Iraq’s giving spirit offers hope amid turmoil

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinals“Iraqis were thirsty for such experiences,” said Khadija Tuma, director of the office in the Ministry of Civil Society Affairs that works with the private aid groups. “It was as if they already had it inside themselves.” The new charity groups offer bits of relief in the sea of poverty that swept Iraq during the economic embargo of the 1990s and has gotten worse with the pervasive lawlessness that followed the U.S. invasion. The burst of public-spiritedness comes after long decades of muzzled community life under Saddam Hussein, when drab, Soviet-style committees for youths, women and industrialists were the only community groups permitted. Saddam stamped out what had been a vibrant public life. Since the founding of Islam in the seventh century, charity has had a special place in its societies. As far back as the 19th century, religious leaders, descendants of the Prophet Muhammad, formed a network called Al Ashraf that was a link between people and the Ottoman-appointed governor of Baghdad. The Iraqi Chamber of Commerce dates back to the 1930s, and volunteers plunged into Baghdad’s poor areas to conduct literacy campaigns in the 1950s, around the time of the overthrow of the monarchy. BAGHDAD, Iraq – In the wave of lawlessness and frantic self-interest that has washed over this war-weary nation, small acts of pure altruism often go unnoticed. Like the tiny track suits and dresses that Najat al-Saiedi takes to children of displaced families in the dusty, desperate Shiite slum of Shoala. Or the shelter that Suad al-Khafaji gives to, among others, the five children she found living in a garage in northern Baghdad last year. But the Iraqi government has been taking note of such good works, and now, more than three years after the U.S. invasion, the outlines of a nascent civil society are taking shape. Since 2003, the government has registered 5,000 private organizations, including charities, human-rights groups, medical assistance agencies and literacy projects. Officials estimate that an additional 7,000 groups are working unofficially. The efforts show that even as violence and sectarian hatred tear Iraq’s mixed cities apart, a growing number of Iraqis are trying to bring them together. Today’s groups have picked up that historic thread and offer hope in an increasingly poisonous sectarian landscape that Iraqis might still be able to hold their country together. Al-Saiedi is a pragmatic 35-year-old who has neither a husband nor a job. After the U.S. invasion she tried to find work at a cell-phone company, one of the few types of private businesses that pay well, but was told it was not hiring women because the job required travel. Boredom was part of her motivation: The risk of kidnapping has confined many women to their homes, and she had long hours at home with nothing to do. So, with a group of her close friends and two of her sisters, Saiedi formed a charity group, Bilad al Rafidain (Mesopotamian) Orphan Relief. Once a month she picks her way around mounds of trash in Shoala in dainty sandals, taking blankets, slippers and towels to children there. The members take donations from friends, and co-workers and even people who visit the government offices where several of them work, and regularly give assistance to 520 children. In lovingly rendered notebooks of various colors, Saiedi hand-writes the names of family members and the days that donations were made. “There are families of children where fathers were killed in explosions,” said al-Saiedi, wearing a colorful green veil on a recent day. “Now the state is busy. If I don’t care about them, who will?” Wassan al-Sharifi, 28, an office assistant for a government official, said she had joined the group because “I like the spirit of its members.” “In spite of this bad situation they’re willing to help people,” she said. One delivery early this month took Saiedi to Shoala, to the home of Dumoh Mizher, a 31-year old Shiite widow, one of the women who heads a family of 15 children left fatherless after Mizher’s husband and two of his brothers were killed in the town of Abu Ghraib in 2005, when Sunni Arab insurgents broke into their small shop and shot all three. Children spilled through the doorway of the spare cinder-block house whose empty windows looked out onto a small pen with a goat. Framed photographs of the three dead men were set high on the wall, not far from portraits of Shiite saints. “Who is who?” al-Saiedi asked, trying to calm the children down as they buzzed around her. “Zaineb, where is Zaineb?” she asked, holding up a small pink dress wrapped in plastic. Not all groups are a force for good. Tuma estimated that nearly 10 percent of the registered groups were involved in guerrilla activities and other crime. The need here is growing. The percentage of children who are acutely malnourished has more than doubled, to 9 percent in 2005 from 4 percent in 2002, according to a report based on figures from Iraq’s Planning Ministry that was released this month. Homelessness has spread since 2003 and accelerated with the rise of sectarian violence, with Iraqis even squatting in an old movie theater in central Baghdad, Khafaji said. The Ministry of Migration estimates that 1.1 million Iraqis have been displaced since 2003. Khafaji, 49, a former shopping center manager, said she felt a personal connection to homeless Iraqis. In 1969, Saddam’s government executed her father, and her family was forced from its property. She and her siblings were separated for their safety, and their belongings were sold. “This made me feel homeless,” she said, sitting in a large room in a worn building in central Baghdad that houses about 20 women and children. Khafaji even looks for jobs and husbands for the women. A shy 30-year-old who fled an unhappy home life in Kut recently found work through the shelter, bringing tea to guests in a government ministry. Several others have married men in Sadr City, a Shiite district of Baghdad.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

