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 Update for August 2011

 August 28, 2011 

 Art Dorland, Chair, IWP

The previous update on this site for Iraq Water Project, February 28, reported installation of one of our reverse osmosis units at a school in Halabja, Kurdish northeast Iraq, by the project’s Baghdad technician team. Over the past six years this small group of men, three in number, traveled singly or in pairs to various areas of the country, sometimes in relative safety and sometimes decidedly not. “Relative” is the operative word here, as no place in the shining democratic paradise created by US intervention can be considered what we would think of as “safe”.

The Baghdad team is now broken up and scattered. Two of its members are in Belgium seeking political asylum after exposure to apparently serious death threats in Iraq; the third man has left Baghdad and found employment somewhere else. Where these threats are coming from is not clear. I have been told by our former (and future) partner organization Life for Relief and Development that all western NGOs are being increasingly endangered in just this way, especially US groups. What a galling irony that Veterans for Peace is in some Iraqi minds flung together with the very invasion and occupation of their country that we have so consistently and shrilly protested, marched against and in some cases gone to jail to oppose.

For a long time our engineer friend Faiza, Iraqi intermediary between the team and the project back here in the states, lost all communication with the technicians. Now that they are accounted for and no longer in immediate physical danger, one anxiety is removed, though ultimate resolution of the asylum request is not necessarily promising. Arizona and Alabama are not the only places increasingly hostile to immigrants.

But loss of the team---in itself a setback---has created an unforeseen and most unfortunate complication for IWP. Almost all the water unit placement and repair work   these guys completed over the past four years came to life through personal channels, i.e. phone or perhaps email communication  between them and contacts/acquaintances in other parts of Iraq. The lead man had a brother working at Abu Ghraib prison, for example, which accounts for our unit placed there. This communication thread has parted, and we will probably no longer manage to service or even check up on many of the former installations. The problem was already apparent even before all this happened.

Due to wobbly and unpredictable security, return to former placement sites for repair and service was a good deal less frequent than you might hope. The call on where and when to go for such service was left entirely to the discretion of the technicians, the ones taking the risks. 

Some of the hospitals and clinics that received our water units may have the resources to keep them operable, but others will not. It is only fair to inform IWP donors of this consideration. Iraq is still a war zone, and a neat package of comfortable assurances to contributors is not exactly in our line.

Over the past several months, and in consequence of loss of this important manpower asset, IWP has cooperated with a local Iraqi NGO in the area of Nassiriya to place several more units at hospitals and clinics in Thee Qar province. The accompanying photographs show some of this work. We are also planning to rejoin forces with Life for Relief and Development, the United States Muslim NGO that carried out our rebuild of municipal and rural water treatment facilities when this project first started. Work with both these groups should improve our ability to monitor and maintain water units after installation, inshallah.

Perhaps you notice the absence of personal or organizational Iraqi names in this report. The reason should be pretty apparent: we don’t want anybody else heaved onto the mercies of western immigration authorities. Best wishes for our two guys in Brussels (hopefully they won’t have to come back), and we thank them for what they did while they were able.

Art Dorland, IWP Chair