KurdAid, supporting social projects in Kurdistan

A large number of the inhabitants of Kurdistan live under conditions beneath human dignity. Among them are children and youngsters who are not integrated, for different reasons, into a family structure. Many of them have a difficult existence as street children, others find, if they have some luck, a refuge in a shelter.      

There are various reasons for this misery:

In the course of the last decades, due to military conflicts, natural catastrophes and economic crisis there has been mass migration from rural populations into the cities. Through this migration the number of the unemployed rose in the cities drastically. Large families were forced into temporary shelters which were built mostly illegally, with no training, job prospects or state assistance available.

Mass migration led to a shift in the traditional standards and values that held the families together. Combined with the difficult financial situation this has caused further conflicts within the families. Having lost the social security, connection and roots of village life, it is only a question of time, that the family, often a large family - falls apart.

Apart from the economic crisis and the dissolution of traditional values there is also illness, death or imprisonment of parents (e.g. because of forbidden political activities or drug consumption etc.) A national social security system in case of death or disablement does not exist, except for state employees. Widowed or divorced women with children are forced due to their poverty to abandon and leave the children to their fate in the street. The same fate threatens children of re-married women, if they are not accepted by their stepfather. Physically or mentally handicapped children of poor families are often sent for begging in the streets. The separation from parents and lack of shelter elsewhere arouses fears, aggression and depression in the children. In street life the children are exposed to violence, health dangers, drugs, cold weather, abuse and exploitation. In the best case scenario they are pitied by the society and worst case, they are despised / disdained.

According to UNICEF between 100-200 million children work and live world-wide in the streets. Because of lack of trustworthy statistical data, the exact number of the street children in Kurdistan is not known. Only a small number of street children and youngsters are picked up by the police and handed over to the office of guardianship.

These children are accommodated, if a place is present, in shelters, which are led by private organisations or the state.

In the shelters the children and youngsters are supplied with modest food and clothes and there is also a small bathroom and a dormitory for all kids. School attendance is compulsory. A professional education and a meaningful leisure is however missing from this experience. Within the shelters there are no possibilities to learn handcrafts or artistic or musical skills.
Psychological support is badly needed. Usually the shelter inhabitants have to stay in the shelters till they are 18 and have to then go onto the compulsory military service. It is rare that a child is reunited with its parents once being admitted to the shelter.

The stay at a shelter ends at the age of 18. With little or no vocational or job training, many are unable to master life outside the shelter. Consequently, once compulsory military service has been completed, many return to the shelter seeking assistance.

General situation of street-children in Iran

In the Iranian newspaper of 18. December 2005 (27. Azar 1384, No. 1609, page 15, (see the newspaper article) there was a report on the situation of street-children. According to this report the Iranian government had passed a bill about five months ago concerning „organising street-children“. This bill was handed over to the ministry for welfare and social security to act upon. It contains 12 articles and 5 paragraphs instructing the authority for guardianship (under the rule of the ministry for welfare and social security) to coordinate with 11 other authorities and organisations in registering street-children and also to promote their abilities. Current statistics suggest that there are 20,000 street-children in Iran whom are eligible for financial support in accordance to the above bill in order to promote their chances of employment. This aid is supposed to be given to the families of the children, who have reached the age of 16.
According to the statistics:

- 92% of these children were aged between 14-18 years
- 89% had sever physical and psychological problems
- 37% were addicted to drugs
- 50% had committed theft
- 41% dealt with drugs
- 85% damaged or destroyed public facilities
- 50% were sexually abused
- 55% were indebted
- 84% suffered from blood deficiency
- 80% were physically smaller than normal
- 86% were lean and suffered from weight lost
- 37% suffered from eye diseases
- 82% suffered from skin diseases

The editor goes on to say that, since passing the bill there have been no positive steps taken to improve the situation of the children concerned.