Women’s 400-Meter Hurdles And Long Jump Fields Announced

first_imgStory Links 6th (100mH) Get Adobe Acrobat Reader DES MOINES, Iowa – Five Olympians and a USA Champion highlight the field for the Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee women’s 400-meter hurdles and long jump, Blake Boldon, the Franklin P. Johnson Director of the Drake Relays, announced Wednesday, April 17.In the women’s long jump, Sha’Keela Saunders looks to continue her success at Drake Stadium after winning the 2018 USATF Outdoor Championship in Des Moines last summer while the 400-meter hurdles features a World Champion and Olympic medalist.Ashley Spencer, the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist, returns after a fourth-place finish in last year’s 400-meter hurdles at the Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee. She has a personal best of 53.11 in the event, which is the 22nd fastest time in the world.Kori Carter, who owns the fastest personal best in the field, also recorded her best time in the finals of the 2017 Outdoor Championships to take third place ahead of Spencer. Her time of 52.95 is the 19th fastest time ever recorded. Tia Adana Belle, a 2016 Olympian, recorded a personal record of 54.18 just weeks ago at the Florida Relays which is the world’s fastest time this year. Belle was a two-time Division II champion in the 400-meter hurdles at St. Augustine’s.Jaide Stepter heads to the Drake Relays coming off of a first-place finish in the 400 meters at the Millrose Games in New York. Stepter returns to the 400-meter hurdles after running the 400 meters the past few years and moving to sixth in the IAAF World Rankings.A pair of national record holders will also compete for the title. Gianna Woodruff set the Panamanian national record with a time of 55.60 in July of 2018. Katrina Seymour of the Bahamas broke the national record with a time of 55.69 last April.Grace Claxton of Puerto Rico rounds out the field of eight. Claxton placed eighth in the 2018 Drake Relays and reached the semifinals of the 2016 Olympics where she recorded a personal best of 55.85.In the long jump, Sha’Keela Saunders returns to Drake Stadium, where she won the 2018 USA Championship. She is currently ranked seventh in the IAAF World Rankings. Saunders was the bronze medalist in the 2015 Pan American Games and the 2017 NCAA indoor champion while at Kentucky. Her outdoor personal best is 22-7.25 (6.89m) and came in the 2016 Olympic Trials where she finished fourth.Former teammates at the University of Georgia, Canice Porter and Kendell Williams, have recorded the world’s sixth and seventh best marks in 2019, respectively. Porter is a two-time Jamaican National Champion and was the 2016 NCAA outdoor long jump champion. Williams is a dynamic athlete and has competed in World Championships and the Olympics in the Pentathlon and Heptathlon. In her time at Georgia, Williams recorded seven of the 10 best all-time collegiate marks in the pentathlon. Her lifetime best in the long jump is 21-11.5 (6.69m).Two former collegiate All-Americans, Taliyah Brooks and Kylie Price, also return to the Drake Relays in the long jump. Brooks was the 2018 NCAA pentathlon champion at Arkansas and placed fifth in the collegiate division in the 100-meter hurdles in the 2015 Drake Relays. Her lifetime best in the long jump is 22-3 (6.78m). Price was a four-time all-American at UCLA and took eighth in the 2015 World University Games. In the 2017 Drake Relays, Price took fourth in the long jump. Price is the lone competitor in this year’s field who has previously competed in the long jump at the Drake Relays.Jahisha Thomas, of Great Britain, attended the nearby University of Iowa where she was a two-time Big Ten Champion in the long jump and the triple jump. Thomas was the 2019 UK indoor runner up in the long jump and has a personal record of 21-11.5 (6.69m).Konomi Kai was a 2016 Olympian and Japan National Champion in the long jump. Her personal best of 22-5.25 (6.84m) is the second best among the field of nine competitors. Tamaka Shimizu also has experience at the Japan National Championships with five top-five finishes in the event. Her lifetime best in the long jump is 21-3.25 (6.48m).The final competitor in the women’s long jump is Mady Richards. An all-American at USC who graduated in 2018, Richards has a lifetime best of 21-0.75 (6.42m).The women’s 400-meter hurdles are scheduled for Saturday, April 27, afternoon prior to the running of the men’s mile at the Blue Oval. The long jump is scheduled for Friday evening along with the men’s high jump and the women’s pole vault.Relays Week competitions begin Tuesday, April 23, with the Grand Blue Mile on the streets of downtown Des Moines. The heptathlon and decathlon get underway in Drake Stadium Wednesday, April 24, followed by the annual Capital Square Vault. Combined events conclude Thursday, April 25, at Drake Stadium followed by the annual Distance Carnival. The action continues all day Friday and Saturday at Drake Stadium.All-session, multi-session and single-session tickets for all of the action are available via, 515-271-3647 or visiting the Drake Athletic Ticket Office. 2016 (Bronze) Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Women’s Long Jump Kylie Price USA 22-2.5 (6.77m) Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Yanuque Haye-Smith Turks & Caicos 55.65 2016Get Adobe Acrobat ReaderGet Adobe Acrobat ReaderGet Adobe Acrobat ReaderGet Adobe Acrobat ReaderGet Adobe Acrobat ReaderGet Adobe Acrobat Reader 11Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Jaide Stepter USA 54.95 2018 Relays Finish Get Adobe Acrobat Reader 2018 Relays Finish Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Kori Carter USA 52.95 Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Women’s 400-Meter Hurdles Olympics Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Katrina Seymour Bahamas 55.69^ Buy Tickets Get Adobe Acrobat Reader 4th Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Name Country PR 2016 Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Get Adobe Acrobat Reader 2nd (4×100), 2nd (Triple Jump) Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Name Country PR Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Taliyah Brooks USA 22-1.75 (6.75m) Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Kendell Williams USA 21-11.5 (6.69m) 2016 (Heptathlon) Konomi Kai Japan 22-5.25 (6.84m) 2016 Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Chanice Porter Jamaica 22-1.75 (6.75m) Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Olympics Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Gianna Woodruff Panama 55.60^ Mady Richards USA 21-0.75 (6.42m) 8th Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Sha’Keela Saunders USA 22-7.25 (6.89m) Ashley Spencer USA 53.11 Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Jahisha Thomas Great Britain 21-11.5 (6.69m) Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Tamaka Shimizu Japan 21-3.25 (6.48m) Tia Adana Belle Barbados 54.18 2016 Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Grace Claxton Puerto Rico 55.85 Print Friendly Versionlast_img read more