A wave of deadly attacks has once again hit the Iraqi civilian population. But at the same time, new peace initiatives emerge. Anti-war activists from Iraq and the United States have launched the joint campaign Right to Heal.
Recently, the Iraqi population has experienced a period of increased violence, with recurrent deadly attacks against civilians. According to United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, UNAMI, at least 1 045 Iraqis were killed in May and another 2 397 were wounded. That’s the worst numbers since 2008.
Still, there are beacons of light in the darkness.
“As human rights activists, we are determined to scrutinize all the wrongdoings of the war and also try to prevent future wars” says Yanar Mohammed, chairwoman of the organisation Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI).
Yanar Mohammed is one of the founders of the Right to Heal campaign, which was launched outside the White House in New York on March 19. Marking the ten-year-anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, the campaign seeks to hold the US government responsible for the long-term effects of the war.
“We demand reparations for the people of Iraq, who have suffered because of this war, as well as for the war veterans. All of us need to heal” Yanar Mohammed says.
Investigates humanitarian crisis
But the Right to Heal campaign is not only about seeking reparations for civilians and war veterans – it’s also about investigating wrongdoings of the war. For several years, OWFI has been trying to highlight the humanitarian crisis in the city of Hawijah, where several of the inhabitants have been diagnosed with brain damages, poliomyelitis paralysis and cancer and over 600 babies have been born with disabilities. In a report released in 2011, OWFI claims that a US army base situated in the city is behind these illnesses.
When American anti-war activists came across the report, they contacted Yanar Mohammed and an exchange of ideas and information began. That’s how the Right to heal campaign started.
Today, the campaign consists of OWFI, Iraq Veterans Against the War and Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq. The campaign also has a legal representative, Center for Constitutional Rights, who have filed a case regarding Hawijah to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
Prevent future wars
The last part of the campaign is to try to prevent future wars. A delicate task, one might think. But Yanar Mohammed says that she cannot limit herself to defending the Iraqi people only; she wants to prevent sufferings of all people.
“In Iraq, the US government poisoned big parts of the country with white phosphorus. Our mission is to find facts about this so that we can prove that they have used internationally forbidden weapons. We will try to come up with legal grounds that make us able to prevent future American wars in other places around the world” she says.
More information on the campaign and interviews with activists can be found in this video clip made by Iraq Veterans Against the War: