IV. Marginalized Communities
A series of wars and continuing violence over the past three decades have displaced millions of Iraqis inside the country, many impoverished and living in miserable conditions. For Iraq's religious minority communities, especially non-Muslims, the lack of security and the rise of religious extremism have brought attacks that have led members to emigrate in disproportionate numbers. The armed strife, along with an abundance of abandoned landmines and cluster munitions, has created a disproportionately high number of disabled persons in a country whose health and rehabilitation institutions, including hospitals, have languishedfrom more than a decade of harsh sanctions as well as political strife and corruption.
Despite the dire situation in which marginalized communities in Iraq find themselves, persistent inaction by the government, along with inadequate responses when it does act, has exasperated matters. Although the government has passed laws (including constitutional safeguards) to protect its marginalized communities, and has instituted significant assistance programs, it is still failing its most vulnerable citizens. Many of the government's assistance programs are non-operational or sub-operational, and vastly insufficient to meet the needs of target populations, despite Iraq's international and domestic commitments. The government needs to urgently address, in a significant and meaningful way, the needs of persons victimized by years of conflict, in some cases going back several decades. Iraq's efforts to protect the rights and meet the basic needs of its most marginalized citizens will be an indicator of the country's commitment to human rights and the rule of law.
Internally Displaced Persons
Zainab A., a 36-year-old widow and mother of four, lost her Sunni Arab husband to a car bomb in the town of Abu Ghraib in 2006. After his death, the neighborhood elder warned Zainab that she, a Shia, was in imminent danger living in a Sunni neighborhood. According to Zainab, the elder told her, "Yes, I know your sons are Sunni, but you are still in danger. We are not able to protect you." Zainab had already paid her rent six months in advance and had no money but women from the community, concerned for her safety, also advised her to leave. Terrified after armed assailants began killing neighbors, Zainab and her four children moved to a squatter settlement in nearby Baghdad. Despite not having much of their own, Zainab's new neighbors donated money and raw materials so that she could build a small shack for her family. She survives on handouts from her neighbors and has no plans to return to Abu Ghraib.
Iraq is home to about two million internally displaced persons, about 1.5 million of whom were displaced since 2006. About 500,000 of these 1.5 million live as squatters in slum areas, without basic services, including garbage collection, water, and electricity. In 2009, the government issued a directive calling upon all squatters to vacate public buildings and lands. Although the government postponed enforcement of the directive, IDPs remain at risk of eviction from public areas.
Economic pressures and difficulties maintaining legal status in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon, along with a somewhat improved security situation in Iraq are slowly inducing Iraqi refugees to return. However, UNHCR estimates that about 1.5 million Iraqis still live outside the country. The government remains without a workable plan for the return to their homes of Iraqis displaced internally or who had fled to neighboring countries, or for other durable solutions such as integration in places they now live or relocation or resettlement for those unable or unwilling to return. Although the government has pledged about $78 million for the reconstruction of destroyed homes, the disbursement of these funds is lagging. In Baghdad returnees are seldom able to reclaim their former homes. In rural communities many find their houses destroyed or in disrepair, and they lack access to income and basic services.
Some IDPs have had to relocate numerous times. In 2006, the day after assailants killed Abed Mahsan's Shia neighbor and two hours after they threatened Mahsan's life for living in a Sunni neighborhood, his family left their home north of Baghdad with only the possessions they could carry. Abed now lives in a desolate area of Baghdad away from others, in a tent lined with plastic election posters to keep water out. The family moves from place to place as he looks for work as a casual laborer. None of his six children attend school and the family has no running water or electricity.
Many IDPs in Baghdad huddle together in squatter settlements under bridges, alongside railroad tracks, and among garbage dumps. Human Rights Watch visited an IDP settlement in the Chikook suburb of northwest Baghdad, where some 12,000 Iraqis found refuge after fleeing their homes during the sectarian violence that enveloped the country in 2006. A clean-up campaign launched by UNHCR last year improved the area, but Iraqis in Chikook still live in appalling conditions. Heaps of strewn out garbage lie in between compounds. The area still has no sewage system, safe drinking water, garbage collection, or other basic services.
Hassan moved to Chikook with his wife, five children, and a few possessions after fleeing his home in the town of Taji, 30 kilometers north of Baghdad, in 2006. Soon after the Samarra bombing in February 2006, armed men arrived at his door in Taji and gave him three days to leave, saying he belonged to the wrong sect. Like other IDPs we interviewed, he has no foreseeable plans to move back to his community. The only support he has received is from local NGOs, which provided the family with blankets. His biggest fear is that the government will evict him from his small house because he does not have permission to live there as a squatter.
Community leaders complained that the government needs to do more to help the residents of Chikook. They fear that authorities will try to evict them since many consider the settlement to be an eyesore. In the nearby squatter settlement of al-Batool, two kilometers from Chikook, community leaders said the government evicted 800 families (with compensation). They said that government pressure on residents to leave Chikook eased only after movie star Angelina Jolie visited the settlement in July 2009.
Iraq's government has been unable to uphold a number of the basic human rights in the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, including the right to an adequate standard of living, medical care, and dignity and physical, mental, and moral integrity.
Religious and Ethnic Minorities
While Iraqis from all ethnic communities and religious denominations suffered from violence in the years that followed the US-led occupation, smaller minority communities, especially non-Muslims, have been particularly vulnerable. Some armed groups have attacked members of the Christian (also known as Chaldo-Assyrian), Yazidi, and Shabak communities, labeling them "crusaders,""devil-worshipers," and "infidels," respectively. Attacks against minorities have had a profound effect by targeting their communities' social infrastructure, leaving victims and others fearful to carry on with their everyday lives. Lacking militias and tribal structures to defend themselves, a disproportionate number have fled the country.
