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Iraqis Looking Toward Much Brighter Future

American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 29, 2004 – Iraq's future is a little brighter on many fronts. Another electricity generator been brought on line and a shelter for abused Iraqi women has opened its doors, and Iraqi border guards now have night goggles and new Jeeps.

An electricity generator that had fallen into disrepair after decades of war and neglect is back on line today in northern Iraq, producing enough electricity to service 51,000 Iraqi homes.

The 17-megawatt generator at the Mullah Abdullah Power Station in the Tameem governorate is the sixth generator that Iraqi and U.S. engineers have brought on line this month.

"This is very good news," said Raad Shalal, a senior Iraq Ministry of Electricity official. "This will help to reduce the shortage of electricity across the country."

Iraq and U.S. engineers have reduced the shortage this month by adding 169 megawatts to the national grid. This brings the grid to a total of more than 53,000 megawatts enough to service 15.6 million Iraq homes. This far exceeds the pre-war electricity level of 4,400 megawatts, officials said.

"We know how important electricity is to the safety and security of the Iraqi people, and we continue to work on their behalf with the ministry to bring the country additional electricity," said Lt. Col. Jeffery Ogden, director of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Restore Iraqi Electricity Directorate.

Despite the addition of power to the country's national grid, the demand for electricity continues to grow, according to a fact sheet published by the Iraq Ministry of Electricity.

"With more than half a million new jobs created, new industries and new factories coming on line, and with the sales of thousands of home appliances such as washing machines and air conditioners, Iraq has experienced a rapid increase in electricity demand," the fact sheet reads. "The increase in demand is a good sign of a thriving economy emerging from three decades of isolation."

Brighter futures don't always come in the form of incandescent lighting, though.

Iraq's first safe house for battered and abused women proves that good things can come out of the rubble of war.

The Baghdad safe house, which opened its doors in April, is the brainchild of Army Capt. Stacey Simms, who worked for the 352nd Civil Affairs Command while deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Simms began this project under the guidance of the Coalition Provisional Authority and in conjunction with the Ministry of Labor and Social affairs.

The project was handed over to Maj. Martha Boyd, senior consultant, Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, Iraq Reconstruction Management Office, in February.

Boyd is charged with ensuring funding for the safe house and its employees. With the transfer of power to the interim Iraqi government, the women's shelter has fallen under the minister of labor and social affairs. The safe house operates on a $75,000 annual budget, which includes payroll.

For the first time, Iraqi women have a place to escape from physical or sexual abuse, officials said.

Social services for Iraqi women are often limited, especially for women over the age of 18. Iraqi orphanages typically take responsibility for women under 18 and in need of help. They consider those over 18 on a case-by-case basis, but those arrangements are only temporary, officials explained.

The safe house opened at an undisclosed location within the city limits of Baghdad for the protection of the clients and staff. It also "provides hope in this country that domestic violence does not need to be tolerated," Boyd said in the release.

Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week under tight security, the shelter can host up to 16 women. Ideal capacity, however, is no more than eight people so the staff can provide individual attention.

The safe house not only provides temporary protection, but also educates the family that abuse is not acceptable. If an Iraqi woman is raped, the shelter can protect her from honor killings an accepted cultural practice in some parts of Iraq.

To date, five women, including one with five children, have taken advantage of the shelter.

Boyd's hope is that the safe house and others like it will continue to provide care and counseling to victims of domestic violence for years to come.

In another development that will brighten night border patrols in Iraq, members of the Iraqi Border Patrol battalion in Diyanah received 25 sets of night-vision goggles and 10 Jeep Libertys from Multinational Corps Iraq on Aug. 28.

The goggles were purchased by Task Force Olympia with funds from the Commander's Emergency Response Program, and cost about $100,000. The goggles will help the IBP conduct night patrols to capture smugglers near the border.

Multinational Corps Iraq donated the vehicles so the IBP soldiers will have enough vehicles to conduct multiple missions at the same time, officials said.

"These vehicles will make our jobs easier and allow us to prevent smugglers from crossing the border," said the IBP logistics officer. Until now, the companies only had enough vehicles to conduct one mission at a time.

"This new equipment will allow the IBP to be more effective," said Capt. Aaron Baugher, a multinational forces commander who works closely with the IBP. "They will be able to conduct more patrols at night, when smugglers are most active."

Iraqi government officials have long recognized the border of Iraq as an entry point for terrorists, weapons and money coming into the country, officials said. The donation of this equipment is important to putting a stop to illegal activities, they added.

(Complied from news releases from the Coalition Press Information Center, Baghdad.)

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