IRAQI NGOs Enter the Light of International Cooperation
October 17, 2011,by Bruce Wallace, 121Contact
The recent ICSSI conference in Erbil, Iraq brought to light many of the issues that Iraqi citizens are working to correct. These newly formed NGOs are quickly learning how to approach their government from the bottom up, with civil society initiatives that are beginning to change the complexion of Iraqi politics.
Exactly five years ago Stars and Stripes reported about Haweeja in an article titled “U.S. military faces an overly hostile climate in out-of-the-way town populated by Sunnis” They depicted it as ”small and somewhat isolated in the farmlands between Kirkuk and Beiji about 175 miles north of Baghdad. Haweeja is a destitute sprawl of buildings.” What they did not report was the fact the Haweeja was so riddled with radioactive waste that that an entire newly disabled generation faces a lifelong threat of cancer and other radiation induced illnesses and birth defects. 25% of newborns in Haweeja are deformed and neither the Maliki government nor US authorities are doing anything about it. In fact, when a resident brought contaminated soil samples to the government he was threatened with investigation by US military forces.
The NGO OWFI, The Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, has added Haweeja to the list of concerns they bring to the Maliki government. Even after having been attacked and molested in June as they protested in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square they have not stopped their efforts to build a new, more just Iraq. Their research into the situation in Haweeja has been documented and reported on by Al Hurra TV, Al Faiah TV, Reuters, Al Mousawat Radio, and Al Sumeria news.
There are 412 radiation cases registered in the local clinic, and OWFI speaks of anecdotal evidence of about 600 cases. The source: a nearby US base and arsenal which conducted extensive live ammunition practice.
OWFI hopes to get help from international organizations to relieve the suffering and bring the situation under international court attention. They are part of the new, resilient, and determined NGOs that are lifting Iraq to more peaceful tomorrows.