Last Week I had the opportunity to travel to Dohuk, Iraq for an overnight trip. Dohuk is a city located in the Iraqi Kurdish Region. It is a beautiful city surrounded by mountains; the region is much greener than southern Iraq and has a more traditional feel than that of Erbil, where I have been staying for the past month. The town has colorful buildings that can be seen along the sides of mountains, and most of the women wear the traditional head scarf (hijab), while many of the men wear the traditional Kurdish dress. The city also has a nearby dam that provides an irrigation system for local agriculture. Because of the dam, there are also small waterfalls on the outskirts of the city.
While the trip was a nice way to see more of Iraq, the actual purpose of the short excursion was to check up on one of the local civil society organizations that the Access to Justice Program partners with. The NGO, Warvin is working closely with Access to Justice on its initiative to improve Iraq’s policies towards persons with disabilities (PWDs). Figures indicate that 8% of Iraq’s population is disabled; however, this figure is probably very low as many Iraqis do not report that they have disabled family members and countries like Iraq that have been engaged in protracted conflict typically have closer to 15% of the population with disabilities. Iraq ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in January of 2012, and passed a Disabilities Law with the technical support of Access to Justice. While the law was passed, CSOs are still working to ensure the law is fully implemented to protect the rights of disabled Iraqis. As a part of this effort, Warvin conducted a training for local journalists with the goal of raising public awareness on disabilities issues. The journalists learned the importance of reporting on disabilities issues, and also how to effectively report on the issues. Several other organizations are also working at the different levels to advocate for disabled Iraqis and ensure they can access their rights under Iraqi law. The workshop was a success and a good opportunity for individuals to learn about how to raise the public’s awareness on PWD issues.