UN HR at Times of War: Challenges for Mental Health in Iraq

United Nations NGO Committee on Human Rights
United Nations Headquarters,
New York, NY 10017
Phone: 1 212 362-4018
E-mail: [email protected]

Dr. Anie Kalayjian Organizes and Chairs a Panel at the United Nations
on Human Rights at Times of War: Challenges for Mental Health in Iraq

United Nations, New York: Dr. Anie Kalayjian in her capacity as the
Treasurer of the UN NGO Human Rights Committee has organized and
chaired a panel on Human Rights at Times of War: Challenges for Mental
Health in Iraq, at the UN headquarters in New York on 4 March 2004.
The panel was sponsored by the Bureau of the International NGO
Committee on Human Rights with the New York Officeof the High
Commissioner for Human Rights. Dr. Kalayjian is a World Federation
for Mental Health Representative to the UN, and the Vice Chair or the
NGO/DPI Executive Committee.

Panelists were: Hamid Abdel Jaber, Former UN Spokesperson in Iraq. UN
Radio: Chief of the Middle East Section; Rashida Mohammed, Poet,
Translator and Journalist/Correspondent in Iraq for AL RAAI National
Newspaper; Kirsti Pohjankukka, UN New York Office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights; Sharon D. Massay, Professor of
Psychology, Seton Hall University.

1.Generational Impact of Wars. Psychological Trauma Transmitted
Generationally. Dr. Anie Kalayjian

2.Children in War. Alan and Susan Raymond. (2000) New York: TV Books.
Data from UN Report: The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children.

3.Generational Impact of Mass Trauma: The Post-Ottomn Turkish Genocide
of the Armenians. Anie Kalayjian ED.D and Marian Weisberg C.S.W.

4. Biopsychosocial and Spiritual Treatment of Trauma. Dr. Anie

HAMID ABDEL JABER: Mr. Jaber offered to share his experiences in Iraq,
explaining the enormous riches in one of the most ancient countries in
the Middle East, with two large river basins, huge oil reserves, 20
million palm trees, mountainous areas, and large agricultural areas.
Iraq was also very wealthy in educational institutions, businesses,
medical and scientific areas, claiming the most advanced educational
system in the region for centuries. Civilization flowed from Iraq for
thousands of years beyond the borders, spilling onto many other
cultures and religions. However, Iraq was also a battlefield for the
last 5000 years.

The UN sanctions destroyed every aspect of Iraqi life. The timing of
the sanctions hit the main block of Iraqi society, affecting the most
vulnerable groups, the old and the children. The government became
stronger, building palaces, and benefiting from the Oil for Food
program as well as the black market.

The people suffered and society decayed. One million children could
not goto school. The educational system had been the best in the
Middle East. Inflation flared. Thirteen years of sanctions brought
immense poverty to the grass roots.

The UN inspections were very intrusive and humiliating to the people.
In March 2003, the US military added to the decay with bombs, but why
fight for Sadaam? Iraqi people hated the occupation, and wanted a
road may to freedom. It was sad when the UN compound was bombed,
especially losing UN staff lives and Sergio de Mello. However, the UN
should be back in Iraq to supervise elections.

Mr. Jaber answered questions before departing for another meeting. 1.
The role of Sadaam imposed upon the people. Answer: Many evils were
imposed upon the people by the former regime. Sadaam was empowered to
kill all opposition. The infrastructure of Iraq was in shambles,
desperately needing energy, education and hospitals.

2. Why did such a society in Iraq fail to dispose of Sadaam? Answer:
All aspects of Iraqi society were in shambles especially the business,
health and educational systems. The people had no way to address the

RASHIDA MOHAMMED, an Algerian citizen, Rashida lived in Iraq during
the time of Sadaam’s government. Her work focuses on human rights
issues. The embargoes, or sanctions, were a hidden tragedy, and the
writers were the first to pay as representatives of other countries.
Food, shelter, paper and pens were in short supply. One pen was worth
four loaves of bread. Writers sacrificed food for books, and were
isolated during the sanction period. They used copy machines for
publishing and Religious books flooded the market. Representatives of
international human rights organizations apologized to writers and
authors for the lack of food and human dignity. She hopes the
condition of writers will improve with any new authority.

KIRSTI POHJANKUKKA was trained as an attorney, has worked with the
International Red Cross and is now working with the Office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights in New York. The New York Office and
the HCHR Office in Geneva are focal points for Iraq concerning human
rights issues. Fundamental human rights for health and the enjoyment
of human rights in Iraq are the concernof the Special Rapporteurs that
have been appointed by the UN Commission for Human Rights in Geneva
since 1991, after the Gulf War. Efforts were made for visits to Iraq
in 1992, but did not succeed. Grave violations of human rights were
documented concerning torture and massive executions, as well as
rights for health care.