Although the government publicly condemns violence against minority groups, it has not taken sufficient measures to bolster security in areas where minorities are particularly vulnerable to attacks, and community leaders say that attacks are almost never thoroughly investigated. Iraqi security forces rarely apprehend, prosecute, and punish perpetrators of such attacks, which has created a climate of impunity.
Since 2003, the Sabian Mandaeans—one of the world's oldest religious groups—have fled the country en masse after targeted attacks against their community. Since then, almost 90 percent of their community has either fled Iraq or died. An estimated 3,500 to 5,000 Sabians remain in Iraq today, compared with a reported 50,000 to 60,000 in 2003. Now scattered in small pockets around the world, Sabians are fearful that their global displacement will mean an end to their religion, language, and culture. The Sabians traditionally speak a variation of Aramaic, revere John the Baptist, and are indigenous to southern Iraq.
At the only Sabian Mandaean temple in Basra, community leader Naiel Thejel Ganeen told Human Rights Watch about the evening in 2006 that became the start of his enduring trauma. Masked assailants carrying AK47s and pistols pulled over Ganeen, 55, while he was driving in Basra with his son. They forced his son to leave the car at gunpoint and abducted Ganeen in his own vehicle. He said his kidnappers kept referring to him as "negis" (impure) and said he had to pay them jizya. His captors tortured him for nine days while keeping him blindfolded and bound in a dark cellar. His right arm is scarred from shrapnel from live rounds of ammunition shot by his kidnappers during a mock execution. Humiliated by what his kidnappers subjected him to, Ganeen refused to further discuss all the things they did to him over the nine days. On the last day, he said, after his kidnappers received a ransom of $40,000, they threw him, blindfolded, in a trash heap. "The extremists considered us as part of the occupation though we've been in Iraq since before it was a country," Ganeen said. "Most of our community has fled Iraq and will never return."
Several Sabian Mandaean elders who listened as Ganeen told his story said they consider him lucky since he made it out alive, even though Ganeen says he is still haunted by the ordeal and continues to see a psychological counselor.
"The past seven years have been a calamity for Sabian Mandaeans—it's devastating to see our community whittle away without any hope of returning," said the community's leader, Sheikh Sattar Jabbar al-Hulu.
We met al-Hulu, wearing traditional, simple white garb and carrying a long cane, in Baghdad as he was preparing to preside over a purification ritual along the banks of the Tigris River. On the April 2010 day we met him, less than a dozen of his fellow Sabians came to participate in the ritual, which resembled a baptism. The men and women who participated in the ancient ceremony also wore white cloth, and walked slowly and barefoot into the muddy water in a scene that looked Biblical.
Since 2003, Sabian leaders estimate that scores of their community have perished, and they complained that there have been virtually no prosecutions for the murders. They said they have been targeted for a variety of reasons including their religion, their perceived wealth (many work as goldsmiths), and their inability to protect themselves without a militia of their own. Because their elders traditionally wear long beards, they have been attacked by Shia militants who have mistaken them for strictly observant Sunni Arabs (as many of the latter also grow long beards). One Sabian elder in Basra told us that armed militants attacked him and his bearded brother in their car in July 2006. "They dragged us out, kicking and punching us and shooting their weapons around us. They took us to a school where they were going to execute us because they said they suspected us of being Wahhabis. The Sabian elder was saved as an Iraqi army unit happened to drive into the area.
Along with violence, Sabian Mandaeans whom we interviewed in Basra, Amara, and Baghdad say their communities have also suffered social and religious injustice, mainly from those "who try to ruin our standing and reputation by spreading false rumors about our religion. People here [in Iraq] are generally ignorant that we also believe that God is one. We face a lot of pressure to leave Iraq."
One Sabian community leader in Basra told us that Sabians were leaving Iraq even before 2003 but that there has been a "tenfold" increase since then. "Before—in Saddam's time—we were all just Iraqis but now we are Christians, Sabians, Shia, Sunnis, Kurds, and so on. Our country and society have become fragmented."
According to another Sabian elder in Basra, there are no schools that teach their children in Aramaic. Sabian children must undertake Qur'anic studies at public schools. In history classes there are no references to Sabians, despite their being among the oldest communities in the country. Their girls and women also feel pressured to veil when in public, although their religion does not mandate this.
Community leaders complained that they are unable to practice their religion freely and without fear. Governments at all levels have failed to prevent their exodus, they said. In 2006, assailants using Ak-47s and other weapons attacked the Basra temple, damaging the structure.
Sheikh Sattar said that some militant imams "have issued fatwas [religious edicts] against us, calling us infidels and people not of the book. These fatwas have encouraged extremists to target us for killings, forced conversions, kidnappings, and arbitrary taxes." 
Although some imams have issued positive fatwas, Sattar said that members of his community face discrimination and hostility because of Muslim misconceptions about their religion. "People in our religion get harassed all the time. We can't touch the food or fish of Muslims. Teachers don't let Sabian students drink from or share the same cup of water with other students—they need to bring their own cups in order to drink."
Since 2003, armed groups proclaiming Islamist ideologies have opposed communities of different faiths living in their vicinity, especially ones with perceived ties to the supposedly Christian West and, by association, with the multinational forces in Iraq—they are perceived as accounting for a high proportion of the translators working for US forces, for example. These groups have repeatedly attacked the Chaldo-Assyrian community.
The previous Ba'ath government permitted only Christians and Yazidis, whose religions do not prohibit alcohol use, to sell liquor. This made them easily identifiable as minorities because of their trade, which many observant Muslims frown upon. Militias have bombed, looted, and defaced liquor stores in Mosul and elsewhere. Organized criminals sometimes faked a jihadist identity to mask a real motive of extortion and thievery. They regard Christians as rich and without protection, since Christians traditionally lack tribal or militia links. Christians active in the jewelry and gold trade have been particular targets for kidnappings for ransom.
In late 2008 a systematic and orchestrated armed campaign of targeted killings and violence left 40 Chaldo-Assyrians dead and more than 12,000 displaced from their homes in Mosul. Even before these attacks, Christians had been fleeing Iraq at much higher rates than other groups; their number fell to about 675,000 in 2008, from one million in 2003. Assailants, most likely from groups professing radical Sunni Arab ideologies, targeted Christians in their homes, at work, and in places of worship.
In the three weeks leading up to the March 7, 2010 national elections, assailants killed 10 Christians in Mosul in attacks that appeared politically motivated. The violence prompted 4,300 Christians to flee the city to the Nineveh Plains. Iraqi and Kurdish government officials condemned the attacks, and the Government of Iraq established an investigative committee, but almost a year after the attacks no perpetrators had been identified or arrested.
On October 31, 2010, in one of the most devastating attacks against Christians, gunmen in explosive vests stormed Baghdad's Our Lady of Salvation Catholic Church, during Sunday Mass. The gunmen reportedly identified themselves as members of the Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaeda-linked group, and took more than a hundred hostages. Two priests and 44 worshippers were killed when Iraqi security forces stormed the building. 
The armed group promised more attacks, declaring Christians everywhere "legitimate targets." In the weeks that followed, armed men shot dead Christians in Mosul and targeted Christian homes throughout Baghdad with mortar shells and homemade bombs, killing at least three and wounding 26. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, about 1,000 Christian families fled Baghdad and Mosul to northern Iraq after these latest attacks.
The attack on Our Lady of Salvation was the latest in a continuing assault against Christian places of worship. On July 12, 2009, assailants bombed seven churches in Baghdad, killing four and injuring 18. In November and December 2009, assailants bombed five churches and a covenant in Mosul, killing seven and injuring 40.
Christian leaders say they are helpless as the government has failed to prevent attacks and protect their areas. Government investigations are rare and ineffective. In October 2008,
Iraq's Ministry of Human Rights created a committee to investigate the Mosul attacks that killed 40 Christians.  The committee's unpublished report drew no conclusions as to who was behind the attacks, or whether Iraqi security forces could have prevented them, but did state that evidence indicated that the campaign was "targeted," "systematic," and "pre-arranged." Similar to other attacks against minorities, no one was ever arrested, charged, or prosecuted, according to community leaders.
Two days before we visited Al-Hazin church in Amara, one of the oldest churches in southern Iraq, a church leader told us that thieves had broken into the complex and left a threat in the form of a bullet."We can't say anything because we are afraid," a church leader told us. "In Iraq, human life is worthless, not even worth a penny. And what about the Christians? Their life is not even worth close to that."
Chaldo-Assyrian women in Amara say they have started wearing hijabs and abayas (cloaks) after 2003 even though it is not part of their religion. In order to maintain good relations with Muslims, the Christian community in Amara does not smoke or eat in public during Ramadan. "We've had to adopt their traditions, we don't even celebrate during Christmas if it falls in Muharram." In December 2009, Basra's Chaldean bishop called on Christians in southern Iraq to refrain from public Christmas celebrations because of its coinciding with Muharram.
Shabaks number between 200,000 and 500,000, and live mainly in the Nineveh Plains, an area contested between the Iraqi government and Kurdistan Regional Government. Insurgent groups have targeted them because about 70 percent of Shabaks adhere to the Shia sect of Islam, which many Sunnis regard as heretical: for example, the Islamic State of Iraq distributed a flyer dated October 16, 2007, in Mosul that described Shabaks as "rejectors" of Islam and asserted that it is "an obligation to kill them and to displace them with no mercy." Since 2004, Shabak groups have reported to the UN that more than 750 members of their community have perished in armed attacks. Unlike attacks against Christians, these have generally gone unnoticed by media outside of the country because of the community's obscurity and lack of an influential diaspora.
In one of the worst attacks in Iraq since 2003, on August 11, 2009, two large flatbed trucks packed with bombs exploded simultaneously in the Shabak village of al-Khazna. The force of the blast destroyed the town, leaving 65 houses in heaps of rubble. The casualty toll was at least 35 killed and almost 200 wounded.
Although no group claimed responsibility, the attack bore similarities to previous attacks by Sunni insurgent groups and al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia.
Since 2008, Shabak leaders who have opposed KRG policies in their territory have increasingly been targeted for attack, with Kurdish forces implicated in some of the incidents.
On January 7, 2009, Shabak leader and former parliamentarian Hunain al-Qaddo told Human Rights Watch that he had survived an assassination attempt that day in the town of Ali Rish, in the Nineveh Plains. Al-Qaddo said he was on his way with other Shabaks to participate in the Shia religious festival of Ashura when his convoy came under fire from men wearing Kurdish security uniforms. When we met with him in Baghdad in April 2010, he said that the security situation for the Shabak community was continuing to deteriorate. "On the one hand, we are targeted by terrorists, and on the other, we are targeted by Kurdish security forces."
