Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Emma Nicholson | Baroness of Winterbourne, Executive Chairman, Iraq Britain Business Council, and Founder & Chairman, Amar Foundation, UK & Iraq


Case Study Outline

  1. → Baroness Nicholson Video (above)
  2. → Learning Objectives
  3. → Main Category of Action
  4. → Baroness Nicholson’s Story
  5. → Summary of Case
  6. → Interview with Baroness Nicholson
  7. → Introduction to Iraq
  8.      – Demographics and Economy
  9.      – Religious Demographics
  10.      – Conflict and Violence related to Religion
  11. → More About the Iraq Britain Business Council and AMAR
  12. → Discussion Questions
  13. → Media and Added Resources

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Learning Objectives

Emma Nicholson, Baroness of Winterbourne, executive chairman of the Iraq Britain Business council and founder and chairman of AMAR Foundation in the U.K. and Iraq, works to build business, technology, trade and investment in Iraq, with a special focus on women of religious minorities, such as Yazidis. Nicholson sees the importance of having an intentional focus on women who often are the most badly affected in conflict and repressive environments.

The learning objectives for this case study include:

  1. 1. Charities can be established to promote business as a solution to some of the world’s toughest problems.
  2. 2. Business in tandem with charitable outreach can be a powerful combination of forces to solve social problems.
  3. 3. Philanthropy that keeps overhead down and places emphasis on local operations has the opportunity to multiply its effectiveness.
  4. 4. Preserving families is a key to individual and social resiliency and economic sustainability.


Partnership and collective action

Joining forces with Governments, UN entities, civil society organizations and/or other businesses to act collectively to promote interfaith understanding and peace and forge long-term partnerships for local or regional economic and sustainable development.

Baroness Nicholson’s Story

Emma Nicholson, Baroness of Winterbourne, knows about distilling — the process of purification. She was born into the family that founded the London gin company J&W Nicholson & Co.

But Nicholson, the lone politician among the finalists, doesn’t purify spirits, but injustice. She is the founder and chairman of the AMAR International Charitable Foundation, which she started in 1991 to improve the plight of Iraq’s Marsh Arabs, the targets of extermination and persecution by Saddam Hussein. She was among the first political leaders to label the actions against the Marsh Arabs as genocide.

“The Marsh Arabs were targeted specifically: All of their cities, towns, villages, farms and individual dwellings were attacked by aircraft or artillery, and burned or demolished; weapons of mass destruction were also employed,” she said in a speech at Harvard University in 2004. “The survivors were forcibly displaced at gunpoint, not once but many times.”

On her many trips to Iraq, Nicholson exhibited the sharp observations of a seasoned war correspondent, bringing back reports from the nearly impenetrable marshes of razed villages, traumatized people, mass destruction. Her work was instrumental in alerting the outside world to the persecution of the Marsh Arabs and bringing aid. “The muddy fish, stinking water and malarial air are all that is left for people to live on,” she wrote on one trip. “If that is not genocide, the word means nothing.”

Nicholson, 74, has made dozens of trips to Iraq since the 1980s. Since then, AMAR has expanded its scope to focus on refugee populations. It works to build a native, local workforce in troubled areas to bring emergency aid, health care and education across the Middle East, especially to women and children.

Nicholson, a lifelong Anglican who lives in London and has served in the House of Lords, said she is committed “by head and by heart” to public service.

“I work to fulfill that goal through whatever opportunity emerges which gives me the potential to do good things for the good of others anywhere and at any time,” she said. “Charity is one such way and creates good for others on a daily and on a continuing basis. Correctly handled, the practice of politics can also be the finest form of public service. Much trickier to make happen, far simpler to distort, but true politics can move apparently immovable mountains in the right direction and thus make profound change for good.”

The promotion of religious tolerance is critical to both her religious and charitable work, Nicholson said. She calls religious hostility “an ancient root for a modern crime.”

“It deliberately and systematically calls up hatred to justify the unjustifiable destruction of families, societies and nations,” she said. “It is an organized alienation of others from the good, beautiful and creative thoughts and actions which bring humans long-term peace, productivity and happiness. Respect for and practice of freedom to worship is an absolute essential core component of any human growth, flourishing and development. Why would we want any other solution for our fellow men and women? We must overwhelm hate, always and everywhere.”

Summary of Case

Driven by religious intolerance and radical fundamentalism, ISIS (Daesh) has decimated the economies of both the Syrian and Iraqi nations, displaced millions from their homes, and acted as the hateful catalyst behind the genocide of Yazidis and other religious minorities.

