidi families, it is apparent that most have been through unspeakable trauma, from the death or disappearance of their men, still fighting within Northern Iraq, or the kidnapping of young women. You can see the stress take on physical form across the old faces of Yazidi children.
In Dohuk we partnered with a local mobile clinic in order to provide medicine, and more importantly preventative health supplements including protein powder, baby formula, vitamins, and diaper rash ointment/ skin ointment. We also purchased the most in-demand medications with your reparations funds: hydrocortisone skin ointment, nasal drops for children, anti-diarrheal medication, and treatment for urinary tract infections for the mobile clinic to distribute.
We did our best to communicate the reparations message, but found that the sheer quantity of need was overwhelming. Our interaction with Yazidi families made it clear that there is never any possible way to clean up because of the sheer number of messes the US Empire has made. The most meaningful impact in such a large-scale disaster is to prevent war and massive weapons distribution in the first place.
Next we moved to Shaqlawa, near Erbil. Here we spent time with farming families from Anbar, displaced by the US funded Maliki bombings of their towns. We provided cold-weather jackets for all 25 of the children for one very poor family, and conducted interviews with many others. We were able to communicate the reparations message, and many Anbari families engaged the concept with enthusiasm.
Not only was in-person delivery of tangible supplies and goods important, it allowed for the beginnings of reconciliation with the Iraqi people, whose lives have been impacted on every level by the US invasion of Iraq, and the subsequent unraveling of Iraqi society. We were amazed by people’s graciousness in receiving us into their homes, discussing US responsibility for the situation in Iraq, sharing meals with us, and talking politics.
We’ve now spent the total amount that was donated for the emergency project. Its been a conflicting experience. People need food, medicine, and warmer clothing and yet as we distributed these items amongst Iraqis, we can’t help but think about how vast the need is. Millions of people displaced to Iraqi Kurdistan where the medical system wasn’t really equipped to sufficiently treat its own population in the first place. Truly, any country would go bankrupt trying to meet the needs of these refugees, which is why the solution is to simply stop bombing people. No one can afford to clean up the mess we make.
Nevertheless, many were assisted by your emergency funds. Many Yazidi families received vitamins, baby formula, anti- biotics, sanitary pads, and soccer balls. One Anbari family received winter clothing just as the fall rains set in. We’ve learned a lot about the Kurdish medical system, its emergency response capabilities, and the many issues with the western aid apparatus in general.
We’d like to take this moment to thank you for partnering with us in offering voluntary reparations and starting a very important conversation between Iraqis and Americans. They are eager to repair their lives just as you can imagine they are eager for the bombs to stop. Islah will maintain its contacts in Kurdistan and will continue to push for deeper conversations about collective responsibility in the face of the current political climate. Two members of our team will be returning to Iraqi Kurdistan in March to continue offering reparations. We ask that you bring up the idea of collective responsibility for the Iraq tragedy in your own circles. Only in the US is Iraq over as you can see from the political backlash about the CIA’s torture practices. People don’t want to remember, but Iraq happened and is still happening for the people of Iraq.