|Heartland Help Desk Office in Suly|
Jim and I arrived in Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan in Northern Iraq last Thursday, spent the weekend (which in the Middle East is Friday and Saturday) moving in and started work on Sunday. I am Legal Programs Director for Heartland Alliance for Human Rights and Human Needs (see http://www.heartlandalliance.org/). Right now, the primary program I am directing is a UNDP grant (United Nations Development Programme--I'm having to learn a whole slew of acronyms) to set up a program in Sulaymaniyah and Duhok (both Kurdistan) providing vulnerable persons with "Access to Justice." This program has a number of components, including establishing "help desks" at the courthouses and at our offices in those cities. The picture in this post is me standing in front of our office in Suly. Other components include outreach through mobile clinics (in prisons, women's shelters, IDP camps (displaced persons), reformatories, etc.; development and distribution of a "Know Your Rights" brochure; and contributing to two new manuals being written on criminal and civil law. Our targeted audience includes, but is not limited to (excuse the lawyer-like phrase) persons with gender-related concerns, those with issues relating to age and/or disabilities, displaced pesons and refugees.
The difference between Kurdistan and Iraq is confusing to many people. Kurdistan is an autonomous region within Iraq. I'll write more about that later, but in the meantime, a recent Washington Post travel piece does a pretty good job of explaining the situation (and no, our accommodations are NOT the five-star accommodations described in this piece; we live in a shared house with four others, which is comfortable but not without its challenges -- electricity going out, no hot water, etc.). In fact the country is full of challenges -- this morning I walked into my office and it was filled with a dozen or more grasshoppers (I choose to call them grasshoppers rather than locusts because of the negative Biblical connotation of locusts) -- but it also is filled with wonderful people whom I look forward getting to know.
Before signing off, I'd like to put in a plug for donations from those of you who would like to support Heartland's work here (for example, we need funds for a teen runaway shelter in Baghdad, among other projects). Much of our funding has come from the Department of State and with the anticipated withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, that may be changing. Yet so much still is needed here. You can donate by going to Heartland's web site (again, that's http://www.heartlandalliance.org/). Many thanks in advance.
Next post: why the blog is called Saladin's Sister.