Violence from ISIS has left many survivors in need of medical care, shelter, and other common necessities.

Baroness Nicholson, head of the Iraq Britain Business Council and the AMAR Foundation, oversees trade, investment, training and the transfer of technology to Iraq. With the support of local governments, Baroness Nicholson has led the cause of helping displaced Iraqi women, regardless of faith or ethnicity, to cope with the horrendous atrocities of war, providing mental and physical health treatment and offering resources for recreation, education, and vocational training.

Interview with Baroness Nicholson

20th July 2015. Baroness Nicholson speaks on Good Morning Britain about David Cameron’s speech on radicalisation, and about AMAR’s work helping those who have escaped Daesh captivity. (Copyright, ITV) .

Introduction to Iraq

Demographics and Economy*

Formerly part of the Ottoman Empire, Iraq was occupied by Britain during the course of World War I; in 1920, it was declared a League of Nations mandate under UK administration. In stages over the next dozen years, Iraq attained its independence as a kingdom in 1932. A “republic” was proclaimed in 1958, but in actuality a series of strongmen ruled the country until 2003. The last was SADDAM Husayn. Territorial disputes with Iran led to an inconclusive and costly eight-year war (1980-88).

In August 1990, Iraq seized Kuwait but was expelled by US-led UN coalition forces during the Gulf War of January-February 1991. Following Kuwait’s liberation, the UN Security Council (UNSC) required Iraq to scrap all weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles and to allow UN verification inspections. Continued Iraqi noncompliance with UNSC resolutions over a period of 12 years led to the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the ouster of the SADDAM Husayn regime. US forces remained in Iraq under a UNSC mandate through 2009 and under a bilateral security agreement thereafter, helping to provide security and to train and mentor Iraqi security forces.

In October 2005, Iraqis approved a constitution in a national referendum and, pursuant to this document, elected a 275-member Council of Representatives (COR) in December 2005. The COR approved most cabinet ministers in May 2006, marking the transition to Iraq’s first constitutional government in nearly a half century.

Nearly nine years after the start of the Second Gulf War in Iraq, US military operations there ended in mid-December 2011. In January 2009 and April 2013, Iraq held elections for provincial councils in all governorates except for the three comprising the Kurdistan Regional Government and Kirkuk Governorate. Iraq held a national legislative election in March 2010 – choosing 325 legislators in an expanded COR – and, after nine months of deadlock the COR approved the new government in December 2010.

In April 2014, Iraq held a national legislative election and expanded the COR to 328 legislators. Prime Minister Nuri al-MALIKI dropped his bid for a third term in office, enabling new Prime Minister Haydar al-ABADI, a Shia Muslim from Baghdad, to win parliamentary approval of his new cabinet in September 2014. Since early 2015, Iraq has been engaged in a military campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to recapture territory lost in the western and northern portion of the country.

The Iraqi population is comprised of approximately 75-80% of Arabs, 15-20% of Kurds with Turkoman, Assyrian and others representing 5% of the population.

* CIA Factbook

Religious Demographics

Nearly all Iraq’s people identify as Muslim (99%), according to the Pew Research Center. As of 2010, there were 31,340,000 Muslims in Iraq, out of a population of 31,670,000. This number is expected to grow to 53,220,000 by 2030. In 2010, the Christian population was at 270,000, with an expected growth to 380,000 in 2030. With similar years, the unaffiliated represented 40,000 with an expected growth to 60,000. The Muslim fertility rate is at 4.5, and the median age of Muslims is 18, according to Pew.

Conflict and Violence Related to Religion*

Iraq is in an unprecedented humanitarian crises. Following the brutal rise of the Islamic State (IS) in August 2014, many thousands of persons belonging to Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities have been murdered, maimed, abducted, tortured, displaced, including forced into marriage or sexual enslavement, and children taken into training camps. Property has been marked and looted while cultural and religious heritages have been destroyed.

Around 2 million displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees sought refuge in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, with little more than the clothes on their backs.

Both the USA and the European Parliament has declared that IS/Daesh is committing a genocide against Christians and Yazidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities.

Christians, who numbered around 1.3 million in the year 2000, are now estimated to be as low as 250,000 persons only. Most Christians fled to the Christian suburb of Erbil called Ankawa. Here in 2014 they fled only to find themselves living in unfinished buildings with exposed wiring and water leaks, church halls and sanctuaries, gardens and in tents. Now, in 2016 and little hope of returning to their homes in the Nineveh Plains, they live in difficult conditions in internally displaced camps or sharing small apartments with many families.

