Inflammation and stories on iraq

Using Art for Healing
Barely two years after its liberation from ISIS, Iraq is still harboring battle wounds. Everyone lost something, whether it was a home, business, family member or friend. A British Journal of Psychiatry study found that over 45 percent of child soldiers for ISIS in Northern Iraq who are between the ages of eight and 14 suffer from depression, anxiety and PTSD. USAID has been funding art and music projects that bring people together and beautify the country as part of a national healing process.

In recent years, billions of dollars have gone to rebuilding infrastructure and ensuring that Iraquis meet their basic needs. To supplement the reconstruction of cities, some organizations have focused on healing the social rifts that emerged during the occupation.

The Benefits of the Arts

Iraq became liberated in 2017 from a three-year reign of terror under ISIS, and physical reconstruction in the war-torn country has been slow. However, many recognize that repairing buildings and paving streets will not undo all of the damage. The violence has torn the social fabric of Iraq to shreds. Reporter Alice Su from The Atlantic wrote in 2018, “Even if Mosul is rebuilt… lingering distrust and ongoing sectarian and ethnic violence may doom Iraq’s post-ISIS future.” People must heal this pervasive distrust before Iraq can achieve stability.

To encourage reconciliation between Iraq’s Shi’ite majority and the ethnic minorities, USAID offers support for art and music projects that local organizations initiated. Research has indicated the positive qualities of creative engagement to decrease anxiety, stress and mood changes, and this makes art medicinal to damaged societies like those that have recently experienced war.

Art and Music in Iraq

The Karim Wasfi Center for Creativity runs orchestras for Iraqi youth and introduced the first music program for the country’s orphans and displaced.  Its founder, Karim Wasfi, conducted the Peace Through Arts Farabi Orchestra during a USAID-sponsored concert in Mosul last October 2018.  This performance was the first classical music concert to take place in Mosul since the liberation from ISIS.

Another project was with a Yezidi youth group to paint over ISIS propaganda graffiti in the streets of communities near Sinjar. The youth volunteers replaced hateful messages with those promoting peace and education. Not only was this a healing activity for the nearly 200 youth who participated in the painting, but residents will now walk by these uplifting murals on a daily basis.

USAID emphasizes supporting projects that use art and music to promote messages of peace, like the work in Sinjar. Using art for healing in war-torn Iraq is gaining traction with Iraqi locals, as well as in other regions of the Middle East. Syrian Kurdish artist Ferhad Khalil organized an art symposium in Raqqa, Syria, to celebrate liberation from ISIS, and the World Monuments Fund has a school in Jordan to train refugees in conservation stonemasonry.

Art has the power to move people. Harnessing that power, the U.S. is funding more projects that are using art for healing in war-torn Iraq. A violin or a paintbrush may be able to combat terrorism, ethnic hatred and fear in countries facing political strife.

– Olivia Heale
Photo: Flickr

Solving the Water Crisis in Iraq
Iraq faces a deepening water crisis due to the consequences of war, upstream damming and decreased rainfall. Both the Tigris and Euphrates rivers have dropped to precariously low levels, negatively affecting public health and agriculture productivity. The water crisis in Iraq requires international cooperation and innovative solutions.

The Problem

Iraq’s water supply has reached dangerous levels due to a myriad of reasons, perpetuating a cycle of constant crisis. The war in Iraq has resulted in the destruction of infrastructure necessary for potable water, such as dams and treatment plants.

Furthermore, dams in Syria and Turkey have decreased water levels in both major rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates. Iraq, historically reliant on these two rivers, has suffered greatly as a result of the upstream dams. Maintaining the crisis is the fact that average precipitation has decreased to among its lowest recorded levels.

The Consequences

The water crisis in Iraq produces several key consequences for the country. Among them are public health concerns, decreased agricultural productivity and political unrest.

If Iraqis have access to water, it is often unsafe for consumption. In Basra, 120,000 residents required hospital treatment in just one year due to contaminated water. Additionally, according to Human Rights Watch, the Iraqi government often fails to warn citizens about the dangers and presence of poor water quality.

Iraq’s agriculture sector places additional stress on the already limited water supply. In fact, the water crisis in Iraq prompted the government to suspend rice farming entirely. One in five Iraqis is employed in the farming industry. The water crisis has left many without an income and has forced others to find work elsewhere. This affects not only the farmers but the thousands of Iraqis who rely on the food they produce.

