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."