Egypt's involvement in Iraq has been costly

Farah El Alfy
7 Min Read

CAIRO: The Arab League convened a special meeting on Iraq Tuesday including its neighbors in an attempt to map out a strategy to end the violence in the war-torn country and prevent the conflict from spreading.

The Egyptian government has in recent years been active in trying to bring sectarian strife in the oil-rich country to a halt as well as mediate between rival Shiite and Sunni factions and help form a unity government in Baghdad.

But Egypt’s role in Iraq has sometimes proved fatal for many of its civil servants and citizens working in Iraq.

Prior to the war, President Hosni Mubarak warned that invading Iraq would create 1000 Bin Ladens, and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa had said such a move would open the gates of hell.

In the midst of the Iraq carnage which regional powers fear may spill into a wider conflict, two senior Egyptian civil servants have been killed since 2003.

In August 2003, Nadia Younes, an Egyptian national who was serving as Chief of Staff for Sergio Vieira de Mello, the United Nations Special Representative in Baghdad, was killed when a powerful car bomb destroyed the UN compound in the Iraqi capital.

“She reached for the highest professional standards in her work, earned the respect and affection of her colleagues, and took profound pleasure in life. Her throaty laughter fills this room still. These words are inscribed by Nadia Younes’s former colleagues on the wall of the United Nations Spokesman’s Office in New York.

In her life, Younes accomplished many things. She has been an active person at the UN since she joined in 1970. According to Secretary General Kofi Annan, she was “a trailblazer in the United Nations from early on in her career.

Younes started out in the UN with no history, no connections, she just applied off the street and made her way up. She started out in the Department of Public Information, and after spending many years in various posts in that department, she was recognized by the higher ups. Javier Perez De Cuellar, the Secretary General at the time, offered Younes a job as his spokesperson 1988.

Her sister Nahed told the Daily Star Egypt that “Nadia’s life had so much meaning we didn’t want her death to go meaningless . that’s why we are giving it some meaning through a memorial fund that will carry on through generations.

In July 2005, Egyptian Ambassador to Iraq Ihab Al-Sherif was kidnapped by an armed group thought to be affiliated with Al-Qaeda while buying a newspaper in Baghdad. On a website they had created, Al-Qaeda posted the message:

The Islamic court of the Al-Qaeda Organization in the Land of Two Rivers has decided to refer the ambassador of the state of Egypt, an ally of the Jews and the Christians, to the mujahedeens so that they can execute him .

The website also had a video of who seems to be Al-Sherif blind folded, saying that he was once a diplomat in Israel. Four days after his abduction the website, and the Egyptian government confirmed that he was killed. The verdict of God against the ambassador of the infidels, the ambassador of Egypt, has been carried out , stated Al Qaeda website.

His body was never recovered.

He was previously the Chargé d affaires to Israel.

He arrived in Iraq one month prior his death diplomat to represent an Arab country in Iraq after the ouster of Saddam Hussein. Perhaps he was murdered because he would have been the first full-ranking Arab ambassador to the UN-backed Iraqi governmentOne week after his murder Al Qaeda leader Khamis Farhan Khalaf Abd Al Fahdawi was arrested for Al-Sherif’s murder.

The American University in Cairo (AUC) has contributed to commemorating Younes’ long civil service career for Egypt and the world community by establishing the Nadia Younes Memorial fund with the support of her family.

After Younes’s death, her family was approached by the AUC, who wanted to name the next Model United Nations after her. The family immediately approved, and together with the AUC came up with this fund that would be able to sustain free activities, that would benefit students who are going into the same type of career as Younes.

The fund at the moment has three functions. The first is the Nadia Younes Conference and Meeting Room, which will be housed in the political science department in the AUC new campus. This room will be mainly used by the students involved in the MUN.The second is the annual lecture series in which once a year, a personality of very high caliber gives a lecture. Last year UN Secretary General Kofi Annan came to Cairo giving a touching speech in Youne’s name.

This year Bernard Kouchner co-founder of Doctors without Borders (MSF) and of Médecins du Monde is coming on Dec. 6, 2006 for the same memorial lecture. He is married to the French media superstar Christine Okrent who will also be attending the lecture.

The third active function of the fund is the Nadia Younes Award for Public and Humanitarian Service, which is a prize that goes to the graduating senior who has exhibited the most commitment to community and humanitarian services.

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