The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, paraphrasing U. Thant, former United Nations Secretary General on the occasion of Human Rights Day. Baghdad, 11 December 2013.
“The Iraqi people know only too well what it means to suffer from violations of their basic human rights. They were forced to remain silent while they suffered from decades of despotic regimes, war, invasion, occupation and armed conflicts,” highlighted the SRSG for Iraq, Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, in his opening remarks at the Human Rights Day celebration in Baghdad.
Participants to the Human Rights Day conference at the Rasheed Hotel were then asked to observe a moment of silence in memory of all the Iraqis killed defending human rights, but also in memory of the former South African President and great human rights activist, Nelson Mandela.
This year’s celebration brought together representatives of the Iraqi Government, members of the Human Rights Commission, representatives of the civil society and human rights activists, along with UN Iraq staff members. The event was also an occasion to honor the exceptional work of ordinary Iraqi citizen, whom with great courage are working for advancing the basic rights in the Iraqi society. Francesco Motta, Director of UNAMI Human Rights Office and Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Iraq, honored five Iraqi human rights activists and also paid a special tribute to the activist and representative of the Black Community in Basra, Mr. Jalal Diab, assassinated on 26 April 2013.
Respect of human right: a priority for Iraqi youth
The event, organized by UNAMI Human Rights Office and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, was also the occasion for a group of 50 young Iraqis to deliver their priorities to government representatives. The five priorities were identified prior to the event by the young activists in a workshop organized on 9 December. “The future of this country belongs to you, so you have it in your hands to decide what that future will be,” Mr. Mladenov pointed out when discussing with the young participants.
After reading their recommendations, the Iraqi youth symbolically handed them over to the representatives of the Human Right Ministry and the Human Rights Commission.
“It’s important for us to participate in promoting human rights in Iraq because at the moment, human rights are not respected,” underlined Hussein Jebur, 24 years-old. “We want to live like other people in the world, but in Iraq, we don’t have the space to express ourselves. If the priorities that we identified were adopted by the government, it would improve our lives a lot,” added the College of arts student from Baghdad.
The five recommendations included the right to a fair trial, the respect of minorities’ rights, the right to freedom of expression, the right to education, to health care and to a safe environment.
The recommendation on minorities was particularly important for Turhan Türmeli, himself a member of the Turkmen minority, but also for Ameen Nazar, who believes that protecting the minorities will prevent them from leaving the country.
”Thanks to technology, we are more open to world,” added Hussein Jebur. “We just want to live in peace in our country, Iraq, no matter of our religion, origin or the color of our skin,” he concluded.