Different Voices – Harnessing the Diaspora

By Madeleine White, educationalist, writer and Head of Strategic Partnerships, Whizz Education.

Last month saw the US Ambassador Fund offering grants from $200k to £2 million in order to find “creative and effective approaches to promote reconciliation and stability in Iraq and to improve the institutional capacity”. Other events include next month’s signing of a five year Education Strategy in Kurdistan and a newly stated desire by members of the Global Banking Alliance for Women to create sustainable finance initiatives in the region. The driving force behind these initiatives is both internal and external with powerful Iraqi voices leveraging global ideas and influence.  With this in mind, I thought it would be worth examining the role of the diaspora,  looking particularly how the creation of a ‘cyber’ environment, created by focused access to the internet,  could create a shared forum which links the voice, skills and experience of Iraqi born global citizen into regional development needs.

Estimates vary, but there are probably between four and five million Iraqi-born emigrants living in a wide range of countries. Wissal Al Allaq, translator and currently living in the UAE is one of these. She translated my presentation at the Global Education Forum in Dubai last week and, because I had referenced Iraq in my presentation, wanted to respond:

What you said hurt my heart, deep inside. You rightly point out the genocide in Kurdistan was terrible, but Kurdistan is not the only part of Iraq that experienced atrocities. I want you to hear this too. I am an Iraqi Arab who grew up with shared lives and friendships, both Sunni and Shia. Sadly, yesterday’s friends are enemies now due to the sectarian divide, something we never experienced in the past. To me, what is happening between Sunnis and Shias is another form of genocide.

“I don’t have a home because home is where you feel a sense of belonging. I’ve been in the UAE for the last 15 years. The irony is that most people here will eventually head home, while I can’t. I am still looking for that home of my heart and don’t know where to find it. I feel I’m stuck at a train station where I see people off and welcome new visitors – whilst never myself being able to board the train that will take me home.

3 Responses to Different Voices – Harnessing the Diaspora

  1. Bob March 14, 2013 at 12:59 am #

    How about spending that money in our own contry? For god sakes, must we take care of evey country and neglect our own? Wake up america!!!

  2. Madeleine March 14, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    Hi Bob
    Thanks for your comment. I am sure many will share your sentiments. However, it is worth considering this. Iraq is a country rich in natural resources, with the potential human resource ready and willing to make the most of things. By encouraging through initial funding seed projects that are able to contribute to overall knowledge share, information – building the knowledge economy, those natural resources can be catalysed. To you and to other Americans, Brits, Europeans etc. this means significant opportunities to turn the rebuilding of the physical and knowledge economy of Iraq into something that will build jobs ‘ at home’. Iraq is importing many skills, products and services. For example Samer’s business is growing – she is now working with several others, job-creation by servicing the needs of a building nation. Rather than seeing the Ambassador’s fund as money taken, see it as a short-term contribution, able to build long-term opportunities.

  3. Dr Jaffar Allawi, MD December 7, 2013 at 11:46 pm #

    Dear Madeleine, many thanks for contributing to the redevelopment of good old Iraq. People have different ways of helping this injured nation. I am doing a non-profit hospital for diabetes in Baghdad. The latter took me 4 years and great deal of money due to corruption. The problem I think is not just help but how and who should be helped. Iraq need urgent strategy to rehabilitate its social serious damage due to 40 years of wars and prolonged boycott. The education of population starting with children, mothers and later fathers with social care of the orphans and needy is paramount. A percentage of oil income should be located for social rehab. There are millions of highly educated Iraqi’s who unfortunately want to help Iraq by remot control. To those I would say that the killing in Iraq should have stopped the hundreds but thousands of foreign visitors and the excuse that they are terrified of terror is not acceptable. Help Iraq by physically getting Iraqi’s to go home. Moderate force by European countries and US may be required. God bless, Allawi,MD