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Archive for May 3rd, 2008

Iraq could be designated officially “religiously unfree”

Posted by Judy K. Warner on May 3, 2008

Eli Lake writes in the New York Sun:

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is split along party lines over whether to designate Iraq as a “country of particular concern” for religious freedom….

The commission yesterday sent a letter to Secretary of State Rice, saying, “We remain seriously concerned about religious freedom conditions in Iraq. The commission is traveling to the region later in the month and plans to issue its report and recommendation on Iraq in the near future, including a recommendation concerning the appropriate designation of Iraq this year under the International Religious Freedom Act.”

The writer interviewed Nina Shea, a longtime advocate for religious freedom and other human freedoms and a member of the commission, whom I greatly respect.

“I have been very concerned with the plight of religious minorities in Iraq,” Ms. Shea said in an interview. “This is one of the most intolerant places in the world for religious minorities. Half the Christians and half the Yazidis are believed to have fled Iraq since 2003. Six hundred thousand Christians have fled the country. There are about 500,000 Yazidis left. Eighty-five to 90% of the Mandeans have left,” she said.

Ms. Shea added, though, that reliable data on this question was hard to come by. She said that was one of the reasons the commission would be traveling to Damascus this month, to conduct more interviews with persecuted religious minorities forced to flee Iraq. “I wasn’t satisfied with our findings on this in the end,” she said. “We want to go Syria and learn more. Part of the problem is there are not many good reports out there.”

Ms. Shea was particularly worried about the status of Iraqi Christians who are forced to flee inside Iraq to internally displaced persons camps. “It is not a well-known fact that the government has instated a food ration coupon. When you become internally displaced, your food ration card is cut off. … I think it is incumbent on the Maliki government to provide food for these people,” she said….

While the outcome of the fight over Iraq inside the commission is in doubt, it may spur the White House to pressure the Iraqi government to provide more services for displaced Christians. “I think the Bush administration should be doing a lot more and should make keeping these small minorities in the country a priority,” Ms. Shea said. “Historically Iraq has been a pluralistic mosaic and these minorities are generally well educated and politically moderate. They help advance democracy and freedom in that country. It will be a Pyrrhic victory to have stabilized Iraq only to find it fanatically intolerant of Christians and other non-Muslim religions.”

I look forward to the commission’s report when they visit the region.

Posted in Christian refugees, Iraqi refugees | Comments Off on Iraq could be designated officially “religiously unfree”

Congressional testimony on Iraqi refugees

Posted by Judy K. Warner on May 3, 2008

A representative of the Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops testified before a congressional subcommittee on May 1. The group resettles 15,000 to 20,000 refugees in the U.S. each year. She recommended action in four areas:

The Administration and Congress must increase efforts to deliver basic humanitarian assistance to Iraqi refugees.  Not only will this require the provision of more funds, but it also will require more diplomatic initiatives to ensure that the global community also contributes much needed assistance;

The Administration must step up efforts to make available resettlement opportunities for vulnerable Iraqi refugees, both in the United States and in other countries; 

Special attention must be paid to extremely vulnerable populations, including unaccompanied refugee minors, women heads-of-households, and other groups; 

Specific needs, such as health services (including mental health), education, and basic food and shelter, must be addressed.   Protection within host countries is also deteriorating, as refugee families without formal legal status remain at risk.   

This is the typical mindset of resettlement agencies. They work in the humanitarian field and see everything through that lens. Of course, there is much to agree on — we should be aiding the refugees in Syria and Jordan. But the only solutions are humanitarian ones in their eyes — resettlement or continuing aid where the refugees are now. Here is how the idea of repatriation is dealt with:

None of the families I spoke with in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey or Syria indicated that they thought they would ever be able to return to Iraq. Even if they do with to return, prospects do not look bright, as it is unsafe to return to Iraq anytime in the near future.

This is what the UN survey we reported on a couple of days ago indicated also. I want to know why. Last October and November refugees were returning in the tens of thousands. Did it turn out so badly for them that their fellow refugees figure they can never go home? I haven’t seen any reports of what happened to the returnees.

This idea that 90 percent of Iraqi refugees surveyed, and all of the families the testifier spoke to, thought they could never go back to Iraq, is simply not credible. It sounds like an idea that is to be planted in the minds of members of Congress and the Bush administration, and whatever public is interested. Why?

I can think of a couple of reasons. One is that it gives the resettlement agencies a huge job to do with all the government funds and expansion of the agencies that entails. It makes them very important. And it sets in cement the idea the war in Iraq is lost to chaos and terror.

I don’t think all of these NGO people necessarily think this out. But that is their mindset. And I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them were deliberately bending the truth. Here is an indication of their mindset, given after the usual criticism of how few Iraqi refugees we have taken: 

Mr. Chairman, we are capable of meeting this number [the 60,000 per year the organization is calling for], but it would require a larger commitment of diplomatic and financial resources. In fact, there is precedence in U.S. history for staging a large resettlement program for specific populations. For example, in 1975, near the end of the Vietnam War the United States resettled close to 135,000 Vietnamese refugees.  During the Orderly Departure Program (ODP) in 1992, at least 10,000 persons were interviewed and processed each month. These efforts helped save thousands of lives.  In response to the refugee crisis in Kosovo, the United States processed and admitted over 14,000 refugees within a six-month period.

