In Erbil, conducting one of her many supply runs for refugee and internally displaced persons (IDP) camps, Dr. Sarah AK Ahmed, an Iraqi national and Baghdad native, found herself swept into the middle of a Kurdish protest full of people screaming, “Arab mu zen,” ‘Arab is bad.’[i]
Shots fired as her driver dragged her to safety.[ii] This was not the first time Sarah has faced grave danger, nor would it be the last. As a young Muslim woman working for a Christian charity in service of Christians and other persecuted religious minorities, Sarah is a target for extremists who do not recognize her Muslim faith as “correct.”[iii]
Sarah faces threats from ISIS and other extremist groups who disagree with her work and life’s mission. Some have told her “we will make an example out of you” to try to dissuade her from her peace work. However, she persists.
“Sometimes I get really scared”, she admits.[iv] But her compassion and her faith are much stronger than her fear. As Director of Operations in the Middle East for the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME), Sarah has provided for thousands of IDPs and religious refugees fleeing the dominion and cruelty of ISIS, while helping those who need basic medical care, housing relief, and education.
“I know what a lot of people say about Islam, but my Islam that I believe in is a religion that is very peaceful and believes in helping others.”[v] – Dr. Sarah AK Ahmed
Trained as a dentist at the University of Baghdad, College of Dentistry, Sarah earned her Bachelor of Dental Science and Oral Surgery from the University of Baghdad’s College of Dentistry.[vi] While she was in the U.S. doing an internship on interfaith dialogue of the Abrahamic faiths and Social Justice, she met Peacemaker Reverend Canon Andrew White.[vii] Sarah was inspired by him. He was impressed by her genuine engagement with the Jewish community. And the rest is history. Canon White invited Sarah to come work at FRRME, where she quickly rose from clinic volunteer to become his personal assistant and FRRME’s Director of Operations.
“I feel no difference. I work for the Christians, Yazidis, Jews, everybody else. For me, we are all equal.”[viii] – Dr. Sarah AK Ahmed
In Northern Iraq, Sarah’s daily tasks range from cooking meals for 25,000-50,000 people to finding and distributing basic necessities, including wheelchairs, beds and cradles.[ix] She also works to ensure that the FRRME St. George’s clinic has supplies for its patients, which range from 80 to 100 every day.[x] During times of violent conflict, these soberingly small victories can make a real difference, despite the overwhelming level of human suffering that exists. So Dr. Ahmed keeps going—undeterred by tragedy and war, motivated to live out her religion, especially for the children in Iraq.[xi] “Those little people have so much hope in them, so much magic. Despite all [they] have been going through, they still have this pureness and holiness around them.”[xii]
“I’ll keep helping as much as I can … I’ll keep providing for all the Christians, and all the other religious minorities: Shabak, Yazidis, Ifailies, and Shia Muslims…. I won’t stop until the last displaced family in any of the camps in the north of Iraq is either back to their home, or in a better place. That is my promise.”[xiii] – Dr. Sarah AK Ahmed
Dr. Ahmed’s love for her country – and all of the people in it led her to turn her blog initiative “Because, I Love Peace” (BILPeace) into an NGO in order to connect American readers with an Iraqi story.
With Sarah’s leadership, FRRME opened an Autism Center in Kirkuk in Northern Iraq to protect the country’s vulnerable population amid ISIS’s brutality.
Sarah has a deep passion to make change in her country, and continues to do so through efforts with BILPeace and FRRME. She also serves as the International Advisor for the MOYA Foundation (Moving our Youth Ahead).
In the future, Sarah hopes to open a peacemaking center for youth educational development in order to provide educational support and interfaith dialogue to young people in her beloved country.
[i] “Exclusive, On The Ground Update On The Situation In Iraq – Dr. Sarah AK Ahmed.” Daystar, October 21, 2014. http://www.daystar.com/news-updates/general-updates/exclusive-ground-update-situation-iraq-dr-sarah-ak-ahmed/.
[ii] “Exclusive, On The Ground Update On The Situation In Iraq – Dr. Sarah AK Ahmed.”
[iii] Hallowell, Bill. “Meet The Muslim Woman Who Is Helping Save Christians’ Lives In The Middle East.” Deseret News, August 9, 2016. https://www.deseretnews.com/article/865659745/Meet-the-Muslim-woman-who-is-helping-save-Christians-lives-in-the-Middle-East.html.
[iv] Hallowell. “Meet The Muslim Woman Who Is Helping Save Christians’ Lives In The Middle East.”
[v] Hallowell. “Meet the Muslim Woman Who Is Helping Save Christians’ Lives In The Middle East.”
[vi] Smith, Samuel. “Muslim Woman Devotes Her Life To Helping Christians Displaced By ISIS.” The Christian Post, August 7, 2016. https://www.christianpost.com/news/muslim-woman-devotes-her-life-to-helping-christians-displaced-by-isis-167566/#kuODgj1q3eq7X2P2.99.
[vii] Smith. “Muslim Woman Devotes Her Life To Helping Christians Displaced By ISIS.”
[viii] Smith. “Muslim Woman Devotes Her Life To Helping Christians Displaced By ISIS.”
[ix] Ahmed, Dr. Sarah AK. “20 August 2014:” Because…I Love Peace, August 24, 2014. http://becauseilovepeace.org/wordpress/?p=240; FRRME Staff. “Fleeing To Safe Havens.” FRRME News/Blog, June 8, 2017. https://frrme.org/fleeing-to-safe-havens/; “Exclusive On The Ground Update On The Situation In Iraq.”
[x] FRRME Staff. “Bombs in Baghdad But We Are Still there.” FRRME News/Blog, May 11, 2017. https://frrme.org/bombs-baghdad-still/; Arraf, Jane. “Andrew White, ‘The Vicar Of Baghdad,’ Aids Iraqis Of All Faiths.” The Christian Science Monitor, November 13, 2014. https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Making-a-difference/2014/1113/Andrew-White-the-Vicar-of-Baghdad-aids-Iraqis-of-all-faiths; Hallowell. “Meet The Muslim Woman Who Is Helping Save Christians’ Lives In The Middle East.”
[xi] “Exclusive, On The Ground Update On The Situation In Iraq – Dr. Sarah AK Ahmed.”
[xii] Ahmed, Dr. Sarah AK. “The Rain Stopped When You Came.” Because…I Love Peace, August 21, 2014. http://becauseilovepeace.org/wordpress/?p=227.
[xiii] Ahmed, Dr. Sarah AK. “I Will Never Stop…” Because…I Love Peace, August 19, 2014. http://becauseilovepeace.org/wordpress/?p=236.