November 2019 | By Joe Snell | Photos contributed
ANKAWA — No Friends But the Mountains, an environmental group in the Kurdistan region, has found a new friend in Ankawa.
A local project between the Etuti Institute, an organization that promotes young Assyrian leaders, and the planet-protecting non-profit installed over 100 trees across Ankawa, an Assyrian suburb of Erbil, on Saturday, Nov. 16. The event is part of a larger initiative by NFBTM to work with local organizations to clean up the region.
“Specifically in Iraq, people don’t really pay attention to such things as the environment and how we should keep it clean,” said Etuti’s project leader, Bahra Dawood.
A professional farmer accompanied volunteers across Ankawa to help plot the trees and then volunteers tied wooden sticks to hold them in place.
A week before Saturday’s event, Dawood and Ninwaya Polis, a co-founder of NFBTM, scouted all eight schools in Ankawa as well as major streets. They also received help from a local Erbil official.
Sixty-five sabahbah trees were planted alongside city streets and another 35 were planted in Ur Secondary and Arbaelo primary schools. Volunteers took the remaining trees home to plant in their own yards.
The issue with environmental advocacy in Iraq, Polis said, is the lack of regulations and ability to enforce laws to protect the environment. Iraq does not have an active police force dedicated to forest preservation.
NFBTM began meeting nearly five years ago to promote environmental protection in northern Iraq. In October, they started a project to plant trees in the mountains of the Kurdistan region. After two weekends, they moved efforts into the cities “because that’s where we need more green areas” Polis said.
“We all use cars, plastic and we do have a carbon footprint no matter what,” Polis said. “Planting a tree can be your way of getting even with that to erase your negative effect on the environment.”
The group has planted trees in the Kurdistan region every Saturday since and often partners with local organizations to help with financing, scouting locations and volunteers. To date, they have planted 664 trees. They set an organization record of planting 300 trees on Saturday, Nov. 23.
“It’s up to us to protect this planet and pass it on to the next generations in a livable way,” Polis said. “This planet has suffered a lot because of our pollution as humans and it’s our duty to try to tip the balance and try to clean it and make it green again.”
Learn more about No Friends But the Mountains by visiting their Facebook Page.