Many Americans are aware that there is a humanitarian crisis in Iraq, however most do not know the full extent of this crisis. Currently there are more than 3 million displaced Iraqis. Some of those affected by the violence were able to leave their dangerous neighborhoods for better areas in Iraq or abroad. These fortunate few were able to leave because they had the resources to do so, however not all Iraqis were so fortunate. Most had to stay in their homes and endure the daily violence, and to go to bed not knowing whether they would live to see the next day.
During the peak of the violence, in 2005-2008, all the ethnic and religious groups were targets of violent attacks.Most Iraqis who experienced violence were targeted due to their past or present affiliations. Many Iraqis, in order to earn an income to feed their families, would lend their labor to competing entities. These entities ranged from the government, political parties, the Iraqi police and army, foreign contracting companies, militias, and finally to the Americans. Through their jobs, Iraqis would become affiliated with different entities, and therefore became targets of terrorist groups.
Ultimately, many Iraqis chose to work for the United States or other members of the Multinational Forces. A few chose to work for the Americans because they agreed with the invasion and the toppling of Saddam’s regime. Most, on the other hand, chose to work for the United States because they were provided with a paycheck which they used to support their families. The Iraqis who worked for the US served many functions, such as interpreters, truck drivers, plumbers, electricians, garbage collectors, fork-lift drivers, and day laborers.
Those who worked for the US were ten times more likely to be injured or killed than an American servicemember. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Iraqis who had worked for the United States were left behind after the US withdrawal at the end of 2011. These Iraqis had to find new jobs and hope that they would not be targeted by militias or other violent extremist groups (VEG). Currently, militias and VEGs are still targeting those who assisted the US, viewing them as traitors.
Luckily, there is someone who is doing something to help these Iraqis who helped the US. Kirk Johnson, who runs an organization called “The List Project” seeks to assist Iraqis who are trying to flee Iraq through the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV). The SIV was established by Congress in 2008 to assist Iraqis who were fleeing due to being targeted because of their connections to the US. The List Project works to assist Iraqis who qualify for the SIV in coming to the US.
EPIC encourages you to listen to Kirk Johnsons recent interview with This American Life. Kirk Johnson’s story is one filled with sorrow, but through his actions, there is hope for those who assisted the US.
To read a previous interviews between EPIC and Kirk, please visit: