Human rights NGOs in dire need of support

Iraqi human rights NGOs and activists participating in a workshop in the Jordanian capital, Amman, earlier this week, have called for financial and moral support from the international community to carry out their activities.

The groups assessed the human rights situation in Iraq and discussed their own needs during a four-day meeting, which concluded on Monday. The gathering, which brought together 25 Iraqi NGOs, was organised by the Iris NGO International Human Rights Network (IHRN).

“While they vary in their respective strengths and weaknesses, participants have uniformly identified that they lack experience in methodologies and tactics used by NGOs in other parts of the world,” Patrick Twomey, programme manager with IHRN, told IRIN in Amman.

“There is a clear need for those supporting them as donors and implementers of projects to coordinate their efforts,” he added.

“We have to work together, we have no other choice,” Mary Trotochand, Iraq’s representative with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), said, adding that there had been huge violations of human rights since the war last spring.

“The world doesn’t know what really happened in Fallujah [a city west of Baghdad which recently saw major fighting between US-led troops and insurgents]. They [NGOs] sent us documents, but we can’t publish them,” she told IRIN, noting that Iraqi NGOs need a lot of capacity building on how to document human rights violations.

Nashreen Rasheed, project assistant with Concordia, a conflict resolution NGO operating from Arbil, northern Iraq, agreed and added: “We need to know what is going on outside Iraq and we need people to know us. We need to make contacts and new partnerships,” she told IRIN, noting a lack of networking among Iraqi NGOs.

The creation of a network connecting local NGOs with each other, and with international organisations, was seriously discussed. Networks were considered an elemental tool of sharing data and information to come up with innovative projects and so avoid duplicating efforts. They also looked forward to participating in a debate about establishing a human rights institution in Iraq.

“We need to raise awareness about the human rights situation in Iraq. We need to develop new projects to live peacefully, especially in the Kirkuk area [in northern Iraq], with the different ethnic groups. For instance, we need projects in gender, children and, of course, illiteracy is an important issue,” Rasheed added, calling for donors to support new projects and to help them to educate the Iraqis on human rights issues.

“Now, the real danger is that donors switch their focus to some other regions,” Twomey added.

Ali Seedo Rasho, president of the rights group Yeridi Cultural Association and assistant professor at Mosul Technical Institute, said participants in the meeting jointly sent a letter to the Geneva donors conference, being held this week, calling for donors attention and support and for Iraqi civil society to be consulted more closely.

“Our problem is that everything is being done through political parties. Civil society should be represented in the National Council through NGOs and not through political parties,” Rasho told IRIN. “Everything needs to be done in Iraq, since nobody has his/her basic rights,” he added.

While some organisations operating in Kurdish Iraq asserted that they were working without security problems, insecurity was a cause of major concern for those established in central and southern Iraq.

“In the north they are in a better conditions, since the Kurdistan area was almost an autonomous region during the past years. But in central and southern they need a lot of capacity building,” Trotochand asserted.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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