Today we bid farewell to the first month of 2017, during which many of us have made and sought to maintain our New Year's resolutions. Mine, perhaps predictably for the Chairman of a charity, was to make sure that my organisation intensified its work supporting Iraqi IDPs who are in more dire need than ever before.
But resolutions are hard to keep when global affairs intervene.
My charity, the AMAR Foundation, prides itself on employing only national professionals in our 1,500-strong field team. We believe strongly that a wholly indigenous work force is the only way to build local capacity and reduce dependence on international aid. On my visits to Iraq, I am always deeply inspired by our Iraqi staff. Many are IDPs themselves who have often overcome unimaginable hardship to rebuild their own lives, only to dedicate them to helping their fellow citizens.
Dr. Ali Muthanna, Engineer Dunya Abdulamir, and Teacher Muneera Lazim are three shining examples of Iraqi people's determination to rebuild their own country.
These outstanding members of our team were due to visit the United States in April this year for our Annual Gala Dinners in Washington D.C. and Salt Lake City. They were scheduled to talk about AMAR's humanitarian work in Iraq, particularly with the thousands of men, women, and children who have suffered at the hands of Daesh terrorists. After these events, they were scheduled to give talks at leading American universities and to meet with senior U.S. medical experts.
What better way, I had thought, to further my New Year's resolution than by giving our trans-Atlantic friends the chance to hear first-hand the exceptional humanitarian work done by Iraqis, for Iraqis?
But recent developments have meant that Dr. Ali, Dunya, and Muneera are temporarily unable to travel to America.
It's a great pity that those who planned to attend the meetings in the United States will now not be able to learn from these highly-qualified and inspiring Iraqis who have so much valuable professional experience to share when it comes to humanitarian aid and peacebuilding.
All three have CVs that any Western professional would envy.
As a former refugee himself, Dr. Ali, our Regional Manager in Iraq since 2003, understands all too well the harrowing experiences of the country's increasing IDP population. He has built an illustrious career. Holding a Bachelor's degree in Medicine and General Surgery from Basra University, he is a member of the Iraqi Medical Association and the administrative committee of the 'Marsh Bulletin' scientific journal. He also organises numerous scientific conferences for his alma mater.
Dunya has worked as a Project Administrator for AMAR since 2010. An Engineering graduate from Basra University, she has managed many of our Emergency Assistance and Health programmes such as the Abu Sakir Health Post and Community Education project, working tirelessly to ensure their success.
Muneera joined AMAR as a Project Manager and Administrator in 2007. Leading programmes promoting women's empowerment, human rights, and democracy, she has dedicated herself to strengthening Iraqi communities.
I sincerely hope that the US border opens again as soon as possible to allow these wonderful people to visit.
Over three million Iraqis have been displaced by Daesh's barbaric war. With article upon article, and video upon video, emerging from Iraq showing the horrific impact of conflict, it is obvious that the country's innocent population deserve the full support of the international community. But what is too often forgotten in heated political debate on refugees and immigration is this: Iraqis deserve our help, but most of all they want to help themselves.
The many thousands of IDPs and refugees that I have met over the years have made it abundantly clear that they do not want to leave their homes or cast their fate into the hands of distant foreign politicians. All they want is something to which every human being should have the right: A peaceful and stable country in which they and their families can lead happy and fulfilling lives.
For 25 years, AMAR's courageous Iraqi staff have led the way in building this vision. Whatever further political challenges 2017 brings, I hope that the world and its leaders will join them.