Iraq Now Panel Discussion Media Release

Thursday 27 February 2020 at 5:30-7:30pm

Most Australians know precious little about the ongoing situation in Iraq. Even though Australia has sent troops to fight in Iraq over the past few decades, and even though in recent years thousands of Iraqi refugees have come to Australia in the wake of the rise of ISIS in the Middle East, most people in Australia are still unaware of the details of events in Iraq that forced people to flee the country, and the ongoing trauma and destruction that continues to this day. 

With this in mind, the Edmund Rice Centre (ERC) held a panel discussion titled “Iraq Now” on Thursday 27 February 2020, aiming to raise awareness about Iraq’s current security situation, human rights challenges, minority issues, political instability, refugee rights and returnee difficulties.

A number of distinguished speakers, primarily Iraqi Australians, with a wealth of knowledge and expertise about Iraq’s current situation and recent history addressed the meeting.

The meeting heard that Iraq has exchanged limits on freedoms and democracy under the totalitarian rule of Saddam Hussein, for ongoing limits on fundamental freedoms and democracy today under a Government that has ceded too much influence over Iraq to the religious leaders of Iran.

The numerous wars waged by the US and its allies, and by ISIS and its backers, have failed to deliver peace and justice to the Iraqi people. The result is that the suffering and human rights abuses of the Iraqi people have deteriorated further in recent years. This reality has been largely ignored by the international media, and by many western Governments who sent their troops over many years to fight in Iraq.

The forum also provided an opportunity for the Iraqi community from diverse socio-political, ethnic and religious backgrounds to come together and listen and discuss the ongoing situation in Iraq, and to share their different perspectives on what is happening in the country and its impacts on the Iraqi community in Australia.

A constructive discussion was that Iraqi community members were able to discuss the intense political, human rights and social issues in Iraq in an atmosphere that enabled participants to listen to different perspectives of others without feeling confronted or targeted.

This was an important achievement - as divisions and disagreements in the Iraqi community from time to time, on the current situation of Iraq, can make it harder to take part in public discussions that aim to unite the Iraqi community against human rights violations, political violence and minority abuses.

“It was a difficult discussion, but unless we find a way to have these discussions we will struggle to make progress”, said convenor for the forum ERC’s Farhad Arian.   


Background Information

The panel was facilitated by Sr Jan Barnett of Sisters of Saint Joseph. There were five distinguished panellists sitting on the panel who all have extensive knowledge of Iraq’s socio-political, security and economic situation and have been working actively on Iraq’s human rights, minority issues, refugee empowerment and political development.

  • Dr Ahmad Alrubaie OAM, Senior Lecturer at UNSW and President of Association of Iraqi Academics in Australia & NZ.
  • Mrs Donna Mulhearn, Writer, Speaker and Author of Ordinary Courage: My Journey to Baghdad as a Human Shield
  • Mr Bashar Hanna, Community Fellow at Western Sydney University and Founder of Arts & Community Development Centre
  • Ms Ilham Dawood, Women’s Rights Activist and Member of the Amnesty International Women’s Group and UN Women National Committee in Australia
  • Dr Laith Barnouti, Community Leader, Public Officer at Australian Arab Affairs and Voice President of Iraqi Medical Professional Association in Australia

Each panellist spoke for 8 minutes about human rights, religious freedom, minority issues and political situation in Iraq followed by 50 minutes Q&A session and interactive discussions. 

There were 75 people in attendance at the panel discussion who came from various social and professional backgrounds, including academics, researchers, human rights activists, refugee advocates, community development organisations/practitioners, humanitarian/relief agencies, community representatives, university students and leaders from culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

The Iraq Now panel was the second in a series of conversations organised by ERC in partnership with community associations and community leaders to create a platform for the wider Australian community to take part in discussions on political, security, social and economic situation of conflict-affected countries in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa.

It was a very successful event which the ERC will repeat over the course of this year, including sessions on the situation in Syria, Iran, South Sudan and Sri Lanka.


To download the media release, please click the link here.


For information/comment please contact:

Farhad Arian on 02 8762 4200 or [email protected]

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