Thursday, June 14, 2007

BE THEIR HOPE.


Khulood Habib was a 45-year-old seamstress, a mother of four living in Baghdad. One day, she received an envelope with a bullet in it, and a message ordering her to leave town. The next afternoon, gunmen broke down the door of her apartment, crushing her 6-year-old son's leg. "He was screaming," she recalls. "I was screaming."

In fear for their lives and with only as much as they could carry on their backs, they left their home and fled to an uncertain future.

Khulood hopes those gunmen aren't following her. She hopes they won't kill the family and friends she left behind, the way they kidnapped, mutilated and tortured two men in her neighborhood just a week before she left. She hopes someone will help her soon, so she can provide water, food and shelter for her family. She hopes she'll be able to go back one day.

This is the situation faced by two million Iraqis who have fled their homeland in the last four years, and 20,000 to 30,000 more leaving each month. Another two million are internally displaced within Iraq. They have endured horrible trauma, and now they have no homes, no jobs, no security. These people have nothing but their hope.

The United States helped create this crisis. It is absolutely our responsibility to do something about it, before one more person has to endure anything like what Khulood Habib went through.
Take action now, so these people can begin rebuilding their lives in peace.

To increase the impact of your action, EPIC will hand-deliver your letters to your Senators and Representatives during the week of World Refugee Day, June 20th.


51 comments:

Anonymous said...

A letter isn't too much to ask to ease someone's suffering, no matter how one feels about the war, Iraq or the situation in general. I hope you get the 5000 you need. You've got mine.

Anonymous said...

It's a little too simplistic and naive to say the United States "created" this. There are so many factors that make the situation in Iraq very complex and hard to resolve. I think you should be careful with loaded statements like that.

Emily Stivers said...

Anonymous - thanks for the support. You're right, it isn't about the politics. These people just don't deserve to suffer, and we can do something about it. That's reason enough.

Anonymous - While I do see the U.S. invasion as the root cause of the current crisis, you are right, my language was too strong. I revised the statement to read "crisis the U.S. helped create." I'm sure you can agree that our government at least contributed to, if not caused the problem.

Anonymous said...

Of course I agree with the fact that the U.S. helped create this crisis, but I just don't think it's that easy. Iraqis have been suffering extreme hardships for decades and not at such an alarming scale. Even so, I think that there is so much emotion fueling the conflict from all parties involved and that's why, as peacebuilders, we should try and address the issues without using those kinds of statements.

Geoff Schaefer said...

Anonymous,
I agree with you in that there has been a plethora of disdainful and pointed emotions involved in talking about the war. And I also agree that, as peace builders, we should be careful with our language. But I also think that we need to recognize each component that contributed to the causes of the conflict, not simply ignore that history and feel it isn't relevant. As peace builders, we need to understand how this got started and consider those problems when crafting a solution. Otherwise, fundamental change would be neglecting such crucial players in the war, and ultimately fail to resolve anything meaningfully.

Emily Stivers said...

My purpose was to get Americans to take some responsibility for Iraq's displacement crisis. You can slice it thin and say that we are indirectly responsible, or slice it thick and say it's almost entirely our country's fault. But either way, we have to own up to that responsibility and do something about it.

Anonymous said...

That is a compelling story about the Iraqi woman. And I think the first comment on this page says it best: it doesn't matter how you feel about the war. We should keep the discussion focused on the realities these people are experiencing, and you do avery good job of that by telling this woman's story.

Victor said...

I agree with your aims and signed up. What I disagree with is your appeal that is overly emotional, e.g., the melodramatic picture. This kind of appeal may create a backlash by reasonable people.

Anonymous said...

this is a very emotional, human issue and I think it should be presented that way. theres a point where being "reasonable" becomes being cold.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with victor's comment. Situations tend to get worse when reason is thrown out of the door.....it's called radicalism and it only makes things more complicated. Do we rise above all of the heated emotion to look for real long-term solutions that will help Iraqis or do we join the radiacalism filled with emotion and bias that drowns out the important humanitarian issues at hand?

reader said...

I'm not sure what kind of "backlash" is being referred to! After all, this is an appeal for help. Surely you have to show the most desperate situation and IT IS emotional. Lets think about the pictures coming out of Darfur, etc.. It's this type of picture that gets to people and gets them out of their comfort zones and into writing letters and some ACTION!

Anonymous said...

Compelling stories are only part of the picture. A valued part though it may be, it’s not enough to inspire an America tired of conflict. I am tired of the NGO community using emotional stories to propel people into action. Rise above and show us more. I am human on this earth looking for intelligence in this world. Guide us to a better form of caring for the world by being a strong platform for enlightened debate.

