Notes From Kurdistan

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Notes From Kurdistan

Let’s Not Lose Sight of The Society

Bewar LateefBewar Lateef

How was life before the so-called Islamic State brought so much chaos to the region?

In Southern Kurdistan we were carefree, a little bit spoiled too. Although in charge since 1992, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)’s successive cabinets failed to invest in the time – and money since 2003 – to make social, political and economic progress. Perhaps the KRG’s only bold projects were short-term construction projects, which even this sector has been suffering from an unhealthy bubble. Yet worse than all these, the KRG failed to build a strong national army. Peshmarga has been the most overlooked segment within the KRG for the past two decades: poorly trained, they were unprepared to respond to abrupt attacks.

Also starting from 2003, when the US invasion of Iraq automatically lifted much of the decades-long sanction on Southern Kurdistan, the number of NGOs focusing on social change has been continuously increasing. These NGOs have spent big amount of money and human resource, aiming to make social change. Even though the sheer number of the NGOs should have brought significant social changes, but that never happened. Albeit that doesn’t deny they have been trying to bring positive change to a certain extent.

[quote_box_right]The current situation in the KRG, in terms of both financial crisis and military vulnerability are the result of encouraging consumerism in the society, unpreparedness, and a weak civil society.[/quote_box_right]

At the time when there was relative peace, before the rise of ISIS, intellectuals and journalists did their best to aware the KRG to prepare for sudden crisis and build a robust infrastructure, but these advices fell on deaf ears. The current situation in the KRG, in terms of both financial crisis and military vulnerability are the result of encouraging consumerism in the society, unpreparedness, and a weak civil society.

Here I want to focus on the civil society, particularly the NGOs devoted to social change. Formerly we have faced many social problems particularly ones associated with women, children, freedom of speech, and civic engagement. However the civil war in Syria and the rise of ISIS in Iraq pushed around 2 million civilians flee to Southern Kurdistan. Additionally, there are few families that don’t have a son or a relative within the Peshmarga ranks fighting against ISIS in the borders of Southern Kurdistan. To add to the problems even civil servants do not get their regular salaries, so one can imagine the extend of the current crises. But does that mean we should turn a blind eye to all other underlying social issues?

Unfortunately most of the NGOs and INGOs are only dealing with the refugees and have neglected tackling the other social issues; the many projects that are funded to empower woman and youth are largely only for refugees and IDPs. Now we have more children and women on the streets than anytime before and the divorce cases in the courts have increased. The social issues in general have dramatically increased. These problems are ignored and many seem not to be able to see the danger this will bring to the society in the long run.

[quote_box_right]There must be a division between the NGOs who work for refugees and IDPs and the ones who are meant to bring positive social change.[/quote_box_right]

To return things back to the right track, it is time now for the NGOs to reset their priorities. There must be a division between the NGOs who work for refugees and IDPs and the ones who are meant to bring positive social change. We should not lose the society on the cost of a short-term crisis. If we spend all our energy on the current crisis and ignore the ones we used to deal with in the past then we will head to more chaos, because we are disregarding a large part of the society who always need support especially vulnerable women and children.

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