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As the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the Middle East, Iraq Foundation has begun taking precautions to ensure that its staff in Washington D.C. and Iraq remain safe. Notably, as the pandemic was emerging, the Iraqi government announced restrictions on the mobility of people within Iraq and banned travel to and from the country. In response, Iraq Foundation has made updates to its Risk Management framework and has implemented a new risk reporting form specifically for COVID-19.

Our Risk Management framework, updated as of April 2020, rates the likelihood of a risk occurring and how serious the impact would be on a scale from 1-5. From there, we calculate a combined score by multiplying the two responses together, to give an overall risk rating which indicates the overall severity of the risk. The overall rating can range from 1 to 25. IF’s Country Manager Dhefaf Al Jarahi assessed the COVID-19 pandemic and concluded that the risk probability shall be rated a 5/5 and the risk impact shall be rated a 4/5 giving an overall risk rating of 20.

Ms. Jarahi noted that direct communication and engagement with IF partners and beneficiaries is still possible through digital platforms. Thus, operations on IF’s Improving Policy, Service Delivery, Gender Equality, and Responsiveness to Iraqi Citizens project will continue as planned.

The consequences posed by COVID-19 on IF’s current project, being completed in tandem with GPG and funded by SIDA, are as follows: IF staff will need to work remotely; all meetings and activities with partners, stakeholders, and beneficiaries will not take place in-person. Once the curfew in Iraq has been lifted, IF’s staff will begin using the office on a limited basis with social distancing precautions. 

To mitigate the impact of these consequences, IF has examined which activities and meetings are capable of being shifted to an online platform and which ones must be delayed until after the crisis. Attached here, you can view Ms. Jarahi’s full assessment.

By Zaid Fattah

Photo Credits: Anadolu Agency

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, a collapse in global oil prices, and the absence of a well-functioning government, Iraqi pensioners have had to deal with yet another crisis: pension cuts. 

Just three weeks ago, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi’s cabinet voted to cut salaries and pensions for public employees by 10 percent, sparking public outrage. At first, the Prime Minister clarified that the resolution would only impact higher-level governmental officials. However, this was not the case. When Nisrine Saleh arrived at the bank to withdraw her monthly pension, she noticed that her $920 allowance was nearly $100 short. For many Iraqis like Nisrine, their monthly pension has served as an economic haven in the wake of tumbling oil prices from the global pandemic. 

As the primary source of funding for nearly 90 percent of Iraq’s budget, Oil exports, and their recent drastic price shocks, have left the country in a vulnerable position. The government cut pensions — amongst a plethora of other financial reforms —  in an effort to reduce their monthly operating budget deficit of $5 billion. 

Soon enough, it became apparent that the impact on the budget deficit was nominal compared to the economic strain it imposed on individuals. Compared to last year’s monthly earning average of $6.5 billion, Iraq has only earned $2.9 billion in March, $1.4 billion in April, and $2.9 billion in May. Combined with the monthly $1 billion Iraq needs to pay oil companies, $3.5 billion for salaries, and $1 billion for pensions, it is clear that the cabinet’s decision would by no means save the Iraqi economy. 

Following protests and outcry, the Iraqi parliament voted to reverse the government’s order. It also refused to impose any new taxes that would provide revenue streams to the government. Furthermore, state-run banks have announced that pensioners could pick up the money that was deducted from their previous payment. A member of the Iraqi parliament’s finance commented on the incident saying that everything would be fine and that the government’s policy mistakes should be disregarded. But for the millions of Iraqis whose livelihood was put on the line, is it possible to let such mistakes fly by so frequently?

By Zaid Fattah

Photo Credits: Almada Paper

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to prove its deadly unwavering control over the Middle East, the Islamic State has seen nothing but opportunity. Just a few days ago, members of the Islamic State killed four individuals, injuring many more, in Iraq’s Diyala province. Furthermore, last week, the Iraq military proclaimed the loss of two soldiers to a roadside bomb, allegedly planted by the Islamic State. Evidently, attacks like these have been commonplace in Iraq; unfortunately, they show no sign of slowing down.

While former Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s may have declared defeat over the terrorist organization in December 2017, reports of violence tell a completely different story. Since his address, the Islamic State has been responsible for numerous major attacks and hundreds of others which haven’t made news headlines. Although the current global pandemic has been a main driver in the recent rise in attacks, it is far from the sole cause. The Islamic State has utilized the security gap between the Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraq as a catalyst for carrying out attacks.  The current global pandemic has done nothing but exacerbate such carnage. But why?

The Islamic State’s sudden increase in domestic activity could be attributed to their explicit targeting of rural parts of Iraq. Since making its first appearance in Iraq in 2006, the Islamic State has constantly terrorized the Kirkuk, Diyala, and Saladin provincial regions. In targeting such rural areas, where Iraqi military forces are underrepresented, attacks — big and small — go unaddressed, leading to fewer losses for the Islamic State. Furthermore, the assassination of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani has only exacerbated tensions between the United States and the region, causing a withdrawal of aerial surveillance. This has ultimately left attacks unchecked and unpunished, and has subsequently led to the stark increase in such occurrences.