Anonymous said...

i think the point of the photo is to put a face on the crisis...and not in the "poster child" type way, but to show us all how the crisis affects real, live people. most of us in the U.S. cannot even begin to identify with the challenges Iraqi refugees face on a daily basis. we need to remember that iraq's refugee crisis -- and all similar crises, to be frank -- are not fully captured in numbers and statistics. there are real people, real lives at stake. those are the people we need to help.

Anonymous said...

The backlash someone referred to is apathy, I believe.

Anonymous said...

The question here is not if this is an emotional situation or not. I think everyone agrees that it is! The question is how do reasonable level-headed people try to find solutions? It's not by letting emotions take control. We can see how much good that's doing by looking at the recent surge in sectarian violence spurred by the Samarra Mosque bombing this week, which is obviously irrational fanatical behavior driven by emotion only!

Emily Stivers said...

Does my entry throw reason out the door and engage in radicalism, encourage violence, or avoid solutions? I've considered these comments carefully, but I don't think that is the message here.

I'm sorry some are disappointed by my attempt to make this situation real and compel people to act. But the legislation we are urging you to support is not radical or violent; is a realistic improvement on the status quo, and will help thousands of desperate people.

EPIC is a solution-focused organization and we aren't interested in blanket generalizations or the blame-game. We are about taking responsibility, and putting a human face on the conflict and its results. That often involves emotional pictures and stories. We want you to know who these people are and what they're going through. Just giving you the numbers can't possibly say enough.

If you're looking for a more thorough analysis of the refugee/IDP problem and the legislation we support, don't worry, we're going to have lots of that sort of information for you next week.

Geoff Schaefer said...

Hey Look! A debate has ensued. Hooray! I am thoroughly enjoying following this and I think you all make some excellent points. My opinion is that, to get a lot of reader's attention (overcoming their "apathy" - thanks Anyonymous)requires a strong front pitch. I.E., an emotional story to grab you in and make you care.

With that said, a true debate on how to solve the issue has to be level-headed and stripped of the emotional overtones. There were some good points being made about emotions giving way to a lack of enlightened debate, which can be true in a lot of cases. But I feel when we put up a story like this, it's great in that it inspires these debates, and then when the readers (you guys) get stirred up and debating, then we can come together and hash out some good ideas to solve it.

I think we need a balance of both emotion and reason. I'm glad you all are taking the time to debate this out though. We need a more consistent exchange of ideas like this.

Anonymous said...

Geoff and Emily, I don't think the point was gotten here. Indeed these are emotionally compelling stories of very real people who are often forgotten during times of war. I think that most of Epic's members and people who read this blog surely acknowledge and maybe even know the faces and stories of Iraqis being effected by this war. I think the message from one side of this debate was the fact that it is human nature to become emotional, but what next? Emotions don't solve problems, even though they may spark interest and hope for change. I think we look toward EPIC and the rest of the NGO community to relay these stories in a way that is not bias and overwraght - which goes back to the beginning of this debate, "the United States created this."

Emily Stivers said...

I agree that emotions don't solve problems, but they do motivate people to solve problems. We're trying to reach out to not just our existing members, but to new readers who might not know about this tragic problem or its extent.

You see biased and overwrought. I see moving and powerful. We may have to agree to disagree on this point.

What next? That's why there's a link - three of them, actually - in the original entry to an action center so you all can take proactive measures to help solve the problem. Whether you agree with the way I have presented it or not, I hope you will take action.

Geoff Schaefer said...

Also, I may add... While some of these blog posts you may find a tad emotional for your liking, and think we aren't creating or talking about real solutions, I encourage you to check out our Ground Truth Interviews. We have a great wealth of solutions right on our site.

Emily's right though, we may have to agree to disagree, but if you read those interviews, then we can really get down and debate the solutions.

Anonymous said...

I've taken action twice already. I just think you don't get my point, which is perfectly fine. But if you're looking to spread membership, there are a lot of people out there who would be turned off by your choice of language, and putting all the blame on the United States....that's all. I did not vote for war, so I don't think it's fair to push a guilt trip on the American people who are trying their best to make change in Iraq and other parts of the world. I just think your posting would have been more effective if you had told the story and relayed the facts, without you personally giving your political opinions. After reading the blog, I was shocked at that one sentence and it's politically incorrectness that everything else you said was kind of discredited.

Anonymous said...

most of the time, the blog entries are too dry. it's good to have some variety every once in a while and this is a story that gets me emotionally invested in finding a solution.

