Monthly Archives: October 2013

Empowering Young Women: NGOs Still Matter in Iran

By Connor J. Wangler

Many in the West may find it difficult to think of humanitarian groups finding Iran a suitable home. This thinking, however, reflects the “human distance” between our two cultures. One of the many non-government organizations operating in the Islamic Republic is the Omid-e-Mehr Foundation. The foundation, established in 2004, focuses on empowering young women in Iran who suffer from “abuse, neglect, and disadvantage.” Many of the women and girls who come to the Tehran-based center suffer from mental trauma caused by sexual abuse and exposure to drugs. The Omid center in Tehran began with one location supporting fifteen girls but now operates two locations support 200 young girls and women.

One of the young women the center helps to support is Ladan. When she was just nine years old, her mother and brothers began forcing Ladan into sexual relations with other men in order to support their drug addictions. This often included her own brothers forcibly raping Ladan. After being married off at the age of 15, authorities became aware of the situation. One would expect this to be a ray of hope and justice for Ladan; however, Ladan was charged with committing incest and sentenced to death. Fortunately, Omid-e-Mehr was there for Ladan and persuaded the judge to turn her over to the center’s care. Ladan now works for center-associated projects and has even completed her eighth grade education certificate.


The foundation, in order to increase fundraising efforts, has created two associated foundations in the United States and the United Kingdom. Omid Foundation USA was founded in 2008 and is responsible for increasing awareness of Iranian Women’s issues in the United States and serving as a fundraising hub for the foundation. Omid Foundation UK was founded in 2006 and operates the foundation’s awareness and fundraising campaign throughout the rest of the world. One of the foundation’s proudest, and most successful, efforts has been the 2008 production The Glass Housea documentary detailing the foundation’s efforts and the problems facing women in Iran. CNN recently detailed the documentary in a piece by Asieh Namdar:

One way the work of the Omid-e-Mehr Foundation, and other NGOs, has made an impact is in depictions of violence in Iranian television and film. In August 2011 the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) issued an order “forbidding all domestic networks from screening brutal violence scenes.” According to the Tehran Times, many social analysts have warned the government of the increase of domestic violence in the country.

To learn more about how to get involved with the Omid-e-Mehr Foundation, visit the “How To Get Involved” section of their website.


UN in Iraq

By Congrong Zheng

This blog will first start with a TED talk about  the future of Iraq and also UN’s influence in Iraq from TEDxBaghdad.Martin Kobler is personally vested in the Middle East with a vast amount of diplomatic experience in the region.

Started from 1995, the United Nations has been operating in Iraq through multiple programs. According to UN Iraq,Specialized agencies established their offices in Iraq in the early 1990s, and others UN entities, like UNAMI, after 2003. “The United Nations Iraq (UN Iraq) works at the request of the government of Iraq to support national development efforts on political, electoral, and humanitarian levels. The UN advises and supports the government of Iraq and its people and works on capacity building to strengthen people and institutions during the democratic transition.”

Specifically, UN Iraq has helped Iraq to conduct numerous electoral events since 2003, including voter registration updates in 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009 and national and governorate council elections in 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2013.

For employment, UNOPS and the International Labour Organization (ILO) supported the first national employment policy, while the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) trained over 7,000 Iraqis in agro-industrial and manufacturing skills, and rehabilitated more than 20 vocational centers.

On the front page of UN Iraq, they showed  a story about how UNIDO helped local entrepreneurs, Anwar Hussein has changed his life and his business. UNIDO offered business courses at the Enterprise Development Centre (EDC). By attending to these courses, Anwar is able to expand his skills and get bank loans. His revenue increased by 35-45 percent. In addition, he owns a 50-percent share in a gas station, and water and electricity generators that support the city of Thi-Qar.

a795e43ad198ca75c00e329a1c7d431a_XLReflecting on his journey with EDC, Anwar says that “starting a business is a big achievement for many entrepreneurs, but maintaining one is the larger challenge. EDC taught me how to maintain and grow my business.”

Near East Foundation

NEF has worked in Jordan since 1937 in areas pertaining to literacy, agriculture, and development. With six offices in Amman, the foundation works closely with other NGO’s to strengthen local communities through development. NEF focuses on environmental issues, finance and attempts to solve the lack of water problem.