On March 7, 2010, Qusay Abbass, an elected member of Nineveh's provincial council representing the Shabak quota seat, was hospitalized after peshmerga (KRG militia) shot him twice at a checkpoint near al-Khazna polling station. Neither the Kurdistan nor Iraqi authorities announced any investigation into the incident. Months earlier, on August 16, 2009, an improvised explosive device targeted Abbass's convoy as he drove to Mosul, lightly injuring him and two of his bodyguards.
The plight of the Yazidis, similar to that of the Shabaks, has gone largely unnoticed despite devastating attacks. Numbering between 550,000 and 800,000, Yazidis have deep roots in the Nineveh area, living mainly around Sinjar and with smaller communities in the Sheikhan region and in the Kurdish cities of Arbil, Dohuk, and Sulaimaniyya.Yazidis practice a 4,000-year-old religion that centers on Maluk Ta'us, the Peacock Angel. Historically, they have been subject to sharp persecution owing to their beliefs and practices, which have been misconstrued as satanic.
In the worst attacks against civilians anywhere in Iraq since 2003, on the evening of August 14, 2007, four simultaneous truck bombings killed more than 300 Yazidis and wounded more than 700 in the Sinjar district communities of Qahtaniya, Jazira, and Azair, and destroyed nearly 400 homes.
Yazidis continue to be targeted. On August 13, 2009, two suicide bombers detonated vests packed with explosives in a popular cafÃ© in Sinjar city, whose inhabitants are mainly Yazidi, killing at least 21 people and injuring 32. After no response or help from the government after the attack, Yazidi residents in Nineveh surrounded five of their villages with sand barriers in a desperate attempt to protect themselves.
Persons with Disabilities
On February 11, 1986, at the height of the Iran-Iraq war, Falah Ali, a tank commander in Basra, lost his legs after his T-55 tank was hit by a rocket. Three of his comrades were killed in the attack. He believes his life was spared because his torso was leaning out the roof hatch when the rocket hit the vehicle.
Ali told Human Rights Watch that new prosthetics legs are rare in Iraq, so he has worn the same ones given to him by the government back in 1987. Ali considers himself lucky because he is able to pay for medical treatment while "poorer amputees have nothing and are hopeless."
Starting in 1991, the government of Saddam Hussein significantly reduced the benefits that Ali and other war amputees received. Ali has had to repair his prostheses himself or at a car repair shop. For most Iraqis, navigating through checkpoints in Baghdad is a time-consuming and frustrating process, but for Ali, the stakes are much higher. He said he is at risk every time he is searched because police sometimes mistake him for a suicide bomber when they discover the wires he has used to repair his prosthetics. "For a country that is so rich in resources, why are there so few services for disabled people, especially those injured serving Iraq in war?" Ali asked.
For Ali and other persons with disabilities, the lack of rehabilitation and other services can have serious consequences on their ability to enjoy other rights, such as education, employment, and family life, among others. When Ali tries to access government services, he has to stand in line and wait for prolonged periods with everyone else, which he finds difficult. Iraq's public buildings are also not designed to accommodate persons with disabilities.
There are no official figures on how many persons with disabilities live in Iraq, but estimates range from one to three million. According to its Constitution, Iraq should safeguard the rights of persons with disabilities and "ensure their rehabilitation in order to reintegrate them into society." Iraq has taken some positive steps—the government is in the process of ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and the Council of Representatives has before it a bill to establish a national body for the welfare of persons with disabilities. The government has assigned a proportion of government positions to persons with disabilities, and it has held conferences and workshops to raise awareness of the rights of persons with disabilities and to promote their integration into society.
Despite these efforts, Iraq's government has not taken the necessary steps to ensure that persons with disabilities do not face discrimination and enjoy their rights on an equal basis with others in Iraq, as required under the CRPD. This applies to the right to education, employment, personal mobility, healthcare, and comprehensive rehabilitation services and programs, among other things.
According to interviews with persons with disabilities, the government needs to do more to ensure access to education and employment, provide healthcare and other services, and reintegrate them into society. Without specific efforts on their behalf, people with disabilities are unlikely to benefit from mainstream education and employment opportunities. Economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities is essential to their integration in the community, social independence, ability to access services such as healthcare, support themselves and their families, and to increase their self-confidence.
One war amputee, who lost both his legs during the Iran-Iraq war after he stepped on a landmine in the border area near Amara in 1988, relies on a worn-out 20-year-old wheelchair. Over the years he has had to replace almost every part—he said the only remaining original part of the wheelchair is the frame. "I can buy a new poorly constructed Chinese model that is worse than what I have now. But I can't afford a proper $750 model on my $180 [war veteran's] pension," he said. "Iraq is a very difficult place for disabled peopleâsociety and the government do not care about us, no one will hire a disabled person."
Another war amputee had his legs amputated after he contracted gangrene as a result of injuries received during an Iranian mortar attack east of Basra in 1987. He said that he is unable to find employment because of discrimination. He also continues to rely on his worn-out 20-year-old wheelchair and is unable to afford medical care. "In Saddam's time, we had a Veteran Affairs Department that helped, but now no such office exists. Healthcare was free to us before but not anymore."
In Baghdad, Human Rights Watch met with the staff of a local NGO, the Iraqi Alliance of Disability Organizations, and interviewed war amputees, who told us that persons with disabilities cannot often afford necessary specialized medical treatments or even wheelchairs and other special equipment.
