In July and August, 2007, LCHR field research fellow LaChelle Amos spent six weeks in Iraq, conducting research and contributing to the organization’s on-the-ground projects. Ms. Amos is a 2008 MA Candidate in American University’s International Peace and Conflict Resolution program within the School of International Service. Her report appears here in three parts:
Get more updates in LCHR’s Iraq Trip Report Summary, which details the organization’s June 2007 fact-finding mission.
The rights of women and ethnic and religious minorities have not yet been secured in Iraq. Since the U.S. invasion, women are at a greater risk of being abducted, trafficked, or raped. A surge of extremism has led to increased honor killings, and gender-based violence and related problems including self immolation remain serious threats.
After extensive work with the Iraqi government, local NGOs and human rights activists, LCHR determined that youth and women’s literacy and human rights training are two of the most important areas of development. LCHR is currently operating a mobile library in Iraq’s Halabja region – an area devastated by Saddam Hussein’s 1988 chemical attacks against the Kurds. The project has reached hundreds of particularly vulnerable women and youth in five remote villages formerly controlled by the fundamentalist group Ansar al-Islam. Literacy trainings and grassroots human rights education, as well as topical workshops, have been conducted, with an emphasis on health awareness and preventing violence against women. The project has been an instant success, building literacy skills and leadership, while creating a much-needed safe space for dialogue on gender equality and social issues and allowing participants to voice their fears, hopes, and visions for the future.
For all Iraqis, especially women, literacy is the key to rights awareness, the key to empowerment and independence. Literate women do not have to rely on another’s interpretation of their rights; rather they can learn them for themselves. Then, by teaching their children these lessons, women pave the way for future generations that honor and practice these ideals. In a region where a woman’s worth needs to be reinforced, literacy and human rights awareness are important steps toward greater gender equality.
In addition to the mobile library, LCHR has partnered with a women’s network in northern Iraq to produce an Arab-language publication promoting cross-cultural dialogue. Written by Kurdish writers and distributed throughout the country, the journal is building bridges of understanding between Arab and Kurdish women. As civil strife continues to ravage the country, the necessity of bringing together and fostering dialogue among all Iraqis has become increasingly apparent. LCHR believes that the publication can help to address these crucial issues.
LCHR’s locally-run, on-the-ground projects can serve as replicable models for other regions of the country.
LCHR has prepared a white paper on the issues currently facing the people of Iraq. To read this, please click here to download the document.
LCHR has also prepared a white paper on the Fayli Kurds of northern Iraq. To read it, please click here to download the PDF document.
To read a summary of the US State Department’s 2005 report on human rights in Iraq, please click here to download the PDF document.
LCHR’s mobile library project in the Halabja region of Iraq is promoting literacy and democratic dialogues.