In 2008 the foundation organized a project called “Poverty Pockets” which primarily invests money and energy on establishing development on local economies. The project looks at the poorest areas in Jordan and finds different ways to increase economic growth by creating money generating jobs. By promoting investment and encouragement innovation, the project establishes small lending loans and grants. Additionally, the project helps to improve and create local business, public schools, health centers and public community. The primary donor to this project is Jordanian Ministry of Planning and International Cooperations (MOPIC). NEF and MOPIC work together to achieve all the goals that would help to build up a poor community. Foundations such as NEF builds a positive relationship with other NGO’s and in return they work together to give the local people opportunities that they would not have if the NGO was not present in that country.

Posted by Irina Franz

NGO in Iraq

By Congrong Zheng

Recent years especially after the war, there are lots of NGOs that work actively in Iraq. The NGO Coordination Committee for Iraq, or NCCI is created by NGOs in Iraq to promote information sharing and create networks.  The NCCI presented in Baghdad in April 2003. NCCI has 68 NGO members, and 5 observer NGOs, who are international and national organizations operating in Iraq and involved in all sectors of humanitarian and development work.


One of the active members in NCCI is Nature Iraq which  was created to protect, restore, and preserve Iraq’s natural environment and the rich cultural heritage that it an Iraqi non-governmental organization registered in Iraq, accredited to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and Iraq’s first and only Affiliate to Birdlife International, and the only Middle Eastern member of the Waterkeeper Alliance.

There are several aspects that Nature Iraq focusing on. THey have worked on biodiversity and environmental restoration by conducting seasonal survey since 2005. They also help protect water resources. Their project, Water keepers Iraq is focused on grassroots advocacy and outreach, with an element of quantitative water quality and threat assessments.The Mesopotamian Outreach Project addresses transboundary water issues through a mixture of advocacy and network buildings. On their front page there is a short video clip about Mesopotamia.

The other part that Nature in Iraq working on is sustainable development. They focused on developing  ecotourism programs that develop and model strategies for environmental education, economic development, land and resource management, and scientific research. The last topic they focus on is capacity building. Right now they are working on a project called New Eden Project. Nature Iraq, the Italian Ministry of Environment, and the Iraqi Ministry of Environment signed a second five-year Memorandum of Understanding  to provide technical support to the Iraqi Ministry of Environment, primarily in support of Iraq’s obligations to theConvention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Sustainable Development in Turkey: The Balance between Human Development and Environmental Conservation

by Jessica Stone

Turkey is part of the UN Millennium Development Goals.  The Millennium Development goals are: 1) Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger 2) Achieve universal primary education 3) Promote gender equality and empower women 4) Reduce child mortality 5) Improve maternal health 6) Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
7) Ensure environmental sustainability and 8) Develop a global partnership for development.

With the United Nations Development Programme’s support, the Turkish government has engaged local communities in the process of developing sustainable management in the long-term.  Turkey’s rapidly growing economy and industrialized cities have drastically increased its demand for natural gas and electricity.  According to the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Over the last decade, Turkey has been the second country, after China, in terms of natural gas and electricity demand increase.”  The increase in demand can be attributed to its geographic location, which increases its potential for changes in the energy sector that involve refined renewable energy sources.  “Turkey is geographically located in close proximity to more than 70% of the world’s proven oil and gas reserves.”

However, Turkey remains quite dependent on imported fossil fuels, especially Russia.  According to the World Bank, “Turkey imports more than 60% of its energy – much of it in the form of fossil fuels – despite an abundance of untapped, renewable energy sources throughout the country.”  Turkey’s limited domestic energy resources have become problematic due to the country’s growing energy demand.

One way the country is trying to reduce dependency on imported fossil fuels is by generating nuclear energy and improving energy efficiency.  The country is utilizing its advancements in hydro, wind, and solar energy.  According to the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Turkey ranks seventh in the world and first in Europe in terms of geothermal energy.”

Renewable energy use in Turkey. Source: Google Images.Renewable energy use in Turkey.  Source: The World Bank.

