The Genocidal Anfal Campaign
In the course of the so-called Anfal Campaign in the 1980s, the Iraqi Army destroyed about 5000 villages by means of chemical attacks and systematic destruction campaigns. Tens of thousands of people living in the countryside were killed or disappeared, got deported to resettlement camps or had to flee from their homes.
Until today the rural areas are much poorer than the big cities. Having been neglected for many years they lack infrastructure and employment opportunities and can therefore not benefit from the increase in prosperity that marks the metropolitan areas of North Iraq.
Halabja, a city near the Iranian border, became tragically known for the poison gas attacks on the 16th and 17th of March in 1988. During these two days at least 5000 people died from the deadly mustard gas and many different neurotoxins. It is estimated that up to 10,000 people got severely injured, some of which died during their attempts to leave the country.
Projects for Survivors of Chemical Attacks in Halabja
Since June 2010, the Jiyan Foundation for Human Rights operates a center for survivors of chemical attacks in Halabja with support from the German Foreign Office.
Until today many survivors suffer from a variety of physical and psychological impairments. These include serious illnesses such as lung damage, blindness or skin disorders that require constant and very expensive treatment. Besides, survivors are affected by post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and feelings of guilt, aggression, and alienation. As a result many are not able to work and face enormous financial problems if they have no relatives supporting them.
Due to high levels of extreme physical ailments among the clientele, this project puts emphasis on specialist medical treatment. As the chemical attacks also affected the rural areas around Halabja a mobile team rotates between the small cities of Khurmal, Sirwan, and Halabjay Taze.
Since the beginning, the project staff was rewarded with enormous approval of our services and had to deal with a number of patients that far exceeded capacities. Since 2010, the team was able to help more than 2200 patients, two thirds of which were women.
Outreach Services for Vulnerable Groups Rural Areas
Mobile outreach teams proved to be one of the rare means to reach victims of human rights violations and their children who live in the countryside. Many of these victims live in poverty and have no access to professional health services or educational opportunities. Especially female survivors of human rights violations and their children are often unable to reach the cities to seek help and obtain rehabilitation.
In order to support these victims, the Jiyan Foundation runs several mobile health teams serving small cities near Kirkuk,Sulaymaniyah, Halabja and Chamchamal. These towns have an average population of less than 75,000 each. The staffs of the mobile teams offer outpatient services in close cooperation with local health institutions.
Our experience in working in rural areas shows that the need for mobile outreach services is huge. Each year, our mobile teams help about 500 clients, the majority of whom are women. Most of these patients had never been treated for their psychological and social problems before.