I will never forget the first time I saw Hassan.* He was curled up in his wheelchair, voiceless, forgotten and hidden in the back part of his home away from the eyes of passersby. Here in northern Iraq, many people lack the knowledge or understanding about various disabilities and often shun those with special needs. My team and I were some of his first visitors.
Born with cerebral palsy, Hassan's* condition worsened after he fled with his family from their village following the emergence of the Islamic State. When news that the fighters were coming to their village, his wife bundled them all into a car, just because she knew that the stories they were hearing were true. People with disabilities were being massacred, and women and children were being kidnapped and sold as sex slaves inside the newly formed State. There was no other option for the family of four but to flee.
Their story is not so unusual across Iraq and Syria – where more than 12 million people have already been killed, tortured, raped, enslaved or displaced.
According to statistics, people with disabilities forced to flee their homes face particular difficulties and even death due to the harsh conditions, lack of resources and terrain they may have to cross.
We need to make sure they are protected and supported....Displaced people with disabilities face particular risks and obstacles," Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said.
Those forced to flee their homes to escape conflict, violence and persecution faced huge challenges and were often marginalized and excluded. “Measures are needed to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to protection and support, and are able to fully participate in community leadership structures and decision-making.” He added.
*Name changed to protect the identity of the refugee survivor.
About the Author:
Hermoine Macura-Noble is first Australian English speaking News Anchor in the Middle East and one of the area’s most recognized faces. She is also the Author of Faces of the Middle East and Founder of US based 501c3 charity- The House of Rest which helps to ease the suffering of victims of war. For more on Hermoine, you can follow her on Instagram, here.