Tex said...

With today's happenings in Lebanon and Hamas taking over, we better cut, run and get the hell out of the Middle East. We have invested too many lives and treasure hopelessly. "Know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away and know when to run"
After a blood letting maybe the world can react positively.

Emily Stivers said...

Thank you for taking the action.

Is the issue with the emotional nature of the entry as a whole, or just the one sentence I have edited since the second comment on the page pointed it out?

I admit that saying "the U.S. created this" was an oversimplification. While I do think it's fair to say the U.S. HELPED create it, the point is that our government has a responsibility to these people and we ought to encourage our legislators to assist and protect Iraqi refugees/IDPs.

Furthermore, I think not only Americans but everyone in the world should feel guilty that people are suffering this way and we're not doing everything we can to help them. I work for EPIC and I feel constantly guilty because I could always be doing more. When I think of how my government is failing these refugees - and, resettling only 2 in the U.S. in as many months, it IS failing - that motivates me to work harder.

Anonymous said...

I am an optimist and believe we should concentrate more on positive productive thought instead of getting in an 'ain't it awful" contest.

Geoff Schaefer said...

Tex. How would that solve anything? Do you not feel that we have a responsibility to help fix what a)we helped create and b) is killing so many innocent people? And I'm pointing fingers at you or anything, but I would definitely like to hear your honest opinion on why you think that would be a path to take.

Geoff Schaefer said...

Edit: Original - "And I'm pointing fingers at you or anything,"

I meant to say "And I'm NOT pointing fingers at you or anything." My apologies Tex

Emily Stivers said...

FYI, I've added a link in the original post which connects to a Monday Washington Post editorial explaining why I chose the language about U.S. responsibility. From the article:

"The U.S. duty to Iraqis shouldn't be a partisan question. People on every side of the Iraq war debate ought to agree that America should assist and make room for more Iraqis in need."

Emily Stivers said...

Tex - Kenny Rogers also says, "the secret to surviving is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep."

If we throw down our entire hand regarding Iraq, combining troop withdrawal with abandoning all our efforts at reconstruction including worthwhile programs that ARE creating change in Iraq, we'll be letting go of a couple of aces in the process.

And when the mess we made - ahem, HELPED make - surges as increased resentment towards us, we'll be regretting the missed opportunity to play those cards when we held them.

a former EPIC intern who now plays the guitar said...

I love the new layout for the blog and all the energy you all are generating in support of ordinary Iraqis (who continue to face extraordinary circumstances). I just took action and told my friends. Keep knockin' those heads on the Hill!

Tex said...

Geoff: I do not accept that we are alone responsible and that we can alone fix anything in the mideast. Do you like the body count of America's finest? When is enough, enough? Perhaps if we brought back the draft, you might think differently from inside the beltway.

Anonymous said...

To Emily: What aces, I think you are bluffing!

Emily Stivers said...

Click the link in my comment. The aces are there.

They're also visible in a dozen Ground Truth Interviews on our website. If you don't believe me, read them. :P

Geoff Schaefer said...

Tex, I never said we were solely responsible for the situation over there. I don't believe that for a second. And we for sure can't fix this alone. And I would hope there is not a single person in this country (please disregard Rosie O'Donnell) who likes to see our soldiers dying.

But if we ignore the fact that Iraqi civilians are dying and being displaced by the hundreds of thousands because of a situation that we HELPED create, then I don't think we're making a smart decision. We're a country of hope and morals, and if we just leave and ignore everything, then we lose that. And any future endeavors that we might have to undertake will be preemptively put in a difficult situation at best.

It's a terrible situation but I feel we are offering some great ways to fix it. Plus, just turning our backs is not the American way. If we can focus our efforts on the ideas and solutions we know will work, then we can help fix this thing and be on our way soon enough.

That's why we wrote this, for you all to take action. Because the more we focus the attention on these alternative solutions and broadcast these ideas to our representatives, then we have the best chance of both fixing this AND being on our way home.

In the words of Michael Scott, "It's win, win, win."

jt said...

In my opinion, neither your appeal or the picture are mis-placed. It certainly has proven provocative and there's no reason to apologize. We all have a right to state how we feel about the whole Iraq situation. Maybe the U.S. isn't "all to blame" and certainly there was hardship and strife for the people of Iraq before we got there, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be helping as much as possible now. I'm happy that no matter what opinion has been stated, we all are trying to help. Thank you for your efforts and for a very stimulating debate!

I care said...