Iraq had ratified a number of human rights covenants and conventions:
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, The
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, The
Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, The
Convention on the Rights of the Child, However, the Convention Against
Torture has not been ratified. The enormous human suffering that was
reported during the sanction period called for monitoring.

Alleviation of that suffering was up to the government, which should
aid civil society. In 1998 the Special Rapporteur reported a
deteriorating situation in the Iraqi population, in spite of the Oil
for Food program conducted by the UN, which was supposed to relieve
their plight. The Iraqi people were reportedly also victims of
torture by the Iraqi security. During the 2003 occupation the Office
of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and various humanitarian
agencies have attempted to address the human rights situation in Iraq.
The human rights organizations, the New York and Geneva offices are
planning an extensive human rights presence in the region of the
Middle East. The UN will try to follow up with justice, building
national capacities, as Iraqi society is rich fundamentally with civil
society groups that could support a national of action plan for human
rights. The international community will also provide assistance.

SHARON. MASSEY, co-author, with R. F. Massey, of the book
â=80=98Comprehensive Handbook of Psychotherapy’, New York, Wiley,
featured an article byDucommun-Nagy, `Contextual Therapy’ that deals
with the effects of trauma in war on families, children as well as
soldiers. As a professor of psychology at Seton Hall University,
Ms. Massey trains graduate students about the trauma of war on
children and their families.

Acute trauma affects all citizens, soldiers and even terrorists who,
were at one time, connected to families. Research was conducted about
children in war from all regions. The psychological and spiritual
wounds are deep and long lasting. Two million children died in wars
of the last 10 years, 4 to 5 million are disabled, 12 million are
homeless, 1 million are orphaned, or separated from their parents, and
an estimated 10 million were psychologically traumatized. 50% of the
world’s refugee populations are children. Families and whole
communities are forced to flee, are shot, bombed endure physical
torture, watch their babies bashed against trees, while children
witness the murder of their parents. During the Bosnian war, civilians
including children faced snipers, torture, rape, illness and

UNICEF estimated in 1986 that the changing technologies of warfare
with land mines, rockets, rubber/plastic bullets, carpet-bombing,
automatic weapons, create uncontrollable carnage with systematic
attacks on civilians, including children. Psychological trauma in
children is often hidden with emotional numbing, sobbing, inability to
concentrate, loss of hope and withdrawal. Useful therapies to aid
children frozen in trauma include art therapy and re-enactment of the
drama to alleviate fear and shame. Ms Massey mentioned a book by J.P.
Wilson, International Handbook of Traumatic Stress z(1993)New York:
Plenum Press.

Generational Impact of Mass Trauma: The Post Ottoman Turkish Genocide
of the Armenians, by Anie Kalayjian ED D. and Marian Weisberg CSW.
The authors explore the massive genocide against the Armenian people
by the Ottoman Turkish Government from 1895-1915, and the physical,
psychosocial and spiritual inter-generational trauma that lead to
therapeutic modalities. When the trauma is properly processed
emotionally, using workshops there can be a cathartic effect and hope.

The Generational Impact of Wars: Psychosocial Trauma Transmitted
Generationally, By Dr. Anie Kalayjian. `Returning violence for
violence multiplies violence. Only love can drive out hate.’ The
impact of wars: grief, overwhelming sadness, anger, hatred, rage,
revenge, guilt, failure, despair, helplessness, loss of trust, trauma,
alcoholism, drug use, inability to function socially.

QUESTIONS/COMMENTS: Many questions and comments were especially
concerned with the present trauma of Iraqi civilians, and possible
programs of rehabilitation. Civilian trauma was evident in the
looting and panic, as well as fear of an occupied force. NGOs,
humanitarian agencies and foundations all attempt to alleviate trauma.
Human Rights Watch has also addressed the emotional and psychological
needs, as well as the basic services of food, housing and health.

A question was asked concerning the possible new consitution by the
Governing Council in Iraq, that might include human rights protection
of Iraqi civilians, targeting the individual regardless of religion,
race or culture, that could be established with legislation and
constitutional guarantees. At the present a draft constitution has
not been published, but will probably be published this week. It has
not been shared with the UN as yet, but there is an impression that it
will have some basis for human rights. The issues are legally
complex, with regard to the occupation force.

Nancy Colton, Acting Secretary
*Top Photo: From Right to Left: Rashida Mohammedi, Anie Kalayjian, Sharon
Massey, & Hamid Uabdel Jaber

*Bottom Photo: From Right to Left: Kirsti Pohjankukka, Rashida Mohammedi,
Anie Kalayjian, & Sharon Massey