Iraq – Most NGOs Losing Face

Published on (first on Inter Press Service), by Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail, 25 July, 2008.

BAGHDAD, Jul 23 (IPS) – Welcomed at first after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, most NGOs have run into scepticism and mistrust. Few remain to help.

Hundreds of local and foreign NGOs became active in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, after decades of restrictions under the regime of former dictator Saddam Hussein.

“The former Iraqi regime did not trust NGOs, and always thought them to be spies,” Muath A’raji of the National Societal Organisation, a human rights NGO based in Baghdad told IPS. “Iraqis used to think the regime was wrong, but now they have changed their minds because of the many false foreign NGOs that look more like contracting companies than humanitarian and human rights organisations” …

… A member of the Iraqi Red Crescent IRC in Fallujah denied that the Da’wa Party controls the organisation, but refused to answer IPS questions about the way they work.

Danger is clearly an inhibiting factor as well. The NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI), an independent initiative launched by a group of NGOs in Baghdad in April 2003, now comprises a network of about 80 international NGOs and 200 Iraqi NGOs.

The group does not provide a list of NGOs operating in Iraq because of “security concerns”, according to their website. “With the high risks taken by aid workers on the ground, at least 94 aid workers have been killed in Iraq since 2003 (updated on 27th of September 2007),” the group says.

NCCI adds: “Our data takes in consideration incidents reported to NCCI. As aid workers face the same difficulties as any civilians in Iraq, the figure could certainly be higher, particularly regarding local NGO staff.” (full text).

(Ali, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region).

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