January 2014 – A new report from Almesalla Organization for Human Resource Development concerning the personal freedoms of Iraqi youth in 2013 presents survey results indicating that more than 72% of youths questioned believe that their personal freedoms are not guaranteed, and that 41% of the violations are the result of government policies and practices of the authorities!
Almesalla Organization for Human Resource Development, with the support of the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) issued a special report on the personal freedoms of Iraqi youth, focusing on those who live in the capital city of Baghdad. The report analyzes the legal frameworks that spell out personal freedoms according to international standards and the Iraqi constitution. It concludes that while international treaties and the Iraqi constitution both guarantee many personal freedoms these rights are continuously violated. The violations are especially serious among young people, who represent more than 40% of all Iraqi citizens. The Iraqi government and the authorities are the source of many of these violations. For example, the report cites a decision of the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers that stated, “The wearing or display of clothing and accessories that are contrary to traditions, and are considered an insult to public taste is not permitted, and its promoters in local markets will be prosecuted”. Such decisions and actions justify the targeting of young men and women by state authorities as well as by extremist groups.
The results can be disastrous, such as when a wave of threats against and attacks on young people, especially those who had adopted the “Emo” style, swept Iraq claiming the lives of an unknown number of individuals and causing terror and fear among young people. The report devotes a special section to the phenomenon known as “Emo”.
The report also asserts that Iraqi state officials have declared more than once that the fight against terrorism is a higher priority that the promotion and guarantee of personal freedoms. Young Iraqis strongly disagree with this policy and view respect for personal freedoms and the rule of law as a cornerstone in the fight against extremism and terrorism.
The report focuses on the young residents of Baghdad. It quotes interviews with these youth, including artists and other creative individuals of both genders. They discuss their own experiences facing governmental actions and social practices that limit their freedom in clothing, appearance, hobbies and other simple freedoms associated with the daily activities of youth. Some young people are harassed at checkpoints by security personnel because of their hairstyle or clothes, or because they practice the hobby of photography. They continually fear harassment, and suffer these fears even when they are at home, in school, or at university. Because of these concerns, their families often placed restrictions on clothing and appearance, especially after requirements to wear the veil increased widely for girls. Boys were more affected by concerns related to their hairstyles and clothes.
The terrorism and violence caused by different armed groups presents a daily nightmare for young people. However, youths also indicated that the government and its security forces are a major source of the violation of their freedoms and in Almesalla’s survey of 500 young men and women from Baghdad, 41% of the violations they reported were attributed to government personnel.
One result of all these violations is that large numbers of young people are turning to social networking sites because they provide freedom for expression and communication. Also, many Iraqi families, especially those who have youths with talent and creativity, have permanently left Iraq, or they travel extensively outside Iraq and return only during the academic year in order to escape from governmental constraints and the dangers caused by non-governmental extremist views.
For more information you can download the full report here
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