In 1954, the General Assembly recommended countries to recognise a Universal Children’s day, where the welfare of children will be promoted. Today marks the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959) and the convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) which were adopted by the General Assembly.
Unfortunately for hundreds of Kurdish children (belonging to the Yazidi community) their welfare and that of their families were shattered by the genocidal campaign of ISIL, which took place on August, 2014. We should recognise and remember that countless innocent children, particularly young girls, had their entire childhood destroyed by ISIL.
Some of the girls that were used by ISIL extremists in Syria and Iraq as ‘sex slaves’ were reportedly (BBC) as young as twelve years old. The pain of their parents (those surviving) can not be diminished without holding ISIL accountable, but even with such accountability, can a parent forgive the most horrific violation towards their children? It’s hard to argue that they can.
It’s not just Yazidi children that we should remember today, but the countless children globally that are subject to practices, which destroy their childhood. Some of the practices include forced marriage, female genital mutilation, forced labour, rape, and countless other horrific crimes committed against children.
In the context of Kurdistan, I don’t think we have reached a stage where we actually discuss the rights of children the way we should. We don’t discuss the limited opportunities available to them socially, and many societal ills that are often ignored or not talked about.
When we discuss children’s rights in relation to their treatment, practices such as spanking (widely accepted and at times encouraged), the rights of disabled children and opportunities available to them are all part of this discourse.
Children born with disabilities are not given a fair opportunity to live with their disabilities in a dignified way, and this is not necessarily the fault of the government. There are issues within our Kurdish communities that must be tackled through nationwide dialogue. The ‘pity’ and ‘mockery’ autistic/disabled children receive are part of ignorance, lack of information, and incentive to understand what the respective disabilities are.
Other issues that are in the public eye include child beggars in Kurdistan Region, which is perhaps a growing phenomenon. Some of the children (from refugee families) are begging out of desperation, others because they have been forced into begging by family — tackling this is not necessarily done through the criminalisation of begging.
The most important part of this day for Kurdish communities (and other communities) should be initiating nationwide dialogue on the welfare of children. We should be monitoring their progress, amount of opportunities open for their development, and talk about sensitive issues that are otherwise ignored.