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
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
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