Access to government facilities key issue

Human rights head urges improvements for people with disabilities in Iraq

BAGHDAD — Fadel Al-Gharawi, head of the Strategic Center for Human Rights, has called on the prime minister’s office to direct all state departments to implement procedures that facilitate the needs of persons with disabilities. Al-Gharawi emphasized, “They are subjected to hundreds of violations daily when visiting these departments.”

Gharawi also highlighted that disabled individuals constitute 12% of Iraq’s population, approximately 3.58 million, a statistic consistent with World Health Organization data.

The gender distribution among the disabled shows 57% are males and 43% females. Geographically, Baghdad has the highest concentration at roughly 27%, followed by Basra and Babil. In contrast, Maysan and Al Muthanna report the lowest percentages.

According to the National Disability Survey, mobility disabilities are the most prevalent, affecting 42% of the disabled population, followed by learning disabilities (21%), visual impairments (15%), hearing disabilities (9%), and intellectual disabilities (6%).

Gharawi criticized the lack of adequate support facilities in state departments, stating, “Many state departments do not provide necessary amenities like parking, ramps, appropriate seating, signage, accessible restrooms, or sign language interpreters,” which often leads to dignity violations.

He urged the prime minister to ensure all state departments and investment projects adhere to accessibility standards, suggesting the revocation of licenses for non-compliance. He also proposed a designated day for ministers to experience firsthand the challenges faced by disabled individuals in these departments, emphasizing dignity preservation.

The International Organization for Migration reports that persons with disabilities in Iraq have been disproportionately affected by war, conflict, and economic hardship, making Iraq one of the countries with the largest populations of disabled persons.

The exact number of disabled individuals in Iraq remains uncertain due to varying data and the dynamic impacts of ongoing regional challenges. A 2013 survey by the Ministry of Planning saw it estimate that 12% of Iraqis were living with a disability.

A 2021 Human Rights Watch report underscores the systemic barriers that prevent people with disabilities in Iraq from engaging in political processes, with many unable to vote at all.