Rashad Zaydan of Iraq
- Conversation with Rashad Zaydan
- Documentary Short
Dr. Rashad Zaydan of Iraq became a pharmacist to heal people. When her country was torn apart by war, her healing expanded to include the physically, emotionally, socially and psychologically wounded, particularly Iraq’s women and children. As the founder and head of the development organization Knowledge for Iraqi Women Society (K4IWS), Dr. Zaydan seeks to rebuild the tattered lives of Iraqi widows, women and children through educational, financial, occupational and medical services.
A native of Baghdad, Dr. Zaydan is a survivor of multiple wars. The year she graduated from college and became a pharmacist, Iraq entered a long, destructive conflict with Iran; then came the Kuwait invasion followed by the first and second Gulf wars. Working for Iraq’s national pharmacy through the conflicts, Dr. Zaydan helped in charity clinics and distributed survival goods and food to those forced from their homes.
In 2003, convinced that war would soon return to her country, Dr. Zaydan organized basic first aid emergency training for girls and women in her community. As neighbors fled Baghdad before the invasion, she moved simple medical supplies from her private pharmacy to her home. When the bombs began to fall and the city collapsed outside, she and her family took shelter under the stairs of their home. As neighbors started knocking on her door for medical help, Dr. Zaydan converted her home, her family’s bunker, into an emergency clinic.
In the aftermath of invasion, but still in the chaos of violence, Dr. Zaydan gathered her women friends to rehabilitate their community. Dr. Zaydan’s first priority was an abandoned government hospital; next were the destroyed schools, which had become impromptu bases for the Iraqi government and U.S. forces.
That was the beginning of K4IWS. Dr. Zaydan left medical work to tend to her shattered community. Seeing the immediate and wide-scale humanitarian relief needed to decrease the violence, she responded where she could and sought to build peace. After responding to the Fallujah attacks in 2004 with relief and medical aid, Dr. Zaydan was asked to set up a permanent branch there. Another center in the city of Abu Ghraib provided clean water to more than 650 households previously without such access. The women’s society has since expanded from distributing relief aid to providing women with income-generating skills and increasing women’s education through Arabic, English and Islamic studies classes – always emphasizing women’s role in reconstructing Iraqi society. Each branch also has a kindergarten, free for orphans, punctuated with Islam’s teachings on forgiveness, compassion and love.
With a fearless commitment to support the widows, orphans and displaced in a society where violence and insecurity continues, Dr. Zaydan remains a healer. “We can’t change all bad things in the world,” Dr. Zaydan believes, “but still we can at least try to leave our repairing fingerprints here and there.”
Zaydan was a Woman PeaceMaker in 2011.