On June 17, the Tribune published a letter from Dr. Stephen Hollingshead in which he made the case for providing economic assistance to northern Iraq, and why U.S. foreign policy ought to change. We editorialized in support of these efforts, and what follows is his update.
It is August 17, and I am on my way to Iraq to continue the progress we’ve made to help our brethren suffering at the dirty hands of ISIS.
Nazarene Olive Oil
My efforts are focused on creating jobs in areas not currently controlled by ISIS. One such area, the beautiful historic town of Alqosh, has never been taken by ISIS. About a third of the families there were driven from their prior homes by ISIS, which captured the olive mill nine miles away that was so important to the economy of this place.
This is a problem we can fix.
I have secured the help of renowned international olive oil expert Paul Miller, president of the Extra Virgin Alliance, to develop a business plan, distribution channel, and olive oil cooperative in order to employ these displaced families and to revitalize the economy in Alqosh.
I will be meeting with Christian and Yezidi farmers who have been unable to get their olives to the oil market since ISIS took the mill. In this business, if you do not make olives into oil within 24 hours of harvesting them, the quality is ruined.
This is an exciting opportunity to help these families recover the dignity of earning their daily bread.
We have backed two amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) carried by Congressman Fortenberry. These amendments will give the Department of Defense authority to arm and train the minorities of Northern Iraq — Christians, Yezidis, and Turkmen — directly, without sending the money through Baghdad. These amendments were both passed by the House, but did not make it into the Senate version. However, we managed to get the support of Senate Armed Services Chairman, Sen. John McCain, so we expect them to make it into the conference report and become law in September or October. This would be a big victory for the Christian soldiers on the Nineveh Plain who want to take their villages back from ISIS.
National Advocacy Conference
In Defense of Christians will hold its national conference September 7-9, in Washington, D.C., during which we will present the latest news from Iraq and hope to secure investors to build an olive mill that will give families a chance to get out of refugee camps and recover their independence.
When I talk with the victims of ISIS, I am often awed by their strength in the face of unspeakable crimes. I wish you could look in their eyes and see the anguish, and wonder like I do at their will to go on. It has been two years now for them, and I fear many are losing hope.
I deeply appreciate the continued support from the citizens of Loudoun County to help these Christian and Yezidi families persecuted by ISIS for their faith. We still need more.
Stephen Hollingshead, Ph.D.
Managing Director, Haven Project