Wow, I was really lucky that I stumbled upon this bit on Idealist.org today, too bad I didn’t have time to post about it until now (but in some time zones it’s still the 10th so that’s cool right? meh).

When 28-year-old Anmar Abdulla received a threatening letter with a bullet in it, he knew it was time to leave his home country of Iraq. He closed up the translation bureau he was running and received an even greater threat a few days later, when a car bomb went off outside the bureau and demolished the building. Like millions before him, Abdulla relocated to Damascus, Syria, where he was jobless and lived on savings that only lasted a few months. His parents remained in Baghdad, but he couldn’t contact them out of fear. His fate was uncertain, his anxiety ever-increasing.


Today, Bloggers Unite along with Refugees United are urging bloggers around the world to raise awareness for refugees like Abdulla who have fled their homeland due to violent political and religious strife. But where to even start? I started re-reading article after article about the current plight of millions of refugees, and delving into the worlds of displaced persons from Sudan to Sri Lanka. It was disturbing and heart-breaking—not to mention made me angry. But the one point that struck me, and one I kept reading over and over again, was the plea for help for the millions of Iraqi refugees who are largely ignored. The Iraq war was a hot topic during the US presidential election, and will continue to be on the forefront of the political agenda. President-elect Barack Obama has a large task ahead of him, but it’s clear that it’s not only the job of the United States to respond to the refugee crisis, but the international community as a whole.

The statistics are alarming. Iraq has a history of wars that have pushed people out, but five years after the US military invasion of Iraq, the nation continues to see the number of refugees fleeing to neighboring countries increasing. The reasons are complex, ranging from a lack of resources and strong infrastructure in the government to militias of all denominations practicing wanton violence, discrimination and ethnic cleansing. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates a total of 2.7 million internally displaced Iraqis, with over two million more taking refuge in countries such as Syria and Jordan. The circumstances in the newly adapted homelands are grim. The refugees are taxing an already overburdened system in these countries and as a consequence, medical and education demands are not being met. Additionally, many are battling psychological illnesses such as anxiety and depression while others are struggling to simply survive.

The UNHCR convened a conference in Geneva last year with world leaders to address the problem—a step in the right direction. But how can you as an individual help out the plight of not only Iraqi refugees, but refugees around the world? If you feel like donating some cash or want to find out how organizations are responding, take at look at our Idealist database for a list of 767 nonprofits from New York to Norway dedicated to this topic. Or browse the 278 volunteer opportunities, that range from tutoring an Iraqi family in Oregon to teaching medicine to refugees in Uganda via postal mail. There are also 172 job openings right now, including working in Chad on humanitarian media projects and in Los Angeles to help identify families and friends who wish to reunite with refugees in the Middle East. Finally, you can always spread the word on your website, blog or social networking site to raise awareness. Your voice goes a long way.

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