Doing the Right Thing

Seizing headlines and the attention of President Obama, fighting in western and northern Iraq has forced 1.4 million people to flee their homes this year. For much needed context, listen to our latest IRAQ MATTERS podcast with Christine van den Toorn.
Seizing headlines and the attention of President Obama, fighting in western and northern Iraq has forced 1.4 million people to flee their homes this year. For much needed context, listen to our latest IRAQ MATTERS podcast with Christine van den Toorn.

By now you have seen the news. Iraq is in crisis.

The advance of the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) across western and northern Iraq has forced over 1.4 million people to flee their homes this year. Families fleeing or trapped by ISIS are facing extreme hardships and dangers, and in some cases, without aid, certain death.

Yesterday, President Barack Obama ordered the emergency air lift of aid to 40,000 Iraqis stranded on Sinjar Mountain, an area familiar to EPIC and our podcast listeners from our recent interviews with Christine van den Toorn. While the delivery will certainly save lives preventing more children from dying of dehydration, these families remain in extreme danger.

For years, you and I have called for stronger U.S. humanitarian engagement in Iraq, and greater effort by President Obama and his administration to address the root causes of the conflict. Recently, we have started to see positive steps in the right direction. To be clear, EPIC is not taking a position on U.S. military engagement in Iraq. Instead, we have long held the belief that peace in Iraq requires a clear, long-term U.S. and international commitment to preventing further conflict and building democratic institutions and processes.

If those words sound familiar, they should. Earlier this year, 11,600 supporters like you joined EPIC in saying just that in our petition to the White House. Thank you.

For us at EPIC, the growing crisis is more than just something to keep an eye on. We have friends who are caught in areas controlled by militant groups. One of our friends has loved ones stranded on Sinjar Mountain. Other friends are at risk from Iraqi Security Forces and associated militias.

That is why we take our mission and work so seriously. Every day we work hard to ensure that we are doing the right thing. That we’re doing all that we can to make a meaningful difference.

Thanks to you and a growing community of supporters, EPIC is not alone in responding to the crisis. Nor are we alone in our mission to promote peace in Iraq. More than anything else, we are here to support you and a growing community of concerned citizens, public officials, and organizations committed to doing what we can to help.

Today I am writing to update you on our recent work. As our part in responding to the crisis, we are:

  • Chairing the Iraq Crisis NGO Working Group. With membership consisting of dozens of prominent organizations, EPIC initiated the working group to coordinate advocacy to strengthen the U.S. humanitarian and diplomatic response to the crisis. Among our first steps, we led the drafting and circulation of this urgent letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, signed by EPIC and 35 national organizations and faith institutions.
  • Addressing critical gaps with TentED. A few days before the fall of Mosul, Zack Bazzi arrived in Erbil, 60 miles east of Mosul, and immediately got to work implementing TentEd. Thanks to generous supporters like you, Zack was able to directly invest $17,000 in the education of 200 Syrian refugee children in Erbil and two schools at Domiz, Iraq’s largest camp for Syrian refugees. With your help, TentEd will continue to address critical gaps as part of an international effort to prevent Syria’s children from becoming a ‘lost generation.’ We are proud of what Zack has already been able to accomplish. For more, check out this detailed one-page (PDF) update on TentEd’s recent activities with a special note from Zack Bazzi.
  • ‘Picturing change’ with Iraqi university students. With the successful conclusion of PhotoVoice Iraq, the country’s first photovoice project, we are working with the project’s participants to currate a series of exhibits that will showcase the students’ aspirations for positive change here in Washington DC and at the next Sulaimani Forum at American University of Iraq – Sulaimani (AUIS). Here’s an overview of the project and a sample of some of the amazing photographs taken by the student participants.
  • Raising awareness through the IRAQ MATTERS podcast. Now in its second season, we are continuing to podcast interviews and stories about Iraq, helping to provide important context to recent developments while also sharing a fuller picture of the history, cultural diversity, and importance of the people and country that you and I hold dear. Tune in to our latest episode on the changing landscape of Iraq in crisis.

Here at EPIC, we will continue to work hard to do the right thing. We will continue to press the U.S. to deliver more effectively on its commitments to assist and protect vulnerable Iraqis, to help other vulnerable populations in Iraq and the region, and to do more to address the root causes of the conflict. We will continue to keep the flame alive no matter how long or dark the night.

Thank you for helping to make our work possible, and for being a part of our mission of peace in the face of war.

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Erik K. Gustafson

About Erik K. Gustafson

Erik is EPIC's founder and director. As a U.S. veteran of the 1991 Gulf War, Erik has devoted his life to humanitarian action and empowering youth in support of Iraq's peace and development.