The global pandemic has also provided more opportunities for the radical organization to recruit members. Recent statements from ISIS have stressed the fact that COVID-19 came at the helm of global disobedience and have proposed that the only solution is piety to Islam. Rampant propaganda efforts to disperse recruitment content has led to the Islamic State being active on over a dozen social media platforms now according to Rita Katz, director of SITE Intelligence Group. Islamic State leader Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi even admits to this view point stating in an online message, “What you are witnessing these days are only signs of big changes in the region that’ll offer greater opportunities than we had previously in the past decade.” This online recruitment message is translated by Hassan Hassan, the director of the Non-State Actors in Fragile Environments Program at the Center for Global Policy.

Furthermore, onslaughts of protestors have disrupted the Iraq government’s ability to deal with acts of terror. When people took to the streets of Baghdad on October 1st, 2019, they sought to convey their anger towards the seemingly perennial corruption and high unemployment that has plagued Iraq for decades. To contain the October Revolution, as it came to be known, the Iraqi government diverted its attention and resources. In doing so, the Islamic State was able to gain hegemony in the region, further disrupting the government’s ability to maintain control.

As the Iraqi government continues its fight against the coronavirus, it’s imperative that they do not look past the lurking presence of the Islamic State, a virus which has disrupted the government’s efforts and desires for stability for over a decade.

By Zaid Fattah

Photo Credits: The Financial Times

The Iraq Foundation (IF) wishes to contract with an External Evaluator to carry out an independent evaluation of its Women Against Violence and Extremism (WAVE) project, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. The one-year project is implemented in Ramadi, Anbar province; Tikrit, Salaheddin province; and Mosul and Hamdaniya, in Nenawa province, and targeted women, families, and local communities. For further information please see the attached Terms of Reference document.

Family event in Mosul

The Iraq Foundation (IF) is currently implementing a 12-month pilot project in 4 locations: the city of Mosul and Hamdaniya in Nenawa governorate; Hayy Al-Mal’ab in Ramadi, Anbar governorate; and Hayy Arba’een in the city of Tikrit, Salaheddin governorate, with the goal of equipping women to build family and community resilience against violence and extremism. The project is providing a core group (56) of returnee (and IDP) women who are survivors of violence with training to enable them to coach and guide a broader segment of women in their communities. Trained women “coaches” will reach out to and work with a broader group of women in the community to increase their understanding about VE and coach them to recognize extremist and violent behavior, build family resilience, and evolve strategies and tools to promote tolerance and moderation, and to resolve conflicts peacefully.

In the period December 1, 2018 -February 28, 2019, the Iraq Foundation and its partners implemented Objective 2 of the project. We completed the dialogue meetings (Objective 2, Activity 3), launched the family events (Objective 2, Activity 4), and held feedback meetings (Objective 2, Activity 5). Women Leaders (WL) who received training through the project held meetings with community women, of whom a large proportion are mothers, to raise awareness about VE, help women to identify signs of extremism or manifestations of violence, and coach them on building resilience by resolving family and community conflicts peacefully and through moderation and dialogue. WL encouraged community women to speak about their experiences and observations regarding violence and/or extremism, and how women can become mediators and agents in countering VE. Family events brought together mothers and children (both girls and boys) in community settings where competitive game

Family event in Hamdaniya

s and activities were played. WL and mothers observed the behavior of children during the competition to learn about children’s interactions and their ability to cooperate and compete peacefully. Local officials attended some of the family events. Following dialogue meetings and family events, WL held feedback sessions with mothers to assess the results of dialogues and community events and provide further coaching to mothers.

Notably, understanding about VE is expanding beyond the immediate beneficiaries targeted by the project. Community women who participated in the dialogue meetings, family events, and feedback sessions have been spreading their newly acquired knowledge and skills to other women, men, and children in their extended families and the community (please see Personal Narratives section below). WL have strengthened their status as coaches and mentors, and community women have encouraged others to benefit from their skills in mediation of conflicts or handling difficult situations with children. Teachers and other professionals who have participated in the project have been especially active in using their acquired knowledge and skills in their work environment, such as in classrooms, in medical clinics, and on the media. Local officials were supportive of the project, seeing it as a valuable contribution to CVE in their communities.

The Iraq Foundation (IF) is currently implementing a 12-month pilot project in 4 locations: the city of Mosul and Hamdaniya in Nenawa governorate; Hayy Al-Mal’ab in Ramadi, Anbar governorate; and Hayy Arba’een in the city of Tikrit, Salaheddin governorate, with the goal of equipping women to build family and community resilience against violence and extremism. The project is providing a core group (56) of returnee (and IDP) women who are survivors of violence with training to enable them to coach and guide a broader segment of women in their communities. Trained women “coaches” will reach out to and work with a broader group of women in the community to increase their understanding about VE and coach them to recognize extremist and violent behavior, build family resilience, and evolve strategies and tools to promote tolerance and moderation, and to resolve conflicts peacefully.