To compound these challenges, a lack of qualified medical personnel, inadequate facilities, and security problems continue to plague healthcare services in Iraq. The Health Ministry has 21 rehabilitation centers and 12 prosthetics workshops, and lacks doctors and technicians to open more.
In the 1990s, the country had 34,000 physicians registered with the Iraqi Medical Association. By 2008, this number dropped by almost half to around 16,000, a trend the country has not reversed despite a 2008 government appeal for medical staff to return to the country.Nurses are also scarce. While the standard nurse-to-doctor ratio in most countries is around three to one, in Iraq, according to government estimates, the Iraq ratio is almost one to one. Facilities already coping with poor electricity or water supplies frequently have to deal also with unreliable sewage or air-cooling systems and inadequate solid-waste disposal. Equipment is often old and poorly maintained, and sometimes not operated correctly.
Professionals, including medical personnel, have been prime targets for abductions by insurgents and criminals. Between 2003 and 2008, official Iraqi sources reported that targeted violence killed more than 2,200 doctors and nurses. Many more escaped threats by fleeing to neighboring countries.
Invisible Impacts of War
Decades of repression and violence have traumatized people at every level of Iraqi society. Iraqi psychiatrists say mental disabilities are on the rise across the country.Iraq's government has earmarked less than 1 per cent of the country's total healthcare budget to mental health, has failed to establish community mental health centers, has been unable to secure essential pharmaceuticals, and has not developed a viable mental healthcare monitoring system. A 2007-2008 national mental health national survey carried out by the Iraq Ministry of Health in collaboration with the World Health Organization found that only a minority of people with mental disabilities received any treatment. The survey results also showed that only a minority of patients who seek treatment for mental disabilities in Iraq receive treatment that meets even the most minimal standards of adequacy.
In every city Human Rights Watch visited, we met with Iraqis who had experienced trauma first-hand and were still struggling with its effects: a woman in Baghdad who tried to burn herself to death because of spousal abuse; a detainee in Al Rusafa prison who now suffers from insomnia and bedwetting as a result of torture; a Sabian leader in Basra who has flashbacks years after he was kidnapped and tortured; a woman at an IDP camp in Baghdad who is still traumatized after assailants abducted her husband and son in front of her at a checkpoint years earlier, never to be seen again.
According to the UN World Health Organization (WHO), the fourth leading cause of morbidity among Iraqis older than five years is "mental disorders," which ranked higher than infectious disease.
According to Iraq's psychiatric association, the country has only 100 psychiatrists to serve a population of about 30 million . Many people self-medicate, and prescription drug abuse is now the number one substance abuse problem in Iraq. Al-Rashad, the country's largest government-fundedmental health facility, has seen a 10 percent increase in patients this year, and has had to turn people away because of over-crowding.
International Standards Protecting the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, to which Iraq acceded on August 15, 2007, requires states to provide assistance for the care and rehabilitation, and social and economic reintegration, of mine victims and for mine awareness programs.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which Iraq has pledged to ratify (and is completing domestic procedures for accession) makes explicit that the human rights enumerated in other major human rights documents apply with equal force and in particularly important ways to individuals with disabilities.  Several articles in the CRPD are particularly relevant in the Iraqi context. Article 11 of the CRPD requires that states shall take "all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters."
One of the core principles of the CRPD is accessibility. In implementing the CRPD, States are obligated to "enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life â¦" This includes measures to ensure that persons with disabilities have "access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas." The CRPD also includes specific provisions on the right to education and employment for persons with disabilities.
Article 20 of the CRPD requires states parties to "take effective measures to ensure personal mobility with the greatest possible independence for persons with disabilities." This includes "facilitating access by persons with disabilities to quality mobility aids, devices, assistive technologies and forms of live assistance and intermediaries, including by making them available at affordable cost."
The highest attainable standard of health is a fundamental human right enshrined in numerous international and regional human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ICESCR, the CRC, CEDAW, and the CRPD. The ICESCR specifies that everyone has a right "to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health," and the CRPD clarifies that this right must be upheld "without discrimination on the basis of disability."
One of the core principles of international law regarding accessibility to health services is that of non-discrimination, especially for "the most vulnerable or marginalized sections of the population." The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which monitors states' implementation of the ICESCR, has provided examples of what may constitute a failure of a government to fulfill its obligations with respect to the right to health. The examples include failing to adopt or implement a national health policy designed to ensure the right to health for everyone, insufficient expenditure or misallocation of available public resources which leads to the non-enjoyment of the right to health by individuals or groups, particularly the vulnerable or marginalized.
CRPD provisions on rehabilitation are particularly important for amputees and other war-wounded in Iraq. Rehabilitation is the process of removing or reducing as far as possible the factors that limit a person with a disability so that he or she can attain the highest possible level of independence and quality of life. Interventions may include medical care, supply of assistive devices, physical or occupational therapy, psycho-social services, or other social support. Article 26 obligates States to "organize, strengthen and extend comprehensive rehabilitation services and programmes, particularly in the areas of health, employment, education and social services."
International Standards Protecting Minority Rights
Iraq made a declaration, upon gaining independence and joining the League of Nations in 1932, that it would protect the rights of minorities—the first non-European state to so declare. With the formation of the United Nations after World War II, the international community recognized the particular vulnerability of minorities around the world to human rights abuses. In December 1948 the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. In 1971, Iraq ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 26 of the Covenant prohibits discrimination on grounds of race, religion, and language, and article 27 states: "In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language."
Iraq assumed the obligation to protect minority rights by also ratifying the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discriminationand the Convention on the Rights of the Child.The latter specifically requires the education of a child to be directed to the "development of ... his or her own cultural identity, language and values" and gives a child of a religious minority the right "to enjoy his or her own culture, [and] to profess and practise his or her own religion."
Additionally, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) passed declarations that articulate best practices and human rights standards for the protection of minorities. The UNGA Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (1981) protects the "freedom to have a religion ... and freedom ... to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching", and prohibits "coercion which would impair [t]his freedom." Assembly for worship, observance of religious holidays, maintaining and erecting buildings for worship, acquiring items for use in religious rituals, religious teaching and appointment of religious leaders, fundraising for religion, and communication with coreligionists are activities that fall within the protection of freedom of religion. According to the UNGA's Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious or Linguistic Minorities (1993), states are obliged to take "measures to create favourable conditions to enable persons belonging to minorities to express their characteristics and to develop their culture, language, religion, traditions and customs." The declaration also says that states must protect the identity of minorities within their respective territories by encouraging "conditions for the promotion of that identity" and measures allowing minority members to "participate fully in the economic progress and development in their country." It states that minorities have the right to establish and maintain their own associations. Minorities also have "the right to participate effectively in decisions on the national and, where appropriate, regional level concerning the minority."
Minority rights protections are further incorporated into international law through regional instruments, such as the Council of Europe's Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Minority Languages, and the Arab Charter on Human Rights. The Arab Charter, adopted by the Council of the League of Arab States in 2004, states that "minorities shall not be deprived of their right to enjoy their culture or to follow the teachings of their religions." Further, the Arab Charter prohibits denying an individual's rights because of his or her "race, colour, sex, language, religion, political opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status and without any discrimination between men and women."
National Standards Protecting the Rights of Minorities and Persons with Disabilities
Iraq's constitution, in article 2, "guarantees the full religious right" and "freedom of religious belief and practice of all individuals" such as Christians, Yazidis, and Sabian Mandaeans. Article 3 explicitly recognizes that Iraq is a country of multiple nationalities, religions, and sects. Article 4 guarantees the right to educate children in their mother tongue (such as Turkmen, Syriac, and Armenian). According to article 14, all Iraqis are "equal before the law without discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, origin, color, religion, sect, belief or opinion, or economic or social status."
Iraq's constitution guarantees social and health security, as well as housing and special care and rehabilitation programs, to Iraqis in cases of old age, sickness, employment disability, homelessness, orphanhood, or unemployment. Article 32 demands that Iraq safeguard the rights of persons with disabilities and "ensure their rehabilitation in order to reintegrate them into society."
Human Rights Watch interview with Zainab A. (full name withheld), Baghdad, April 9, 2010.
According to UNHCR, 1.2 million Iraqis were displaced before 2006 and 1.5 million since then. UNHCR Iraq, "Monthly Statistical Update on Return," October 2009, (accessed September 11, 2010), p. 1.
See also Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, "Little new displacement but around 2.8 million Iraqis remain internally displaced," March, 2010. IDMC maintains an internet database on situation of internal displacement in Iraq available at (accessed September 11, 2010).
 Elizabeth Campbell, "Iraq: Humanitarian Needs persist," Refugees International, March 17, 2010, (accessed September 11, 2010).
Human Rights Watch interview with Abed Mahsan, Baghdad, April 9, 2010.
Elizabeth Campbell, "Iraq: Humanitarian Needs persist."
 UNHCR, "Thousands of Iraqis benefit from UNHCR clean-up campaign in Baghdad," April 29, 2009, (accessed September 11, 2010).
Human Rights Watch interview with Hassan (full name withheld), Baghdad, April 9, 2010.
Human Rights Watch interview with Chikook community leaders, (names withheld), Baghdad, April 9, 2010.
The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (the Guiding Principles), adopted in September 1998 by the UN General Assembly, reflect international humanitarian law as well as human rights law, and provide a consolidated set of international standards governing the treatment of the internally displaced. Although not a binding instrument, the Guiding Principles are based on international laws that bind states, and they have acquired authority and standing in the international community.
 Ibid., Principle 18.
Ibid., Principle 19.
 Ibid., Principle 11.
 In November, 2009, Human Rights Watch released On Vulnerable Ground, a report documenting attacks by Sunni Arab extremist groups targeting Yazidis, Shabaks, and Assyrian Christians, and intimidation by KRG forces against minority political and civic associations in the disputed territories of northern Iraq. This chapter updates the findings of the 2009 report, includes recent developments in other parts of Iraq, and has a new section on the plight of the Sabian Mandaeans. See Human Rights Watch, On Vulnerable Ground: Violence Against Minority Communities in Nineveh Province's Disputed Territories, November 2009, .
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2010 Annual Report: Iraq Chapter, May 2010, , (accessed September 11, 2010).
 Human Rights Watch interview with Naiel Thejel Ganeen, Basra, April 11, 2010.
Jizya is a head tax that early Islamic rulers demanded from their non-Muslim subjects in return for communal autonomy and military protection.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Sheikh Sattar Jabbar al-Hulu, Baghdad, April 25, 2010.
 Wahhabis are adherents of a strict Sunni Islamic tendency that prevails in Saudi Arabia.Human Rights Watch interview with a Sabian Mandaean (name withheld), Amara, April 13, 2010.
Human Rights Watch interview with five Sabian Mandaean leaders (names withheld), Basra, April 11, 2010.
Human Rights Watch interview with Sheikh Sattar Jabbar al-Hulu, Baghdad, April 25, 2010.
Close to two-thirds of Iraqi Christians are Chaldeans (an Eastern rite of the Catholic Church), and close to one-third are Assyrians (Church of the East). The remainder of Iraqi Christians variously follow the Syrian Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Armenian Catholic (an Eastern rite of the Catholic Church), Anglican, or other Protestant faiths.
According to the Christian and Other Religions Endowment Bureau in Iraq, approximately 95 percent of the country's alcohol shops have closed following attacks and threats by Islamic extremists. See Preti Taneja, Minority Rights Group International, "Assimilation, Exodus, Eradication: Iraq's minority communities since 2003," February 11, 2007, http://www.minorityrights.org/2802/reports/assimilation-exodus-eradication-iraqs-minority-communities-since-2003-arabic-edition.html (accessed September 11, 2010).
Human Rights Watch, On Vulnerable Ground.
US Department of State, "International Religious Freedom Report 2008," . Other reports place the number of Christians remaining in Iraq even lower, at about 250,000 people. See "Iraq: Is it really coming right?" Economist, November 27, 2008, http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?story_id=12678343 (accessed September 11, 2010).
Human Rights Watch, On Vulnerable Ground.
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2010 Annual Report: Iraq Chapter, May, 2010, (accessed September 11, 2010).
Peter Bouckaert and Samer Muscati, "Iraq: Deadly Reminders of Unfinished Business," The Huffington Post, December 1, 2010, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-bouckaert/iraq-deadly-reminders-of-_b_790683.html (accessed December 20, 2010).
John Leland "In Grief and Defiance, Baghdad's Christians Return to Scene of Attack," New York Times, November 7, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/08/world/middleeast/08baghdad.html?scp=3&sq=iraq%20church&st=cse (accessed November 8, 2010).
 Kristen Chick, "Iraqi Christians targeted in another slew of attacks," The Christian Science Monitor, November 10. 2010, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/terrorism-security/2010/1110/Iraqi-Christians-targeted-in-another-slew-of-attacks (accessed December 20, 2010).
 "Christians flee central Iraq in thousands, UN reports," BBC, December 17, 2010, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12022146 (accessed December 19, 2010).
Administrative order no. A/15178 dated October 14, 2008.
Iraq Ministry of Human Rights Fact-Finding Committee, "Report on Displacement of Christian Families in Nineveh
Governorate," undated, copy obtained and on file with Human Rights Watch.
Human Rights Watch interview with a church leader, Amara, April 13, 2010.
Muharram is the Shia holy month that marks the seventh-century death of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed. Human Rights Watch interview with a church leader, Amara, April 13, 2010.
US Department of State, "International Religious Freedom Report 2008," http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2008/108483.htm (accessed September 11, 2010).
According to UN officials who have seen the flyer, as brought to the attention of Human Rights Watch.
UNAMI, "Human Rights Report: 1 July â 31 December 2008," pp. 15-16.
Sam Dagher, "Minorities Trapped in Northern Iraq's Maelstrom," New York Times, August 15, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/16/world/middleeast/16khazna.html (accessed September 11, 2010); Ernesto LondoÃ±o and Dlovan Brwari, "Blasts Kill at Least 53 in Iraq," Washington Post, August 11, 2009, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/10/AR2009081000333.html?hpid=topnews (accessed September 11, 2010).
Human Rights Watch, On Vulnerable Ground.
Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Hunain al-Qaddo, August 19, 2009. See also Daniel W. Smith, "Security Forces Fire at MP's Vehicle in Ninewa," IRAQSlogger.com, January 8, 2009.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Hunain al-Qaddo, Baghdad, April 3, 2010.
"Assassination attempt on Mr. Qusay Abbas Shabak representative in Mosul Governorate," ShabakNews, March 7, 2010, (accessed September 11, 2010).
Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Qusay Abbass, August 20, 2009.
Chris Chapman and Preti Taneja, Minority Rights Group International, "Uncertain Refuge, Dangerous Return: Iraq's Uprooted Minorities," September 24, 2009, http://www.minorityrights.org/8132/reports/uncertain-refuge-dangerous-return-iraqs-uprooted-minorities.html (accessed September 25, 2009); Minority Rights Group International, "World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples â Iraq Overview," April 2008, http://www.minorityrights.org/5726/iraq/iraq-overview.html (last accessed November 9, 2010).
Campbell Robertson, "Followers of Ancient Faith Caught in Iraq's Fault Lines," New York Times, October 13, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/14/world/middleeast/14yazidi.html (accessed September 11, 2010).
Sameer N. Yacoub, "Double suicide bombing kills more than 20 in Iraq," Associated Press, August 13, 2009, http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hwK_CSpBxsNuVUEaDuOwmSSCiqGwD9A24LU00 (accessed September 11, 2010). Mujahid Mohammed, "Twenty-one killed in Iraq suicide bombing," Agence France-Presse, August 13, 2009, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5heyhKhE3cqsbEzYfqb0lyAArnGrQ (accessed September 11, 2010).
Yazidi villagers build sand barriers to guard against attacks," Aswat al-Iraq, August 17, 2009,
http://en.aswataliraq.info/?p=117617 (accessed January 10, 2011).
While all the persons with disabilities interviewed in this chapter have conflict-related disabilities, there are also thousands of Iraqis who are born with or acquire disabilities because of disease or non-war related injuries.
Human Rights Watch interview with Falah Ali, Baghdad, April 5, 2010.
 The Iraqi Alliance of Disability Organizations estimates three million persons with disabilities live in the country. Iraq's health ministry reportedly put the number at between one million and three million: Aseel Kami, "Up to 10 percent of Iraqis disabled by war, sanctions," Reuters, January 21, 2010,
Constitution of the Republic of Iraq, Article 32.