Over 5000 Yezidi women and girls were captured and sold as sex slaves. Thousands still remain in captivity and are trafficked throughout Iraq, Syria and the Middle East. Those that have managed to escape have suffered unimaginable cruelty and trauma. Prior to June 2014 it was estimated that the Yezidi population was about 700 000, now it has fallen to 500 000, of which most live in displaced camps. They are desperately depending on aid for their survival.

* Taken from “Religious Minorities of Iraq” (Shai Fund)

As shown in the Pew Research chart below, the global median score for social hostilities involving religion is 2.4 on a 10-point scale, where 10 is high. Iraq’s rating is 7.4, meaning it has very high social hostilities involving religion. The global median score for governmental restrictions on religious freedom is 3.1. Iraq has high governmental restrictions on religious freedom with a score of 6.4.


More About the Iraq Britain Business Council

Iraq Britain Business Council brings together business, trade and investment, for the benefit of the Republic of Iraq and its members.

It is a powerful network of some of the most important global corporations as well as key Iraqi and British companies and trade chambers and enjoys the highest-level of support from governments and the European Union.

Committed to a free, prosperous and diverse Iraq, IBBC has created extremely strong relationships to benefit business, industry and the people of Iraq. IBBC is fully supported in its goals by the Iraqi Government, and its National Investment Commission.

IBBC is more than a business initiator. It promotes best practice and international standards as well as transferring technology and know-how.

IBBC, funded privately by its members, operates through independent secretariats in London, Baghdad, Basrah and Erbil.

In addition to frequent Founder Members’ Board, bi-monthly Business Council, and Sector Table meetings, yearly IBBC Events include:

  • – 2 major conferences in London.
  • – 3 major conferences in Iraq.
  • – An annual weekend retreat is held in locations including Cumberland Lodge in Windsor or Wilton Park, West Sussex, where invited speakers add to a discussion about a topic of relevance.
  • – Round-table dinners and receptions – up to eight a year –  are held at venues including the House of Lords and London’s Reform Club.
  • – Occasional seminars and study groups on subjects of high value  – such as the fight against corruption and the impact of the Bribery Act.
  • – Frequent trade delegations are arranged, varying in location between Baghdad, Basrah and Erbil.
  • – The IBBC attends and supports events organised by member companies including conferences from which reports are compiled and circulated.
  • – The IBBC also frequently receives high level Iraqi delegations including senior ministers and officials.
  • – In addition the IBBC regularly meets and is involved in round table discussions with UK Government ministries and bodies including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UKTI, UK Border Agency and Export Credit Finance.
  • – Our work also includes taking up specific issues on behalf of member companies with senior British and Iraqi officials.

More About AMAR


AMAR’s use of local in-country staff provides an  understanding of the local context and local needs of the communities AMAR serves. They are able to work with community leaders to develop activities that are culturally sensitive and relevant to community needs, which therefore also gain widespread community acceptance, ensuring the efficacy of AMAR’s projects.

AMAR targets all those in need, but focuses particularly on women and children within any community served, as these population groups often have the greatest need. AMAR ensures women are both beneficiaries and service deliverers in their local communities, contributing toward female empowerment at a local level. A healthy and educated population is better equipped to develop economically and socially in the long term, in turn reducing dependence on international development aid and assistance.

AMAR utilises this model to build and improve the lives and livelihoods of some of the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged people through Emergency Aid, Healthcare and Education projects.

EMERGENCY AID – AMAR delivers frontline emergency services to refugees, internally displaced persons and other under-served populations suffering from the often devastating effects of human-made and natural humanitarian disasters.

HEALTHCARE – AMAR delivers public and primary healthcare services to under-served populations throughout the Middle East, building on existing capacity to instill lasting and sustainable improvements to public health.

EDUCATION – AMAR delivers a range of education projects to benefit both adults and children which are designed to generate lasting improvements in the ability of both individuals and communities to prosper and grow.

Discussion Questions

  1. 1. What are other charities that promote business as a solution to some of the world’s toughest problems?
  2. 2. Are there other examples you can identify of business working in tandem with charitable outreach to solve social problems?
  3. 3. In what ways can philanthropy keep overhead down and place emphasis on local operations?
  4. 4. Why is preserving families a key to individual and social resiliency and economic sustainability?

Media and Added Resources

This case study was prepared by Melissa Grim, J.D., M.T.S., a senior research fellow with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation. It is made possible through a generous grant by the Templeton Religion Trust.