KHRW, Continuously Working to Find Homes for Refugees
On Thursday, August 25th, The Kurdish Human Rights Watch, one of eleven national resettlement agencies providing reception and placement services to refugees in the United States, held a social dinner reception at Taza Restaurant in Warren, Michigan. Pary Karadaghi, Executive Director of KHRW, flew in from Fairfax, Virginia, to attend the event.
“This year celebrates the 60th Anniversary of the 1951 refugee protection convention global message, ‘one refugee without a home is one too many,’” said Dr. Karadaghi. “We hope that in 5 to 10 years, the refugee admissions reaches a healthy number in keeping with the US traditions of generosity and humanitarian efforts to help those in need find homes.”
Since its founding in the United States nearly a quarter century ago, KHRW has been committed and engaged in building vibrant, democratic societies and in protecting and assisting vulnerable populations both in the United States and in the Middle East. It started working in Iraq after the establishment of the no-fly zone after the first Gulf War and the massive exodus of Kurdish and Iraqi population into the mountains of neighboring countries. After a brief interruption KHRW was again re-registered, as a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Iraq in 1999 and has offices and mobile teams in Baghdad, Sulaimanya, Ninewa, Erbil, Duhok, Diayala, Missan, Babel, and Kirkuk.
“KHRW is like another house for the Iraqi refugees,” said Dr. Evone Barkho, who is involved with the Iraqi Mental Health Assessment Project at Wayne State University. “They take a refugee by the hand and show them the way of life here.”
“From the moment my family and I arrived from the airport, Johny Mikha, our KHRW case worker, came to our home, helped us with translation and interpretation,” said Heeld Yaldo, 26, who arrived to the United States from Turkey three months ago. “He even picked me up from my front door to go everywhere – from the Social Security office to the Department of Human Services.”
With U.S. Affiliate Offices in Virginia, Michigan, Tennessee, Oregon, California, Washington, and Maryland, KHRW serves those in need including refugees, immigrants, victims of abuse, homeless and low-income populations in the communities where it operates. In addition, KHRW is committed to preserving and promoting Iraqi traditions, cultures and communities in the United States.
“The biggest challenge for KHRW has been fundraising, volunteers and donations,” said Dr. Karadaghi. “Most refugees need friends.” KHRW used to have a program called ‘Adopt a Refugee’ initiative, where American and Iraqi households befriended a refugee newcomer family and helped them with their day to day issues, like shopping, employment, seeking jobs, doctors appointment, sightseeing, finding affordable and safe housing, first homebuyer programs, job applications, building and writing a resume, job interviews, applying for school registration, recertification for qualified and educated newcomers.
“The top of the list is self-sufficiency and housing,” said Dr. Karadaghi. “When newcomers find jobs and their jobs are bringing in income, their self-esteem is increased and they start thinking that life is not so bad after all. But the current job market and the certain members of congress who are anti-immigrants and anti-refugees are making it very difficult.”
KHRW has been assisting Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees in Iraq for the past decade, meanwhile conducting local research on IDP movement patterns, goals, ethnic composition, available services and impediments to permanent settlement. Since the early 1990s, KHRW has carried out numerous projects in Iraq, some of which include: water and sanitation projects in 37 villages; two medical clinics in Erbil and Sulaimanya; medical evacuation of Iraqi children to the US for treatment; construction of 170 homes in Makhmour and 149 in Qara Hanjeer; durable starter homes and vocational/life skills training for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs); northern Iraq program to develop democratic awareness and practices.
What has led to such enormous humanitarian accomplishments?
“My Kurdish background enables me to serve as a powerful advocate for the human rights of all Iraqi people, from all ethnicities,” said Dr. Karadaghi. “I meet regularly with representatives and senators of the American Congress to advocate for refugees and the Iraqi people. I frequently hold briefings on vital issues for members of Congress and White House officials. In fact, I was the first Iraqi asked to provide a briefing to the U.S. Department of State on Iraqi humanitarian reconstruction and relief.”
Dr. Pary Karadaghi, a well-known human rights activist, completed her elementary and secondary school in Sulaimanya. She received her Doctor of Medicine degree from Bucharest School of Medicine, Romania, in 1984. Her Post Doctorate studies were in Grenoble, France, and from 1988-1999, her Post Doctorate Research Fellowship was in Georgetown University, DC, where she also served as research physician. Having herself experienced the dreadful feeling of being “stateless,” she works full time in the field of Iraqi human rights, helping refugees and Internally Displaced Iraqis in Iraq and in the host countries abroad.
“KHRW has been incredibly helpful, making sure all the details of my needs are looked into,” said Evan Batto, a refugee who arrived to the United States a week ago.
Evan’s sister, Eva, feels even more strongly towards this organization’s “humanitarian values.”
“I know the value of the services that KHRW provides because I came through another organization,” said Eva, adding that in comparison to other resettlement agencies in Michigan, KHRW fares better. “God Willing, my family will too be coming through KHRW.”
Community members who live in Michigan and elsewhere can apply through an agency they like and have a relationship with. Normally refugees are in two categories refugees with US Ties (traditionally referred to as anchors-who are relatives and or friends). The second category is free cases or people who have no friends or relatives here in the US. These cases get distributed by the US Department of State to different agencies based on the availability of a resettlement agency.
“There are over 2 million Iraqi refugees outside of Iraq and over 1.5 million internally displaced person (IDPs) in Iraq without homes and shelters,” said Dr. Karadaghi. “However, the international community and the US can’t take all of these refugees and going through the rigorous process of UNHCR and Homeland Security is cumbersome.”
Dr. Karadaghi says that Iraqi organizations such as KHRW, with the active role of the Ministry of Housing in Iraq, the Iraqi Parliament and the Ministry of Migration and Displacement, can rebuild and house all the IDPs.
“Iraq is a rich country and can take care of its own,” she said. “We hope that in the nature future we see peace and stability in Iraq, economic development especially for minorities, women and single headed households – and KHRW will continue to work on this. And we want to increase and flourish the Iraqi American friendship. After all, Americans gave their lives to help free Iraq and build democracy.”