Many Iraqis are dissatisfied with the government due to the water crisis. They believe that Iraq’s government should have done more to protect water security such as by building dams of their own. In a country racked by instability and violence, protests over the government’s mishandling of water have left nine dead, hundreds injured and many more detained in prison according to the Human Rights Watch.

The Solution

No easy solution for the water crisis in Iraq exists. However, progress will require international cooperation. An international dialogue will need to address the Syrian and Turkish dams that starve Iraqi portions of the Tigris and Euphrates. Additionally, Iraq is in desperate need of aid to build its own water infrastructure.

In July 2019, Turkey published a detailed report regarding its plan to assist Iraq through the crisis. Turkey plans to take three critical steps in order to alleviate the strain placed on its southern neighbor. They will allow more water to flow into Iraq from the Tigris and the Euphrates. To help rebuild infrastructure, Turkey will provide financial aid. Finally, they promise to train Iraqi engineers and technical personnel on wastewater treatment and hydrology.

The United Nations, through UNESCO, hopes to provide training and financial aid to Iraq as well. The organization believes updated irrigation systems will deliver relief to Iraq’s struggling farmers. UNESCO plans to target aid in the two regions most affected by the water crisis, the northern and southern tips of Iraq.

The water crisis in Iraq stands in the way of further development. The country has, unfortunately, endured many hardships in recent history, but international cooperation remains its best hope for stability and prosperity.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Pixabay

Water Crisis in Iraq
Historically, Iraq has been a particularly fertile region, containing both the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. However, wars, economic sanctions, damming, pollution and decreased rainfall have together created a water crisis in Iraq.

Current Status

River levels in Iraq have dropped by 40 percent in the past two decades, according to the Ministry of Water Resources of Iraq. The drop has been partially caused by dams and reservoirs built by Turkey, Iraq’s northern neighbor, and decreased rain levels.

Canals branching out of the Tigris which are used to water rice, wheat and barley fields have run dry, leaving the fields barren. In a country where an estimated fifth of the population participates in agriculture, this has been particularly devastating. Some farmers have been reduced from cultivating 60 hectares of land to just five.

Basra, a governorate of approximately 4 million people, has been hit especially hard by the water crisis in Iraq. The region has suffered from a lack of reliable clean drinking water for the past 30 years. Basra relies mostly on the Shatt al-Arab river and its smaller canals for water. However, upstream damming has diverted river water for use on sugar plantations and other agricultural projects. This combined with decades of decreasing rainfall levels, predicted to only get worse with climate change, has created a severe lack of clean water in Basra.

Not only have water levels decreased, but the water available is also often contaminated. Iraqi water management plants suffer from a shortage of chlorine to treat contaminated water due to government regulation aimed at preventing armed groups from acquiring chlorine for use in weapons. However, even sufficient levels of chlorine would be unable to get rid of certain contaminates. The water of the Shatt al-Arab has been affected by seawater due to reduced river flow and by fecally contaminated groundwater which seeps in through cracks in pipes.

Contaminated water carries the risk of waterborne illnesses. In the summer of last year, 118,000 people in Basra were hospitalized to treat afflictions related to contaminated water. Additionally, highly salinized water damages soil and kills crops, a significant issue in Basra where agriculture is the primary method of sustenance. In the face of water shortages and contamination of the existing water sources, residents have been forced to purchase water at high prices. Those who cannot afford this are forced to rely on tap water which may carry diseases.

Efforts to Address the Water Crisis in Iraq

Although the water crisis in Iraq seems dire, steps are already being taken to rectify it. UNESCO is partnering with the Iraqi government to reform the water management sector and improve irrigation systems.

The agency is assisting the Ministry of Water Resources’ efforts to expand the capabilities of water management experts, strengthen the institutions which impact water resource management and create a national policy for water sustainability. Additionally, UNESCO works to facilitate agreements on water management between Iraq and its neighbors. Iraq depends on water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, water sources also shared by Turkey, Syria and Iran. Water security for all of these countries, therefore, depends on cooperation. UNESCO promotes dialogue between these countries in order to ensure the water is managed in a way that provides for all.

Additionally, UNESCO addressed the water crisis in Iraq through improvements to irrigation systems, often utilizing ancient methods that have existed in the region for millennia. In the northern Kurdish governorates, for instance, UNESCO has worked to restore the Kahrez system, an ancient method of providing drinking water and agricultural irrigation. Through this system, water is collected at the base of hills and transported to fields by a network of wells. Although the Kahrez systems have fallen into disrepair in past years, UNESCO is currently engaged in cleaning and restoring the wells in order to provide drinking water and irrigation for the surrounding communities.

The agency is also collaborating with officials in the Kurdistan Regional Government to train workers in the water management field and has provided hydrological testing equipment.

Through these efforts, the water crisis in Iraq may be alleviated. It’s yet another example of what can happen when nations work together and help each other out.

– Clarissa Cooney
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Justice for Iraqi WomenThe status and protection of women remain a heated topic of discussion in international and national committees, particularly concerning justice for Iraqi women. Iraq’s government is aware of the violations committed by its previous regime against certain civil community groups. As a result, Iraq’s government has strived to drastically change how they aid and support victimized and often impoverished groups. However, Iraq’s strategy to reconcile these issues is unique. For example, China encourages its impoverished population to move to urbanized cities, and the United Kingdom encourages participation in its labor market. But Iraq seeks to acknowledge the voices of the victims.

In 2003, Iraq’s government and the International Center for Transitional Justice partnered with the Human Rights Center of the University of California, Berkeley to create Iraqi Voices. Iraqi Voices is a report based on data collected from in-depth interviews and focus groups. This data represents different perspectives of the Iraqi population regarding transitional justice. There are seven main topics of focus represented in this report: past human rights abuses, justice and accountability, truth-seeking and remembrance, amnesty, vetting, reparations, and social reconstruction and reconciliation.

Hearing Women

Iraq is working to have women and girls meaningfully participate in all stages of decision making. Programs and organizations like the SEED Foundation have worked to ensure this justice for Iraqi women. In particular, the SEED Foundation works to empower and engage the voices of violence and trafficking victims in Iraq. As such, SEED Foundation leaders and activists encourage the meaningful participation of women in sustainable peace negotiations and conflict reconciliation. Through their efforts, the Iraqi Parliament now has a quota setting aside 25 percent of seats for women in provincial councils. By acknowledging these voices, the Iraqi government is helping seek justice for Iraqi women.

Moreover, Iraq has taken strides to bridge the gap between policymakers and victims when addressing the needs of local communities affected by ISIS. To do so, Iraq is considering partnering with or accepting assistance from other nations. While international policymakers seek justice for Iraqi victims, they fail to address the real concerns of affected communities. Instead, they often focus on prosecuting the perpetrators. But affected communities also have more immediate needs. Therefore, this partnership and assistance allow victims of affected communities to participate in prioritizing and creating appropriate policies. Efforts to ensure meaningful participation in Iraq’s government thus bring about transitional justice. By addressing systemic failures, Iraq’s government brings justice to marginalized victims, including justice for Iraqi women.

Bringing Change

Ultimately, the changes implemented by the Iraqi government aid and empower impoverished and victimized groups, such as women. The inclusion of female voices in politics influences larger discussions affecting women and, as seen as Iraq, helps get justice for Iraqi women.

Jordan Melinda Washington
Photo: Pixabay

Iraq’s Chemical Pollution in the Wake of ISISThree decades of armed conflict in Iraq have decimated the country. Hundreds of thousands of people have died, while countless more have been wounded and displaced. It has damaged Iraq’s vital infrastructure and industrial areas, polluting the country and wiping agricultural lands off the map. The government’s capacity for industrial and environmental oversight has diminished severely and the occupation by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) heightened long-standing concerns over the country’s environmental safety. Iraq’s chemical pollution in the wake of ISIS puts more agriculture, livestock, water and human health at risk, but U.N. organizations and U.S. programs are helping the country to recover.

The ISIS Occupation Consequences

During their occupation of the country, ISIS captured the Alas and Ajeel oil fields in the Hamrin mountains and seized control of Qayyarah oil field and the Baiji oil refinery. Qayyarah oil field produced 30,000 barrels daily and Baiji produced more than one-third of Iraq’s domestic oil production before this occurrence. According to the ISIS’ scorched earth strategy, they ignited oil wells around the Qayyarah, Alas and Ajeel oil fields, and during their retreat of Baiji, they devastated the facility not only by setting fire to wells but to oil tanks and critical infrastructure. When the Iraqi army recaptured the Qayyarah oil field in September 2016, ISIS had set 20 wells on fire as they retreated.