I see the parallel with Vietnam frequently. It is not a good analogy. We withdrew from Vietnam, leaving the people who had helped us to a terrible fate, as well as those who were simply on the wrong side. There was no possibility of helping them within Vietnam. But we are still fighting in Iraq, and our goal is to make the country a safe place. To adopt a policy that all of the refugees have to resettled elsewhere would be to give up our goal. There are many people who do not believe we can achieve that goal, but that is not our official government policy.

There is the further consideration that some of the refugees are our enemies. We know that many of Saddam’s supporters fled Iraq before, during and after our invasion. They are among the refugees in Syria and Jordan. Therefore vetting would-be refugees cannot be done casually or quickly. Those Kosovo refugees brought in so quickly turned out to include a number of terrorists.

The testimony is too long to cover fully here. I do want to quote part of the testimony on the Christian refugees:

Legislation enacted into law in January of 2008 makes religious minorities a special priority for resettlement in the United States, yet to date the Administration has not announced implementation of special processing for this group.  Religious communities here have come forward with lists of families known to have fled Iraq, but to date the only processing available to them is either through UNHCR referral or access through lengthy and burdensome family-based procedures.   

All of us hope that resettlement to a third country is not the long-term solution for the plight of religious minorities in Iraq.  These ancient communities deserve the right to remain in their homeland and maintain their religious identity.  The Holy See continues to urge protection for religious minorities within Iraq.   There is no doubt, however, that for some, resettlement outside of the region may be their best option.

This is the only mention that I saw in the testimony of resettling people back in Iraq.

It seems to me that some coordination between refugee organizations and the Defense Department would be in order. Or whatever agency of the government is working on rebuilding in Iraq. Has anyone tried to come up with a plan for enabling Christians to return safely? Or figuring out what conditions are needed to allow large numbers of refugees to go home? I am always faulting the NGOs for emphasizing resettlement, but this is really not their fault: it is what they do. It is the government’s fault for not dealing with the refugee problem in a larger context.

Posted in Christian refugees, Iraqi refugees, Muslim refugees, Reforms needed, Refugee Resettlement Program | Comments Off on Congressional testimony on Iraqi refugees

Refugees International gets award from Arab pressure group

Posted by Ann Corcoran on May 3, 2008

Now the picture begins to get clearer.  I just have not been able to wrap my brain around the fact that NGO’s who work in the field of refugee resettlement appear to be focusing on bringing Muslims into the U.S.   Can’t they see what is happening in Europe?  Why would they want to bring those problems here?

One such group leading that effort with on-going concern for Somali Muslims, Rohingya, and Iraqi Muslims is Refugees International. 

Then up pops a press release from them touting an award they received at the end of April from one of the leading pro-Arab groups in the United States—the Arab American Institute.   The picture comes into sharper focus.  Their press release begins:

On April 23rd, Refugees International was presented with the prestigious Award for International Commitment at the Arab American Institute’s Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Awards gala. RI was recognized for 29 years of confronting the world’s worst refugee crises through a unique combination of advocacy and action. As actor and RI board member Sam Waterston said to the 800-strong audience: “When people ask me about Refugees International, I say it is a gadfly, a pest, an irritant to governments and institutions that fail do enough to protect the world’s 50 million displaced and stateless people…and it has many times moved mountains.”

Here is what Discover the Networks says about the Arab American Institute. 

Then go over to the Arab American Institute site and  get a look at this event.  The keynote speaker was Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas no less!   By the way, Refugees International gave testimony to Congress in March about the dire circumstances of the persecuted Iraqi refugees.  They say they have the most concern for Iraqis who have worked for us and for the Iraqi Palestinians.   What no concern for the truly persecuted Christians?     I’m getting yet a more focused picture.

 RI found two particularly vulnerable groups—people who have worked for U.S. or Western employers and Palestinians.

The prestigious Kahlil Gibran “Spirit of Humanity” Award was given at the April 23rd dinner to Refugees International Chairman of the Board,  Farooq Kathwari.   Need I say more.  Mr. Kathwari is the mega-wealthy owner of Ethan Allen Furniture and a supporter of the pro-Muslim Kashmiri seperatist movement.   You can read about him here, and here.

The above links also discuss Kathwari’s American born son who reportedly dropped out of medical school to become a fighter in the Jihad and died in Afghanistan.

Secretary of State Condolezza Rice also gave Kathwari an award–the Outstanding American by Choice–on the same day as the Arab American Institute dinner.  Busy guy!  Read about it here.   

What a tangled web.  So, Muslim immigration will increase in America because groups like Refugees International are run by Islamists.  It’s too bad the general public doesn’t have all the facts about who is running our government.  I used to like Secretary Rice.  I even thought at one point she might make a good President, but what a dhimmi she has become.  I wonder if Mr. Kathwari had a role in convincing her to drop the word “Jihad” from the government’s lexicon.

Posted in Changing the way we live, diversity's dark side, Iraqi refugees, Muslim refugees, Refugee Resettlement Program, Rohingya Reports | 6 Comments »

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