Monday, May 19, 2008

Kirk Johnson: Keeper of the List

This is Kirk Johnson in this week’s interview with 60 Minutes. In December 2006, Kirk Johnson, a former USAID worker who had been based in Baghdad and Fallujah throughout 2005, received a message from a former Iraqi colleague. A few weeks earlier while walking home from his job assisting the U.S., "Y" (real name withheld) had found a severed dog's head thrown on his front steps with a note pinned to it that said: "Your head will be next." When the U.S. government offered him no help, "Y" and his wife packed what they could carry and, after years of service to America, fled Iraq.

Johnson wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times describing Y's plight and calling on the U.S. to save those Iraqis imperiled by their belief in America and its state-building effort. Soon thereafter, Johnson began hearing from many others who had endured similar fates. He began documenting the names and whereabouts of former Iraqi colleagues and found that nearly 70% of the Iraqis he had worked with throughout 2005 were refugees in Syria, Jordan, the UAE, and other countries. Within weeks, Johnson's List had grown dramatically.

On June 20th 2007 - designated as World Refugee Day, Kirk Johnson founded The List: Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies (TLP), a small non-profit advocating for Iraqis endangered by their work with American organizations to be resettled to the United States. The organization of which Johnson is the director, currently employs four full-time staff and dozens of committed volunteers. It has partnered with law firms Holland & Knight and Proskauer Rose to provide legal representation for Iraqis and help them navigate the complicated resettlement process. The two firms have contributed nearly 100 attorneys and thousands of hours pro bono representation. TLP also partnered with Upwardly Global, an innovative NGO which has committed to assisting the Iraqis on the List once they arrive to the U.S.

The TLP website states that “The List catalogues detailed information on nearly 1000 Iraqis in grave danger for their association with the United States. Most are displaced; all have been employed by American organizations (including U.S. Government agencies, the Armed Forces, and American contractors and NGOs operating in Iraq). The List is growing by the day, but despite bi-partisan consensus that the fate of Iraqis who aided the US is a fundamental moral and national security imperative, the United States government is still admitting only a paltry few refugees per month. It is nowhere near reaching its stated goal of 12,000 by the end of fiscal year 2008.”

I don't know about you but - this hits me hard every time I see this clip. One man. 86 refugees. The power of one man doing the right thing, for the right reason, at the right time is not only admirable but restores my faith that, as Albert Schweitzer puts it so clearly, each one of us can do a little to bring some portion of misery to an end. A water fall begins with only one drop of water, doesn't it? One drop. One man.

There are things we cannot do, but we cannot let what we cannot do preclude us from doing what we can do. I think there are many opportunities to help here. If you can, please, help. You can stay informed, start a list project chapter, donate to the legal support program, help the List Kids, write to elected officials, or support any of the organization’s three funds: Emergency Support Fund, Iraqi Airfare Fund or the Job Training Fund. You can read more detailed information on how to help here. To donate online, click here.

To read more about The List: Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies, click here. Spaas - Gracias - Shokrun - Thank You - Teşekkür Ederim !!!

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