Satellite imagery captured by UNOSAT, the Operational Satellite Applications Program of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, showed that smoke from the fires deposited soot over the town of Qayyarah and its surrounding area. The fires had released immense quantities of toxic residues, while mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) left behind by ISIS complicated efforts by Iraqi firefighters. They managed to extinguish the last fire in March 2017, but by then, all that was left was a blackened and contaminated landscape. When Wim Zwijnenburg, a lead researcher at PAX, a Dutch nonprofit and nongovernmental peace organization, visited the Qayyarah region in 2017, he saw burning oil slicks still flowing from oil wells, lakes filled with solidified crude oil and white sheep black from soot.

Suffering From the Effects of Chemical Warfare

ISIS’ chemical weapons usage was rampant in Iraq and the concealed improvised chemical devices they planted upon their retreats still threaten citizens of Mosul and its surrounding areas. Oil spills from exploded wells, refineries, trucks, tanks and pipelines, as well as mustard gas residue, have infiltrated soil, ground and surface waters. Chemicals found in crude oil, such as Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heavy metals have subsequently influenced drinking water and agricultural land. When released by fires, these dangerous substances can affect natural resources and civilian health in communities far beyond their burning epicenters.

Additionally, as the oil from the spills dried out, hazardous volatile organic compounds have been released into the air and have caused liver and kidney damage and cancer in humans and animals. Damage to Mosul’s electrical grid has resulted in high levels of Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination in the city associated with slower mental development in children and cancer.

Toxic chemicals released by oil fires had impacted the respiratory system of Iraqis and chemical compounds found in these fires can lead to acid rain that destroys soil, all negatively impacting vegetation. Citizens view the agricultural aftermath of Iraq’s chemical pollution as a long-term consequence. It has compromised their livelihoods by killing livestock and destroying cultivated and grazing land, ridding livestock breeders and farmers of their income. ISIS also used university laboratories in Mosul to manufacture chemical bombs. Their lack of safeguards when handling chemical agents and hazardous waste now pose serious contamination risks to the nearby environment.

Medical Treatment and Wash Needs

High levels of radiation and other toxic substances from previous conflicts still flow into the Iraqi environment, but it is Iraq’s chemical pollution in the wake of ISIS that heightens the concerns of Qayyarah’s citizens. Aside from burns, deformations and other disabilities, chemical weapons, burning oil and military remnants can mutate human genes and result in more defects at birth.

In March 2017, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) collaborated with medical authorities and the World Health Organization (WHO) to treat patients suffering from toxic exposure. According to a U.N. report, in September 2018, U.S. Ambassador in Iraq, Douglas A. Silliman, declared a health disaster in Basrah after approximately 80,000 people contracted gastrointestinal illness from contaminated water between August and September. In response, USAID allocated $750,000 to address immediate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) need.

Cleaning Up a Toxic Wasteland

In 2018, the Iraqi government and U.N. Environment Programme partnered to build a cross-ministry team to tackle Iraq’s chemical pollution. The joint initiative’s objective is to prevent future exploitation of toxic substances for chemical warfare through government capabilities enhancement and chemicals control improvement. As a selected participant of the U.N. Environment’s Special Programme, Iraq will receive comprehensive information and training to help it meet its chemicals and waste management program obligations.

Iraq’s Ministry of Environment is capable of assessing contaminated sites but lacks the equipment and skills for cleaning and full documentation. The hope is the initiative will provide strategies and enhance on-site assessment methodologies to expedite the cleanup of Iraq’s Chemical Pollution.

– Julianne Russo

Photo: Pixabay

Girls' Education
A history of conflict has negatively reflected on girls’ educational future in Iraq. Education levels have never returned to their pre-Gulf War levels. Furthermore, conflict with ISIS has erased much of the progress for girls’ education seen through higher enrollment rates in times of relative peace. Therefore, a rough chronology of conflicts is useful when reading the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Iraq, as these events drastically change the quality of education.