Addressing this growing demand while also benefiting economically and environmentally remains a challenge for Turkey.  The increased demand has bolstered Turkey’s energy supply security.  As a result, Turkey has been forced to become more vigilant of energy consumption ands aims to diversify its energy supply and maximize all renewable energy sources.  According to the World Bank, “Turkey aims to meet a target of 30% for renewable energy production in the country and to reduce its energy intensity levels (energy consumption of energy per unit of GDP) by 20% between 2011 and the end of its Centennial year.”

In order to accomplish this goal, Turkey is focusing on an economic structure that also considers environmental factors and contributes to overall human development.  According to Turkey’s 2012 Sustainable Development Report:

Turkey believes in a “human” centered development. Sustaining the existence of human beings in a strengthened way is only possible by realizing the principles of equity and sustainability. Based on this notion, green growth can only be a meaningful part of national and international agenda if it presents a more honored life to people. In other words, an economic structure which places more emphasis on environmental values can only be acceptable and applicable to the extent that it contributes increasingly to human development for present and future generations.

UN’s Involvement in Jordan

According to the UN, it appears that Jordan is substantially involved in UN. The United Nations presence is strongly felt in Jordan by having other 16 different agencies throughout the state. These agencies address humanitarian issues along with development. No single agency can act alone in order to be fully beneficial thus they work together to work on issues such as reducing poverty and sustaining the environment. Additionally, the agencies do focus more on younger generations so they can grow in a healthy and optimistic environment.

Agency such as United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) works on providing young children proper education when it comes to treating  the environment with respect by teaching them how to recycle and reuse various materials. Also,  the UNWomen agency is highly present in Jordan by providing economic empowerment and focuses on ending violence against women. Lastly, the agency tries to develop leadership and political involvement for the female gender so they can have better equality between the two genders.  The United Nations pays close attention to human rights issues by enhancing social equality in Jordan.  Although it appears that Jordan does not have much influence in UN, it is evident that UN has strong influence in Jordan.

Posted by Irina Franz

Nuclear Negotiations Depend on Human Rights in Iran

By Connor J. Wangler
Source: The Iran Project

This past week the P5+1 group of nations met with Iranian officials in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss the issue of Iran’s nuclear aspirations. The P5+1 group consists of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (US, UK, France, China, Russia) plus Germany. These nations represent many of the leading world powers and the most powerful body in the United Nations, the Security Council. According to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Germany is included in these talks due to its role as a valuable trading partner with Iran. The talks are a result of the renewed mission to solve Iran’s foreign relations problems taken on by President Rouhani, who recently spoke of addressing global concerns with his country in front of the United Nations General Assembly. This has been meet with positivity, although cautious positivity, by many world leaders.

According to the Tehran Times, one of the main hopes of the Iranians for these negotiations is the eventual lifting on economic sanctions placed on Iran. If lifted, Iranians will be able to live with more comfortable economic conditions; this includes greater access to limited medicine and humanitarian goods. This, Iranians hope, will invigorate the country’s general economic growth which has been stymied since sanctions were put in place. These hopes have been elevated with the news that the US delegation to the talks will include Adam Szubin, the director of the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control and the US government’s foremost expert on Iranian sanctions.

Source: PressTV

As fruitful as the negotiations have been in redefining the tone of the conversation between the West and Iran, many western leaders remain cautious of giving the new Iranian regime too much positive feedback. According to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, the “onus remains on Iran to come into compliance with its international obligations.” Leaders have noted the still-foggy image of the true purposes of Iran’s nuclear program and the Islamic Republic’s numerous human rights violations as reasons for not “jumping for joy” over this new approach by Iranian officials.

Source: ICHRI
Source: ICHRI

One such violation of human rights that has been prevalent in international groups’ protests of the negotiations is the use of capital punishment in Iran. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reports that 402 individuals have been executed in Iran in 2013, 53 of them in public. A recent report by CNN quotes the official newspaper Jaam-e Jam in Iran in detailing the recent attempted execution of a man at the Bojnurd Prison. According to the story the man was hung until “dead” and brought to the local morgue for the body to be collected by family; there a morgue worker noticed the man was still breathing. Unfortunately, Iranian law demands that the sentence be carried out and that the man will still be executed. An official for Amnesty International heard the report and said, “The horrific prospect of this man facing a second hanging, after having gone through the whole ordeal already once, merely underlines the cruelty and inhumanity of the death penalty.” Many groups want to see Iran address these violations of human rights before the West eases sanctions.

