One of the main goals of the Kurdistan Social Forum has been to monitor and improve freedom of expression in the Kurdistan Region. To this end, the Forum frequently publishes reports of violations and meets regularly with policymakers. It also aims to equip activists and defenders of this right with effective mechanisms to protect themselves. From 13-14 November 2017, the Kurdistan Social Forum organized a training in Erbil, Kurdistan Region, for a selected group of Human Rights Defenders (HRDS). The activists in this session identified local and regional risks they are exposed to, and were trained in critical steps they can take to ensure their own protection. Next, activists of ICSSI, KSF and ISF will produce a manual on the protection of HRDs so that similar trainings can be carried out in different areas throughout the country.
This two-day training involved 18 young women and men activists now working in different cities of KRI and was led by Dashti Sadiq Mohammed, who holds a Masters degree in Human Rights and is currently pursuing his PhD. The trainees were selected from different fields, all of them however focusing on freedom of expression. Some of them work specifically on women’s rights, youth empowerment or free media.
Peshkawt Adham, the coordinator of the Kurdistan Social Forum, spoke about the broad purpose of this training and the specific role of the KSF in providing a safe and secure working environment for HRDs. Dashti spoke about the nature of human rights and the role of human rights defenders in society. This was followed by a review of the biggest challenges in the field of human rights and the dangers that threaten activists working on these issues in Iraq. On the second day of the training, participants were divided into working groups where they discussed their own experiences as HRDs in KRI.
Following this training, in the course of November and December, the KSF held further meetings with MPs in the Kurdistan Parliament, presenting violations against CSOs and discussing the current laws on freedom of expression.