I have been traveling through the heart of Iraqi Kurdistan for the last week. It is spring in the countryside. Fields of green grass dotted with yellow and red flowers cover every hill and mountain for as far as the eye can see. Shepherds tend their flocks and villages destroyed during Saddam’s brutal Anfal Campaign are returning to life.
In major cities like Arbil and Sulaymaniyah, there is evidence of growing prosperity. Markets bustle and construction is everywhere, most visible in the building of a 28-storey five-star hotel in Sulaymaniyah by Iraqi telecom magnate Farouq Mustafa Rasool. New wealth and investment are also going toward health clinics, universities, and public works. Nevertheless, Iraqis are anxious to see a more effective and accountable government. They want to see improved public services, and sustainable human development that benefits all Iraqis.
At a barber in Sulaymaniyah, I met Omar*, a young man from
. In 2005, Omar fled his hometown after receiving death threats from Takfiris (extremists) who overheard him speaking English. He left Baghdad for the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where he was able to stay without too many problems. Iraq
In 2006, everything changed. “Discrimination against Iraqis increased,” Omar said. “While other nationalities acquired visas for one year or longer with no problem, I had to leave the UAE every two months to renew my visa.” In 2007, his visa renewal was rejected. Uprooted again, Omar went first to
, then to the Kurdish Region of Iraq in search of work. Omar offered good-humored observations about his adopted city and Kurdish hosts and told me he is afraid to return to Syria . Then, he asked if I knew a way for him to come to the Baghdad . United States
In Arbil, a colleague and I met with two female law students, Layla and Dahlia. They lamented the state of legal education in
, where law schools and legal professionals have been marginalized for decades. The vast majority of professors use rote memorization to teach students, failing to engage in any meaningful study of the subject. We asked Layla and Dahlia what they’d like to see at their law school. Better teaching methods, books, and connections to other law schools like Iraq , they said. Cairo University
As IHRLI’s historic report “Raising the Bar” found: “Saddam Hussein’s regime undermined
’s legal system by disrespecting the rule of law, minimizing the role of legal professionals in society, and isolating academics from interactions with educational institutions in other parts of the world.” Unfortunately, the end of Saddam’s regime has not brought an end to the “rule of force” in Iraq . As reported last month by Amnesty International, even in the Kurdish Region of Iraq, which has enjoyed greater stability than the rest of Iraq since 2003, security and intelligence forces operate outside of the law and serious human rights violations continue to occur. Iraq
It will take many years for
to make the full transition from a society ruled by force to a society governed by the rule of law. Already, many Iraqis are embarking on that road, especially the youth, but they need the help and support of fellow Iraqis and the international community. Iraq
- Erik Gustafson
Here at home, President Obama has promised to help vulnerable Iraqis and said it is