I know I'm coming in late but I'm amazed that anyone is put off by using the pictures or by the original post. I guess what matters is the end result. I'll sign up and send the information on.

Geoff Schaefer said...

And Tex, I live just south of the beltway so HA.

Anonymous said...

Emily, feeling guilty is not the answer. Furthermore, if “moving and powerful” is playing with peoples emotions by using someone despair to guilt people into acting, then I don’t see how this NGO is apart of the solution. The mainstream media does enough of this. I believe you guys are stronger and better that that. I have seen evidence of this in your interviews and the work you guys have done in the past. We need to move people from reacting to guilt and emotional stories to acting out of concern for our fellow man. Think of the bigger picture to change the future.

Emily Stivers said...

jt and i care - thanks for the support. We don't have hard numbers to share just yet, but we are really excited about the quantity of action letters pouring in here. We've got our work cut out in printing and hand-delivering them to Senators and Representatives...but it's going to be worth it when we see this legislation enacted!!!

Tex said...

Geoff - you work inside the beltway and have that point of view as opposed to 'fly over country' where REAL people live!

Erik K. Gustafson said...

I thought I'd jump into the fray to report from the frontlines of our Action Center. Within the first few hours of urging EPIC supporters to take action, more than 350 letters have been personalized for delivery to Members of Congress! If that rate continues, we'll be delivering 1,000s of letters next week. Let's keep it up! With one in eight Iraqis violently driven from their homes, they need our help. You can help generate the lifesaving assistance and protection they need. Take action, tell your friends, and together we can get Congress to do more to protect and assist displaced Iraqis.

Geoff Schaefer said...

Tex - You're right. It was a joke though. To be honest, I literally started working in the city last Monday. Granted, I've lived in Northern Virginia most of my life, I don't feel that working in DC (especially as long as I have) makes my opinion tainted by the "culture of Washington."

There are some incredibly smart people here working hard to solve this thing. And while I don't know if I'll be making it to "fly over country" anytime soon (I work for free), I'm glad we have this forum to get your guys' opinions here "inside the beltway." We value them as it helps develop our thinking on the subject and provides perspective. So thank you.

Emily Stivers said...

Ammend that - Erik has the hard numbers. Really exciting.

Anonymous - I don't think telling and showing the truth is "playing" with peoples' emotions. The fact is, when we invest emotionally, when we convey the passion of peacebuilders in Iraq, and the desperation of those we're trying to help, we inspire people.

Feeling guilty is not the answer, and guilt is not the primary emotion for which we strive. But I don't think it precludes actually caring about our fellow men and women, or working for lasting change.

Viet Vet said...

Does anyone remember a place called Viet Nam? I was there and saw all the humanitarian efforts towards peace and nation building. I am so fearful of the killing of more of our soldiers. Again, I don't think America really gives a damn as long as it isn't anyone they know. That is why we cannot win ANYTHING in Iraq.

Anonymous said...

I don't think its fair to say JT and I care. Like I said before I've taken action many times, but that's not the point. This us against them mentality is not healthy, especially when you are supposed to be motivating change. One of the key strategies to conflict resolution is to exert force TOGETHER, not against eachother in finding common ground.

Anonymous said...

So we should "stick to the facts", don't be emotional, don't appeal to people's hearts and feelings, only to their minds? Good luck with that when you're trying to get the average person to care enough to really do something besides talk, talk, talk.

Sorry, the picture did get my attention and the story made it seem more real. The media is all about the troops and their families. That's okay, they deserve the attention but so do the people of Iraq who are in the situations that have been described. When has there been a headline about them and their plight?

Emily Stivers said...

Just to clarify - "jt and i care" was to reference the comments from "jt" and "i care". The person's posting alias was actually "i care." I certainly never meant to imply that anyone posting here doesn't care!!!

Anonymous said...

It doesn't seem to me that this post is dividing or pitting anyone against each other. The whole purpose is to gain attention so that we can all work TOGETHER for the good of all. And you know what, I think it's working.

P said...

Is anybody paying attention to what is happening in Lebanon today, right now? That is probably the future of Iraq.

Anonymous said...

Good luck with your campaign. For what it's worth, I have forwarded the information to most of my address book. If everyone would do that, surely the word will spread.

Emily Stivers said...

"Viet vet" and "p": your comments are going to take a little longer to answer than we have room for in this comment section, so look for upcoming blog entries dealing with those topics.

Everyone: thanks so much for acting! We now have over 600 responses - it doubled overnight. We're really excited about the turnout and planning to do lots of follow-ups, so keep checking back!

 
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