|An Iraqi-born Alberta resident is encouraging Calgary to follow the lead of a group of Edmontonians and adopt a town in Iraq as a way to help the country rehabilitate after war.
Dr. Yarub Al-Shiraida, a member of an organization called Life for Relief and Development, is making a pitch in Calgary on June 26 for adoption of a town to help the group ramp up its relief efforts since the end of the recent war in the country. The organization has conducted relief work in Iraq since 1993.
Julie Hrdlicka who is helping organize the event for CANDIL (Canada, Democracy and International Law), an organization that was recently formed out of CANESI (Canadian Network to End Sanctions in Iraq) says the initiative is a good way for Canadians to help Iraqis directly.
"This is about building bridges between Canadians and Iraqis," Hrdlicka says. "Theres so much anger in Iraq the whole country has been transformed. We want to focus on building those bridges."
Under the initiative, a group of Edmontonians recently adopted the town of Al-Mutayha in the southern district of Abul Khaseeb near the Iranian border. The district contains about 160,000 people and faced much of the brunt of the fighting during the war with Iran in the 1980s, and was hit by coalition forces during both the 1991 Gulf War and the recent American and British invasion.
The Edmonton group has pledged fund-raising initiatives for its adopted town, details of which will be spelled out after Life for Relief and Development conducts a full damage assessment of the town to identify its needs.
The initiative is a new one of the relief organization, which has rehabilitated schools and water treatment plants in Iraq over the years, and also operates two human development centres and a medical clinic in the country.
Hrdlicka says the group has already raised about $50,000 and drawn the support Edmonton mayor Bill Smith.
The initiative is also good start for her new organization, and a way to stay involved in relief efforts in Iraq.
CANESI was an active organization protesting the U.N. sanctions against Iraq before the war, and led many of the local antiwar protests during the American-British invasion. Since Iraqs occupation and the dropping of the sanctions, Hrdlicka says the organization decided to expand its mandate while keeping a focus on Iraq, so it disbanded and formed CANDIL.
Although Hrdlicka says the new organization will have a broader mandate than CANESI, one of its first orders of business is helping Al-Shiraida with his Adopt-A-Town message.
"People were feeling like we needed to keep going. It was something that was very helpful for many people because it got them involved and educated," Hrdlicka says. "But people didnt want us to close down."
Al-Shiraida recently returned from Iraq, but plans to head back to the country to continue relief efforts. His speech in Calgary, which Hrdlicka says will touch on the impact of three major wars and the economic sanctions in the past 23 years, takes place June 26 at Parkdale United Church.