During the quarter September – November 2018, Iraq Foundation and its partners completed the third segment of the training for women in the four locations (Objective 1, Activity 2), with a three-day workshop devoted to developing their coaching and mentoring skills. Following this workshop, the women leaders began holding meetings with mothers in the community (Objective 2, Activity 3). The purpose of these “dialogue meetings” is to spread understanding of VE more broadly within the community through women’s networks, neighbors and families, and sensitize local women to manifestations of extremism and violence, whether within the family or within the community, with the objective of building resilience within families..

Women leaders used the coaching skills they had acquired through training to encourage women to question behavior around them, identify markers of violence, and explore ways in which women can mediate and mitigate actual or potential conflict, and encourage negotiation, moderation, and tolerance. Women leaders also undertook initiatives to mediate conflicts in the community, especially within families or between families.   They led meetings with local officials and stakeholders to inform them of their CVE mission and solicit their active participation and support in preventing or protecting against violence and undertaking remedial actions to avert potential extremism, such as among youth in schools.

As bereaved mothers, sisters, daughters, and wives, women bear the brunt of violence brought on by radicalization. They, therefore, have a vested interest in peace and stability for their families and communities, and they should be empowered and mobilized to be at the forefront of countering violence and extremism (VE).

Iraq Foundation (IF) is implementing a 12-month pilot project in 4 locations: the city of Mosul and Hamdaniya in Nenawa governorate; Hayy Al-Mal’ab in Ramadi, Anbar governorate; and Hayy Arba’een in the city of Tikrit, Salaheddin governorate, with the goal of equipping women to build family and community resilience against violence and extremism. The project is providing a core group (56) of returnee (and IDP) women who are survivors of violence with training to enable them to coach and guide a broader segment of women in their communities. Trained women “coaches” will reach out to and work with a broader group of women in the community to increase their understanding about VE and coach them to recognize extremist and violent behavior, build family resilience, and evolve strategies and tools to promote tolerance and moderation, and to resolve conflicts peacefully.

While addressing women directly, the project also addresses stresses and tensions faced by families and therefore has a “whole community” dimension. The goal is to enable women, particularly those who have lost loved ones, to become agents for peace and moderation, to bolster resilience to radicalization among family members, and to develop women-led, community-based solutions to the problem of violence and extremism. The project will allow women to discuss challenges, define markers of VE from their own experiences, and come up with family-based interventions and community-based activities that can be effective within the family framework. The project takes into account ethnic and religious diversity in post-conflict locations and seeks to reflect diversity, and tolerance of diversity, in its programming.

The Iraq Foundation is pleased and honored to announce that Ms. Raya Barazanji has joined our Board.

Raya Barazanji is a senior program officer at the United States Institute for Peace for the Middle East programs focusing on Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Previously she managed the Institute’s grantmaking program related to the Middle East and Africa regions. Before joining the Institute in 2010, Barazanji worked on counterterrorism programs relating to Iraq and the broader Middle East for a private sector corporation. Prior to that, and for eight years, she served as the Chief Operating Officer of the Iraq Foundation. In that capacity, she led the organization’s team in implementing democracy-building and human rights training projects, as well as supporting USAID initiatives to revitalize Iraq’s education system and to develop the capacity of civil society organizations and independent media.

Additionally, she managed a community organization and integration program for Iraqi refugees in the U.S. in the late 90s. She has over 20 years of experience in the design and management of democracy and peacebuilding programs with NGOs and is an avid advocate for women’s rights and gender equality in the Middle East and the Muslim World. Barazanji holds a master’s degree in international law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, Tufts University, and a bachelor’s from the College of Arts, Al-Mustansiriyah University in Baghdad.

The Iraq Foundation is pleased to announce the launch of its new project, Women Against Violence and Extremism (WAVE). It will be a 12-month, ground-breaking project implemented in Ninawa, Anbar, and Salaheddin governorates with the goal of equipping women to build family and community resilience against violence and extremism and contribute to social peace in their communities. It will seek to build the capacities of women leaders to identify markers and indicators of radicalization and violence, teach skills to counter violent extremism within communities, and raise awareness and advocacy for women’s role as the first line of defense against extremism. The project is funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

GBV Case Study Report (Arabic)_Page_01GBV Case Study Report (Arabic)

November 25 was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and many countries, including Iraq, hold a 16-day commemoration, with events, articles, and advocacy. On this occasion, the Iraq Foundation is re-publishing a report we wrote on Gender-Based Violence (GBV), based on confidential interviews and data gathered from 1,583 women in five Iraqi governorates. Many of the women interviewed were internally displaced from the sectarian conflict that raged in Iraq from 2005-2008, compounding their predicament. The report has some horrifying statistics. For example, a full 8% of women said that they had been victims of incest. Over 30% were forced into marriages they did not want. 10% had suffered from severe physical assault by a family member. 4% had been raped. 13% were under the age of 15 when they married. 7% had been subject to genital mutilation. The situation has worsened dramatically since 2013, and yet the Iraqi parliament has been sitting on the draft of the Family Protection Law since 2012, and more recently some political parties want to change the Personal Status Law in ways that will harm women. Read our report: