Five Schools in Iraqi Kurdistan commit to ending violence against children
Violence is omnipresent in war and crisis regions. Long after the last fighters have withdrawn, long after the last shot has been fired, violence remains. It lives in people’s memories and experiences and continues to grow in families and schools.
Sign of the Campaign in Kurdish, Arabic and English
In Iraq and in Iraqi Kurdistan, the experience of violence and oppression is shared across multiple generations and all walks of life. Since the late 1970s, Saddam Hussein’s Baath government waged a cruel war against the Kurdish people in the north of the country, in the systematic destruction of towns and villages, the deportation and forced eviction of hundreds of thousands of people, and the widespread use of chemical weapons against the civilian population. “Governance” has only been expressed through control and violence. This experience shapes public and private life to this day.
Children – who have the least power and are highly dependent on others – are particularly exposed to violence in crisis-ridden societies. Violence against children manifests itself through physical and mental abuse, punishment, neglect and sexual assault. It takes place in families and in schools. Parents pass on their own experience of violence to their children, teachers to their students.
Today’s battered youth are the thugs of tomorrow.
WADI has now launched an awareness campaign that starts right there: breaking the vicious circle of violence -which endlessly generates new violence- teachers are consciously deciding, along with their students, to renounce any form of violence. Our surveys have shown the urgent necessity of this campaign.
Children report humiliating and violent punishments as an everyday educational tool in schools. Practically every student interviewed knows a child who is beaten or abused at home.
In this video students complain about abuse and violence they experiences in schools (with subtitels):
Five schools in southern Iraqi Kurdistan have already joined the campaign and as such are declared “Nonviolent Schools”.
All of them are in the Germian region, which was hit hardest by the devastation of the Iraqi army thirty years ago during the Anfal Campaign. These five schools have committed themselves to stop beating and abuse of children by teachers. Other schools have registered to join the program.
The teachers of participating schools all receive anti-violence training and extensive support. Parents are also included in non-violence and conflict resolution training sessions. In conversations and events with the children, they are encouraged to stand up for their rights, learn how to behave in the event of abuses, and where to report abuses.
The societal impactof a nonviolent education is far reaching. The violent implementation and maintenance of political and economic claims to power characterizes the political culture of Iraq and directly undermine all efforts to build democratic structures. All the abuses experienced – lack of democratic participation, legal uncertainty, corruption – are based on (the threat of) violence. Especially in these politically heated times after the referendum, the campaign deliberately sets a counterpoint: away from the grand narratives, towards the concrete everyday life and interpersonal relationships between people.
Schools should educate children not as subjects, but as citizens who enjoy equal rights and duties and have the means to enforce them non-violently. Everyday in Kurdistan there are more and more people who want to engage with each other and with their children this way.
This anti-violence campaign is launching 30 years after the poison gas attacks on the city of Halabja. The campaign is locally supported by former Peshmerga, who were fighting the Iraqi government at the time, survivors of the Anfal campaign, and works in close collaboration with other organizations and local authorities.
Strong, confident children will become citizens who know how to enforce their rights and express themselves without fear of violence is an answer to the region’s widespread violence.
Facebook Page of the No to Violence Campaign in Kurdish and English:
These are the first five schools declared “Violence Free”
Many other schools want to participate. Funding is needed to include them and many more in this campaign. We hope that this small beginning will have a strong impact in Iraqi Kurdistan and Iraq and that many more schools will participate in this program in the coming months and years.
Ending violence against children in schools and the home is part of our larger campaign against all forms of violence against children and women.