Saudi Arabia Turns Down Seat on UN Security Council

Saudi Arabia Turns Down Seat on UN Security Council

Astonishing the diplomatic community in New York, Saudi Arabia announced last night that it would not be taking up a seat on the United Nations Security Council just one day after being elected to the body for two years. Their decision comes in protest at the UN’s failure to respond decisively to conflicts such as the Syrian civil war.
Saudi Arabia was one of five countries picked to join the body on Thursday. After the vote Saudi Arabia’s UN Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi said his government took it “very seriously” and saw it as “a reflection of a longstanding policy in support of moderation and in support of resolving disputes in peaceful means.”
A statement from the Saudi Foreign Ministry on Friday excoriated the Council for failing on multiple fronts, not just with the Syrian conflict but also in resolving Israeli-Palestinian tensions and ridding the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction. It therefore would not be taking the seat, it said.

The statement released blamed their decision on the council’s “inability to perform its duties” to end the war in Syria, saying its failure has enabled President Bashar Assad’s regime “to kill its people and burn them with chemical weapons in front of the entire world and without any deterrent or punishment.” The Syrian regime denies using chemical weapons.

The snub may also reflect growing irritation with the United States, with which it has for so long be so closely tied. Saudi Arabia was angered by President Barack Obama backing off military strikes against Syria and has been clearly unsettled by what may be a thawing of the ice between the US and Iran, its arch rival in the region.

Posted By: Brittany Lintner

Disarmament of Chemical Weapons

The last-minute intervention by Russia in what seemed to be yet another conflict we found ourselves involved in, has resulted in progress being made in Syria. With the disposal of almost a thousand metric tons of chemical and nerve gas agents, UN inspectors have to be thorough when disposing of all of Syria’s chemical weapons.

Above is one of the 20+ chemical facilities in Syria, and so far UN inspectors have visited 11 and permanently disabled 6 of the sites.

The effort is a joint operation between the OPCW and UN to rid Syria of chemical and weapon stockpiles, a task which will not be easy. While the actual physical demolition of the chemicals and weapons is the responsibility of the Syrian government, OPCW inspectors monitor and verify what equipment is destroyed. OPCW hopes to have as many as 100 inspectors on the ground, a jump from the 20 inspectors that have already been surveying sites in Syria.

An image grab taken from Syrian television on October 10, 2013 shows an inspector from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) at work at an undisclosed location in Syria. (AFP Photo)

While there is relief that a conflict was avoided, Syrian’s are angry that President Bashar Assad is getting away with essentially murder. With the war costing more than 100,000 Syrian lives, and the chemical attacks killing 1400 in one day; the Syrian people want a change. A video released today asserted that with a spokesperson speaking on the behalf of 65 different groups of fighters saying that, “they feel abandoned by the political leadership and “withdraw their recognition” of the Coalition. This recent news serves as a blow to the Syrian National Coalition a group that is a Western-funded opposition; a group whose goal was to overthrow Assad’s regime.

The numbers are staggering when you realize the Syrian conflict has killed more than 100,000, forced 2 million to seek shelter abroad, and has displaced 5 million in Syria. Whats left is fighting between Kurdish fighting groups and Al-Qaeda backed ones from Southern Syria; recent violence which has left as many as 41 dead.


By: Rohan Kohli

Geography of Sudan

Sudan is the largest country in Africa. It is bordered by 9 countries and is along the Red Sea. Based on area in square miles, Sudan is the tenth largest country in the world. Image

Sudan was previously larger, but in 2011, the Southern region seceded and became South Sudan. South Sudan is mostly composed of Christians, who have a long history of fighting with the Muslims located in other regions of Sudan.

Even though Sudan is so large, most it looks exactly the same: like a flat plain. There are not many major landforms in any region. However, one of the few notable landforms is a range of mountains in the northeast and south of Sudan.


Sudan’s highest point is Kinyeti which can be found on its far southern border with Uganda. Most of northern Sudan is desert that is suffering from serious desertification, or the drying out of a region.

Because Sudan is so large, the climate also varies widely. The south of Sudan is quite tropical, while the north is very dry. The temperature varies with the climate, but major rivers also run through the country, causing humidity in bordering cities.