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The Iraqi List Project: Helping Those Who Have Helped Us

The danger to American soldiers in Iraq has received a great deal of media coverage, but the danger to Iraqis who have assisted American soldiers has gone largely unnoticed.  For those who are forced to flee Iraq, the process leading to safety can be laborious.  The cover story of the July 2008 ABA Journal details the struggle of one Iraqi refugee to get himself and his family to safety after he risked his life to serve as a translator to the paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne.

In 2003, Hayder Hazim lost his leg while dragging a wounded U.S. soldier to safety.  After extremists threw a grenade into his home, Hazim left Iraq for Jordan with his wife and newborn son.  For five years, he waited in Jordan, enduring the often-internecine visa process.  The process is supposed to begin with an interview by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – within two months.  Many refugees often wait years.

However, a growing number of attorneys are stepping forward to help Iraqi refugees navigate the asylum process.  Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge℠ Signatory firms Mayer Brown LLP, Holland & Knight LLP, and Proskauer Rose LLP, among others, have attorneys offering to help with work that can be difficult – often requiring “a gift for forging relationships of trust within bureaucracies,” as Chris Nugent of Holland & Knight says.  Furthermore, this type of pro bono can demand dogged persistence and an acceptance of the fact that loss of contact with a client may mean the worst possible news.

The List Project is a U.S. non-profit founded with the twin goals of bringing as many Iraqis who have been endangered by their work for the U.S. to America as possible and offering resettlement assistance once they arrive.  The List, created in December 2006 by Kirk Johnson, a former USAID worker who been based in Baghdad and Fallujah, documents the names and whereabouts of Iraqis who had provided help to the U.S.  The List has received media attention including the Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, the New York Times, ABC’s World News Tonight, and CBS’ 60 Minutes.

While this pro bono work can be difficult and frequently dispiriting, it can also provide incredible rewards.  In April 2008, Hayder Hazim, his wife, and their now five-year-old son, Ali, arrived in Roanoke, VA.

Read the ABA Journal cover story here for full details on the Iraqis seeking refuge in the United States and to discover what you can do to help.


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