Law or Roof?
When asked about their greatest needs, internally displaced people (IDP) in Iraq list legal help above shelter, sanitation and education.
Why request a lawyer before a roof?
In general, access to work, food, and shelter have been the most pressing concerns for Iraqi IDP’s since 2006. But without legal help, keeping these resources can be as difficult as finding them in the first place.
In the case of shelter, which ranks lower than legal help, IDP families who return to their original neighborhoods often find their property damaged, destroyed, or overtaken. Legal assistance allows them to reclaim and rebuild what was theirs.
Unfortunately in Iraq, finding a lawyer can be difficult. Many of the educated Iraqi attorneys have fled the country. Many more are corrupt – a problem going back to well before Saddam Hussein’s regime fell but worsened in some ways now by new economic needs. Some of the most experienced lawyers and judges were asked to leave after 2003 for ideological reasons, but have since claimed that while they did work within Hussein’s corrupt legal system, they genuinely wanted to practice justice.
Perhaps that is why the US State Department promoted an attorney “surge” to Iraq back in 2008.
It might have worked, but the continuing war is causing a steady flow of displaced people. And that means even more men and women who are asking for lawyers before roofs.
Interested in helping a refugee to obtain proper legal services and rebuild his or her roof? Take a look at the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) work in Iraq. The IRC has just launched a new fundraising program that allows you to design your own event or project to help Iraqi IDP’s or other refugees around the world.