 "National report submitted in accordance with paragraph 15 (A) of the annex to Human Rights Council Resolution 5/1," Government of Iraq submission to the Universal Periodic Review, January 18, 2010, A/HRC/WG.6/7/IRQ/,1http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G09/173/37/PDF/G0917337.pdf?OpenElement (accessed December 22, 2010).
Human Rights Watch interview with staff at the Iraqi Alliance of Disability Organizations, Baghdad, April, 16, 2010.
Human Rights Watch interview with a war amputee (name withheld), Baghdad, April, 16, 2010.
Human Rights Watch interview with a war amputee (name withheld), Baghdad, April, 16, 2010.
Human Rights Watch interview with staff at the Iraqi Alliance of Disability Organizations, Baghdad, April, 16, 2010.
Aseel Kami, "Up to 10 percent of Iraqis disabled by war, sanctions," Reuters, January 21, 2010, (accessed September 11, 2010).
International Committee of the Red Cross "Iraq: Putting Healthcare System Back on its Feet," July 28, 2010, (accessed September 11, 2010).
International Committee of the Red Cross "Iraq: No Let Up in the Humanitarian Crisis,"
Natalia Antelava, "Iraq struggles with mental healthcare crisis," BBC, May 21, 2009,
(accessed September 11, 2010). Mental disability, also referred to as psycho-social disability, relates to the interaction between psychological differences and social/cultural limits for behavior as well as the stigma that society attaches to persons with mental impairments. World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, Manual on Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, p. 9 http://www.chrusp.org/home/resources (accessed on January 5, 2011).
Hamada Hamid and Anita Everett, "Developing Iraq's Mental Health Policy," Psychiatric Services., October 2007, 58(10):1355-7, http://psychservices.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/reprint/58/10/1355.pdf (accessed December 22, 2010).
 Alhasnawi S., Sadik S., Rasheed M., Baban A., Al-Alak M.M. et al. "The prevalence and correlates of DSM-IV disorders in the Iraq Mental Health Survey (IMHS)." World Psychiatry 8, 2009, 97-109, http://www.wpanet.org/uploads/Latest_News/Other_News/iraq-mental-health-updated.pdf (accessed December 22, 2010).
 WHO Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office, Division of Health System and Services Development, Health Policy and Planning Unit, "Health Systems Profile: Iraq," 2005.
Leila Fadel,"Mental Illness epidemic swamps Iraq facilities," Washington Post, June 18, 2010. (accessed September 11, 2010).
 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their
Destruction, adopted September 18, 1997, entered into force, March 1, 1999. Article 6(3).
 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), adopted December 13, 2006, G.A. Res. 61/106, Annex I, U.N.
GAOR, 61st Sess., Supp. (No. 49) at 65, U.N. Doc. A/61/49 (2006), entered into force May 3, 2008.
CRPD, art. 11.
CRPD, art. 9.
CRPD, art. 9.
CRPD, arts. 24 and 27.
CRPD, art. 20.
 CRPD, art. 25.
 CESCR, General Comment No. 14, para 12(b).
 See UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, "Substantive Issues Arising in the Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights," General Comment No. 14, The Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health, E/C.12/2000/4 (2000).
Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, "Disabilities Among Refugees and Conflict-Affected Populations," June 2008.
 CRPD, art. 26.
Genocide Convention, adopted by Resolution 260(III)A of the United Nations General Assembly, December 9, 1948, G.A. Res. 260 (III) A, entered into force January 12, 1951.
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), adopted December 16, 1966, GA. Res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 52, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 999 U.N.T.S. 171, entered into force March 23, 1976, ratified by Iraq on January 25, 1971.
International Covenant on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), adopted December 21, 1965, G.A. Res. 2106 (xx), annex, 20, U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 14) at 47, U.N. Doc. A/6014 (1966), 660 U.N.T.S. 195, entered into force January 4, 1969, ratified by Iraq on January 14, 1970.
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), adopted November 20, 1989, G.A. Res. 44/25, annex, 44 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49) at 167 U.N. Doc. A/44/49 (1989), entered into force September 2, 1980. Iraq acceded to the Convention on June 15, 1994.
Ibid., arts. 29 and 30.
Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, G.A. res. 36/55, 36 U.N. GAOR Supp. (N0. 51) at 171, U.N. Doc. A/36/684 (1981), art. 1.
 Ibid., art. 6.
Declaration of the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious or Linguistic Minorities, G.A. res. 47/135, annex, 47 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49) at 210, U.N. Doc. A/47/49 (1993), art. 4.
Ibid., arts. 1 and 5.
Ibid., art. 2.
Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, adopted February 1, 1995, ETS No. 157, entered into force February 1, 1998; European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, adopted May 11, 1992, CETS No. 148, entered into force January 3, 1998; Revised Arab Charter on Human Rights, May 22, 2004, reprinted in 12 Int'l Hum. Rts. Rep. 893 (2005), entered into force March 15, 2008.
Arab Charter, art. 25.
Ibid., art. 2.
Constitution of the Republic of Iraq, 2005, art. 2(2). The identity of Sabian Mandaeans, Chaldean-Assyrian Christians and Yazidis, as well as Shabaks, is explained in Chapter III.
Constitution of the Republic of Iraq, art. 3.
Ibid., art. 4.
Ibid., art. 14.
Constitution of the Republic of Iraq, article 31(2).
Constitution of the Republic of Iraq, Article 32.