The Catholic University of America




Law School Hosts Forum for Discussion of
“Humanitarian Catastrophe” Facing Kurdish Refugees


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The successful spread of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) throughout Iraq has precipitated a massive humanitarian crisis in the Kurdistan Region. There are now an estimated 1.2 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who have fled their homes for the relative safety of refugee camps. Most have arrived since last summer. According to UN officials, this is one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the last decade.
What will become of these people, especially as the normally harsh Kurdistan winter draws near, was the subject of a Nov. 12 roundtable discussion hosted by the Columbus School of Law’s Interdisciplinary Program on Law and Religion and Dr. James M. Quirk, a lecturer in The Catholic University of America’s Department of Politics.
The featured speaker, Jiyan Merani, is the founder of the Ronahee Foundation, an NGO in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. She led the discussion on the status of the various refugee populations, and offered a needs assessment based on what she and her team recently observed at many of the refugee camps in the region.
“The situation is very, very bad. They need everything,” said Merani. In acutely short supply, she said, are winter coats, boots, and warm clothing for children and adults; materials for the construction of play areas for children; equipment for urgently needed maintenance and repairs in the camps; and materials for the construction of traditional bread-baking ovens with surrounding walls to protect people from the harsh Kurdish weather.
“We’re all trying to help. Local and international resources are being used to aid and support these people; we simply need more help,” Merani stated. 
The Ronahee Foundation was established in 1999 in Kurdistan, Iraq by a group of women to help the region’s residents in need. The group has raised its own funds to provide services for the visually impaired, orphans and the elderly. It has carried out aid projects, provided training for election workers, led workshops for civil society participation and developed programs to inform citizens about human rights and responsibilities in a democracy.
Currently, the foundation is concentrating on a campaign to supply IDPs at Kurdish camps with diapers and infant formula.

Audience members who took in Merani’s assessment of the dire situation in Kurdistan included diplomats, NGO officials, academics, and human rights supporters.