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Iraq

  1. Girls are under-represented in both primary and secondary schools and tend to drop out at a higher rate than boys. In the 2015/2016 school year, five million boys were enrolled in school compared to 4.2 million girls. In addition, at the lower secondary level, 4.7 percent of girls dropped out compared to 3.6 percent of boys.
  2. Rural girls are one of the groups with the lowest access to education in Iraq. For example, the lowest rate of primary school enrollment is among rural girls. The enrollment rate in 2009 was only 68 percent. Furthermore, this enrollment rate drops even further to 15 percent when analyzing the secondary school enrollment among rural girls. A contributing factor to this situation is the decline in the capabilities of teachers.
  3. The illiteracy rate among girls that are 12 and older is more than double the male rate. The illiteracy rate for girls is 28.2 percent, compared to the male rate of 13 percent. According to the U.N., traditional cultural and social factors remain main obstacles in improving the access to education for girls. The discrepancy between literacy rates illustrates how gender-based discrimination in the education system is both a cause and an effect of poverty.
  4. The rate of girls’ education and their access to adequate teaching was slightly better in Northern Iraq than the other regions in 2007. In the southern provinces, there was a decline in female attendance from two girls for every three boys to one girl for every four boys in this same time period.
  5. While this was true in 2007, a 2016 report by a UNICEF consultant found that in Kurdistan, the northern region of Iraq, education environments were a momentous challenge to girls’ education. Mistreatment, beatings and poor quality of teaching was reported, giving parents more reasons to remove their girls from school.
  6. While girls do suffer from underrepresentation in the school system, total girls’ enrollment in Iraq was 4.2 million in 2015-2016, up from 3.8 million in 2013-2014. Although this statistic is initially promising, two problems remain. First, girls still remain at a disadvantage in educational access. Contributing factors to the issue of educational access include a family’s wealth, the child’s age and the choice to work instead of attending school. Second, if the trend toward increased enrollment continues, a strain will be placed on existing educational resources and further funding for public education are needed.
  7. About 355,000 internally displaced children in Iraq don’t attend school, the majority of them being girls. The two main sources of internally displaced persons (IDP) originate from the upheaval caused by the Syrian civil war and the brutality of the Islamic State in neighboring countries. In IDP camps, the most common reason cited for children not attending school was a lack of interest in the classes. Other reasons included the cost of education and the time period for their arrival at the camp.
  8. Cities occupied by the Islamic State struggle to provide education to girls. In 2014, the Islamic State detained up to 7,000 Yazidi women and girls in Northern Iraq, removing them from access to education. Given the testimony of survivors who managed to escape, a report released by Human Rights Watch stated that the crimes against the Yazidis in Northern Iraq might amount to crimes against humanity.
  9. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) first access to an education project in Iraq is in collaboration with teachers from the Al-Rajaa school for girls in Ramadi. When the ICRC team first visited the school it there was danger and destruction around every corner, so the ICRC team began to rebuild it. This school is the only one in Ramadi to offer a science curriculum to girls’ and has been reopened in 2017 after conflict forced it to shut down. The school currently educates approximately 600 children.
  10. The issue of girls’ education in Iraq has received the attention of humanitarian celebrities like Malala Yousafazai who spent her 20th birthday in Iraq meeting with young women who were, and continue to be, victims of ISIS. The meeting was part of the Malala Fund’s Girl Power Trip, an initiative meant to tell the stories of the more than 130 million girls around the world who are out of school.

As it can be seen through these top 10 facts about girls’ education in Iraq, the education system continues to be plagued by conflicts in the country, and girls are disproportionately at higher risk of dropping out or repeating grades if remained in school.

While this is certainly a cause for concern, the risks for girls’ education in Iraq have not gone unnoticed and many strive to change this. The Iraqi education system was once hailed as the best in the Middle East and many nongovernmental organizations, domestic policymakers, politicians, celebrities, and the local populous desire to return it to this position of dominance.

Georgie Giannopoulos

Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid in IraqAfter suffering so much war and conflict that forced many to flee from their country and led to the liberation of Iraq from the Islamic State, millions of displaced citizens are returning home. Out of six million Iraqi refugees in 2014, 3.8 million have returned to this broken country. A large number of individuals in Iraq depend on foreign aid and they still receive large donations and support every year. However, organizations providing aid have reported that donors have started to shift their focus to reconstruction instead of basic needs. Having this in mind, it is no wonder that many are worried about the people who are still unable to survive without humanitarian assistance.

Millions of Iraqi Refugees in Need

The U.N. estimates that 8.7 million people needed help from foreign aid in Iraq in 2018. This number is significantly lower than 11 million in need in 2017 but still means that there are many people in crisis. Due to the decrease in need, the U.N. requested $416 million less for emergency response aid in 2018. The U.N. still needs $569 million to make this one of the best-funded programs, but humanitarians and agencies are still concerned about donor fatigue.

As mentioned above, nearly four million refugees and internally displaced people (IDP) have returned to Iraq in the past four years. The U.N. and Iraqi government believed that more refugees would return after the Islamic State was ousted from Iraq. Their prediction was that most people would come home by the end of 2018.

However, people are returning at a far slower pace than expected meaning more Iraqis will need help for a longer period than organizations and donors are prepared for. Some refugees have even come back to camps after they realized that there were none to little opportunities for them in their hometowns. Camps in some areas such as Mosul, that had over 820,000 people displaced, are seeing higher rates of new arrivals than rates of people that are leaving.

From Emergency Aid to Reconstruction

Donors have not completely lost interest in providing foreign aid to Iraq but the focus has changed from humanitarian assistance and emergency aid to reconstruction. Instead of supporting individuals and their needs, aid is being used to rebuild the country and help it recover with infrastructure.

In February 2018, the U.N. began the two-year, Iraq Recovery and Resilience Program, the program that aims at bettering people’s lives by providing reconstruction and infrastructure reforms. The idea is that the country will become more stable and peaceful if communities are rebuilt and provided with bridges, roads, schools and hospitals. The government also has high hopes for this program as well and believes that it will make Iraqis more confident and trustful of their abilities.

Realistic Needs of People

This sounds great but the underlying reason why people are coming back to the country so slowly and often return to camps is the lack of job opportunities and places to live. Basic needs need to be met before great results can be seen from infrastructure programs and emergency aid such as food is still vitally important.

Humanitarians are concerned as many refugees have stated that they will no be able to survive without the food, shelter and support that they have received from aid organizations in the past.

As fighting in Iraq has dwindled, the country has received less and fewer media coverage. It is important that the global aid community does not forget the millions of Iraqis still in need and that donors continue to provide emergency foreign aid in Iraq directed to providing basic human needs.

Alexandra Eppenauer

Photo: Flickr

Girls Finishing Primary School
The importance of education in lifting a country out of extreme poverty has been well established. Specifically, girls’ education promotes gender equality, raises wages and results in smaller, healthier families. There is an unprecedented increase in girls finishing primary school, allowing them to get educated alongside their male peers.

Income Levels and How they Affect Girls Finishing Primary School

The percentage of girls who can afford to attend (and finish) primary school is directly tied to their country’s income level. Level 1 is extreme poverty; the family can barely afford to eat and must get water from wells. Level 2 is lower-middle income; the family can afford decent food and shoes. Level 3 is upper-middle income; the family can afford running water and basic appliances. Level 4 is high income; the family can afford a nice house and cars.

Level 4: Oman

One hundred percent of girls in Oman finish primary school. Primary school starts at age 6 and continues until age 18, and girls can go to one of 1,045 schools as of 2011. However, back in 1973, when Oman was a Level 1 country, there were only three primary schools with no girls attending them at all. Oman has experienced phenomenal advances in both poverty reduction and girls’ education.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said ascended the throne in 1970 and did not like what he saw. He vowed to improve life for the Omani people. This included, among many other things, opening more schools and allowing girls to attend them. Additionally, he made public school free, allowed private schools to exist and created a comprehensive kindergarten curriculum. With the availability of free education for girls, 100 percent of girls attend and complete primary school.

Level 3: Iraq

In Iraq, 58.8 percent of the nation’s girls finish primary school. This is down from 68 percent in 2004, but it is higher than the 0.722 percent that it was in 1974. At present, girls make up 44.8 percent of students in primary schools.

The Iraqi school system is far from ideal. Uneducated girls, when asked why they do not attend school, cite abusive teachers, poverty, the presence of boys and concerns about domestic and national safety. Those who do go to school endure dirty bathrooms, a lack of clean drinking water and the aforementioned abusive teachers. Despite this, there are enough girls finishing primary school in Iraq to keep the country out of extreme poverty in the next generation.

Level 2: Morocco

In Morocco, 94.7 percent of girls finish primary school. This is a stark increase from 22.9 percent in 1972. After King Mohammed the Sixth ascended the throne on July 30, 1999, he began placing more focus on the education of his people. His efforts have impacted girls more than boys, as shown by the fact that only 9 percent of girls have to repeat any grades in primary school, which is less than the 13 percent of boys who have to do so. Although this has done little to improve women’s reputations as workers thus far, it is still a victory for the country.

