By Laween Atroshi:
Throughout history Kurds have been forgotten and stigmatized as having a record of unemployment, lack of human rights and primitive education. To tackle this misperception and gain international credibility for our Kurdish professionals I feel we have an ethical and moral duty to represent Kurdistan on different platforms.
As a British-born Kurdish professional (having graduated in the cutting-edge field of Biomedical Informatics) I wanted to disprove – locally, nationally and internationally – this inaccurate perception of the Kurdish people.
After visiting Kurdistan and its different universities and hospitals (at my own expense) it became clear that professionals and the youth are very dynamic and keen to grow. Moreover, the influx of girls being encouraged to study and work was overwhelming and an area that has my full support.
As with any system, there will be flaws but a reform is now happening and I always think of the saying: ‘Rome was not built in a day’. The catalytic message to my fellow Kurds has always been to study and utilize the knowledge gained effectively and contribute it back to Kurdistan to ensure the systems can be more transparent and put levers in place to secure accountability.
I am also in favor of diplomatic measures to encourage growth for Kurdistan. I have therefore nominated the Slemani Autism Centre for the United Nations’ most prestigious public service award. This is the first time in history that an institution in Iraq has been nominated for such an award.
My rationale was that this centre promotes the integration of disability into society. Before it was established, there was limited knowledge on autism, with cases of autistic children being locked in cages. Due to this lack of knowledge, parents did not realize that they can help their child to make the most of their late or underdeveloped cognitive and motor skills. There was no mechanism in place to promote social inclusion or equity for these vulnerable children.
I was extremely impressed by the Slemani Autism Centre’s efforts in providing a platform to encourage community partnership and in serving as an educational tool to challenge the stigmatization of disabilities. When I first visited the centre, I had a look at the environment created for the autistic children, with the rooms having different themes to enhance the learning of the children. I was extremely impressed that the staff were so professional, passionate and determined to develop their centre. A mother worked there whose autistic son attended the centre: it was largely due to her efforts that the centre was established.
The striking factor making this centre exceptional is that it was the first centre in the region to officially recognize the condition of autism. Everyone involved has worked hard as a team, relying on volunteer contributions to build a place where the children can feel like human beings and enjoy the rights that all children should have by default.
Furthermore, the teams were aware of the poor treatment suffered by some children in surrounding areas whose families are not educated about this condition and they would visit these families to protect the children from harm.
The centre should be commended and gain recognition for taking this initiative, relying on volunteer contributions for toys and effort, with a clear vision and educational goals. It should become a model for other communities.
As with any competition, we may not win the award, but at least we are striving hard to compete on this UN platform. We will be recognized for attempting this and have made it to stage two of the process.
Kurdistan may not yet be independent but – by working collaboratively with one voice and uniting to achieve an improved, transparent and accountable system – we can claim independence in other channels which will gradually lead to Kurdistan’s independence by informing people of our capabilities and peaceful, rich culture. This has prompted me to start an e-petition urging the British Government to recognize the Anfal as genocide. The aim is to unite the Kurdish Diaspora and it will hopefully lead to a parliamentary debate and the UK accepting that the Anfal was genocide.
Laween Atroshi is a UK Health Informatician & Ambassador for Peace (UPF). Note: Laween is not affiliated with any political party or organisations. Views and opinions are solely his own and do not reflect any organisation whom he has a direct or indirect affiliation with, either through employment or honorary.