Level 1: Myanmar

In Myanmar, 89.3 percent of girls finish primary school. This number was only 30.8 percent in 1971 for a simple reason: extreme poverty. While schooling itself is technically free, parents still need to pay for uniforms and supplies, and boys are favored over girls in terms of whom parents will spend money on. Sometimes, girls as young as 4 years old are sent to schools in Buddhist monasteries, which means being separated from their families.

However, help is being provided by the international community. Educational Empowerment is an American organization dedicated to promoting educational equality in Southeast Asia. It develops and supports schools in Myanmar, publishes books, and gives microloans to mothers to help get their daughters into school. This has helped girls catch up to their male peers and finish primary school.

For girls, getting an education has historically not been an easy task. Between the cost of school attendance, the existence of extreme poverty and general gender inequality, girls often fall behind their male peers when it comes to receiving an education. However, thanks to new government rulings and help from nonprofit organizations, there are now more girls finishing primary school than ever before, and the number is set to rise even higher. In the near future, girls’ education will be on par with that of their male counterparts. This is important because educating girls leads to educated women, and educated women can help lift a country out of extreme poverty.

– Cassie Parvaz
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Education in Iraq
Conflict and totalitarianism have plagued Iraq for decades. This has had a negative impact upon the Iraqi education system in many ways.

Here are the Top 10 Facts about Education in Iraq

  1. UNICEF has helped massively. To start on a positive note, although education in Iraq is dreary, help has not been avoided by international players in the arena of helping the impoverished. UNICEF has been instrumental in Iraq for various improvements, such as building schools, fixing water/sanitation systems in already existing schools, helping train over 50,000 teachers in child-friendly manners and supplying millions of Iraqi children with vital school materials, among many other positive upward aiming changes. In 2016, UNICEF helped an estimated 682,000 children access education in Iraq.
  2. The ongoing conflict has diminished education attendance. Since the end of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Iraq has been in constant conflict. What emerged following that war was a civil war between Sunnis and Shias and a burst of jihadist insurgencies. This has ultimately interfered with education in Iraq. Attendance is low with 3.5 Iraqi children either not attending school regularly or not at all.
  3. ISIS’ presence in Iraq has damaged the Iraqi education system. Prior to being pushed out of its last Iraqi stronghold in Mosul, ISIS ran rampant in Iraq and created several consequences. On top of terrorizing Iraqi citizens, ISIS negatively influenced the Iraqi education system greatly. When ISIS had control in Iraq, they either closed schools and used them as safe houses or they took schools over completely and began teaching a curriculum of radicalization. Parents were forced to send children to these schools under the threat of death. This resulted in one out of every five schools being out of use.
  4. The expulsion of ISIS from Iraq has left work to be done. There is a lot of work to be done following the expulsion of ISIS from Iraq. The closure of many schools due to ISIS’ presence left many children out of school for two years, thus creating a need for these children to catch up educationally. UNICEF has helped in this regard by attending to the effort of rebuilding schools in the wake of their destruction.
  5. The Iraqi government has a low education expenditure. Following Iraq’s liberation from ISIS, more than three hundred thousand children have returned to school with a high level of enthusiasm. Despite this, the Iraqi government is not doing its part in regards to making education more attainable for more people. In the 2015-16 school year, only 5.7 percent of Iraq’s government expenditure went to education. This has led to half of Iraq’s displaced children being out of school, thus creating a $1 billion loss in potential wages.
  6. Military spending has historically detracted from educational spending. The Iraqi government allocates little of its resources towards education. This was not always the case and is largely accounted for in allocating more resources towards the military to combat ongoing conflicts. For example, following The Gulf War, 90 percent of educational spending dropped in Iraq. Attendance at school has always been high in Iraq as primary education was compulsory until the U.S. invasion in 2003. After the conflict in 2003, only one in six children had textbooks, school facilities were in poor condition, there was a shortage of supplies and equipment and the quality of education was in serious decline.
  7. An over-emphasis on religious teaching is causing conflict within the population. In 2008, a new education system was established in Iraq that instilled a philosophy of education centered on Islamic education. “The main objectives are: enhancing the pupils’ faith in God and His divine messages and their feeling of need for the religious faith; inform the pupils of the pillars of Islam and faith among other objectives.” In the Iraqi public educational system, there is not an equal distribution of religious education, in that, Islamic education is emphasized and religious minorities are not permitted to learn their own religions. This causes religious minorities to feel educationally inferior, as they are not permitted to be educated on their own faith. Prior to the 2003 invasion and the toppling of the Ba’ath regime, such educational religious intolerance was non-existent.
  8. Education for girls in Iraq is far from adequate. Culturally, female education is frowned upon; instead, females are seen as a means to an end, the end being marriage (often arranged). Girls have an illiteracy rate that is twice as high as boys in Iraq. The majority of the over 355,000 children not attending school are girls.
  9. External efforts are being made to improve the situation. Aside from the aforementioned help that UNICEF has contributed, other organizations have contributed massively to the effort of bringing quality education into Iraq. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has contributed to the Education For All (EFA) policy in Iraq. This entails the promotion of the modernization and social improvement of schools to help Iraqi schools to have a positive long-term impact on Iraq’s development.
  10. What more can be done? There are various organizations dedicated to improving education in Iraq. The Iraqi Children’s Relief Fund is a highly certified organization dedicated to ensuring a higher quality of life for Iraqi children, which includes promoting better quality education. Donating to organizations such as The Borgen Project will ensure informative articles will continue to be published to spread awareness of the problems of global issues, like that of education in Iraq.

Education in Iraq has not always been problematic. Respective conflicts and moments of peace have created a void that had left the education system demolished by conflict. With organizations like UNICEF and UNESCO on the ground, the goal is to return Iraq to where it was during The Islamic Golden Age when Baghdad was the epicenter of global intellectualism. Much work is to be done to bring education back to its former glory.

– Daniel Lehewych
Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in IraqIn the wake of the Iraq war and the ISIS occupation of much of Iraq’s territory, human rights in Iraq appear to have been placed on the backburner. Human rights violations are not only limited to ISIS’s inhumane treatment and extermination of Shia Muslim; they also include the Iraqi forces’ abhorrent treatment of possible ISIS members and surrounding communities.

Nine Facts about Human Rights in Iraq

  1. Serious human rights violations have been prevalent in Iraq since 2014. The violations fall primarily into the categories of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Iraq has witnessed everything from terror attacks to sexual abuse, leaving millions of civilians without a home and forced to flee.
  2. ISIS is responsible for thousands of civilians deaths, punishing crimes deemed immoral and illegal under ISIS law. These atrocities and human rights violations include stoning people accused of crimes like adultery and stripping women and girls of human rights deemed basic in the United States. These attacks have been committed against civilians refusing to join the ranks of ISIS, putting them forth as an example to other resilient civilians.
  3. Human rights in Iraq have also been violated by government-led forces. Captured ISIS members, including those forced against their will, have been detained without any access to lawyers or aid. Kept in overcrowded prisons and denied communication with their families, access to the outside world and the ability to defend their actions, these prisoners are in a helpless situation.
  4. Iraq is one of the top three countries in the world for how many prisoners it executes. Hundreds of prisoners are kept on death row. At least 169 prisoners were executed in 2013; this figure has been on the rise ever since.
  5. Prisoners have reported that it is normal for confessions to be forced by the use of torture. This leaves room for wrongful convictions, as prisoners often give in to accusations simply to end the torture.
  6. With the aim of ending the reign of terror of ISIS, Iraqi forces have been given few limits on their methods used to fight against ISIS. Human rights violations by Iraqi forces are often masked under the label of fighting terror and helping the nation.
  7. Freedom of expression and association have been stripped by the Iraqi government, leaving little room for the growth of democracy. The Iraqi government used arms and violence to disperse peaceful protests in and around Baghdad during the recent provincial elections.
  8. Domestic violence is widely accepted in Iraq. The law deems sexual violence illegal; however, there is a large loophole. If the man accused of sexual assault marries the girl in question, it is no longer considered sexual assault. A 2012 study showed that 68 percent of women in Iraq have experienced some form of abuse from their husbands.
  9. Civilian casualties have been steadily decreasing since the overthrow of the ISIS regime. Compared to the peak of monthly deaths in October 2016, the number has significantly decreased. The figures dropped from 1,120 casualties in October 2016 to 76 in June 2018. This highlights the impact of the fight against ISIS in Iraq.

The country of Iraq has witnessed a myriad of internally and externally caused turmoil. However, since the takeback of Mosul and other ISIS-occupied territories, human rights may finally be respected and upheld by the Iraqi government. As the genocide committed by ISIS is recognized, it may pave the way for a safer life in Iraq where human rights are both respected and implemented.

– Trelawny Robinson
Photo: Flickr