Reports: Suicide, Unemployment, Domestic Violence and Abandonment of Children … What did CORONA do to us?

Suicide, Unemployment, Domestic Violence and Abandonment of Children … What did CORONA do to us?

Nazat Shamdin – Iraqi Journalist

May 2020

“His name is Diyar, he is one month old. I cannot raise him because I do not have enough money.” This is what was written in the Iraqi dialect on a piece of paper in a blanket wrapped around a 4-week-old infant, whom the police found ,on the morning of April 20, lying on the ground in a narrow alley in the Shifa neighborhood in the old city of Mosul, northern Iraq,

The imposed curfew to confront the “Corona” virus is making life very hard for about 1,800,000 citizens who live in Mosul, which is already suffering from an almost complete disruption of the economy as a result of the “ISIS” invasion of the city and then the war to liberate it , which ended in mid-2017 with great destruction that affected most of its infrastructure.

A captain in the Nineveh Local Police, stated that ‘Diyar’ case was transferred, based on judicial orders, to the Family and Child Protection Directorate to follow up the appropriate legal procedures. However, in order to provide the baby with proper care, his custody was temporarily transferred to Al-Batoul Teaching Hospital for Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The officer, who preferred to stay anonymous, says that due to the nature of his work during the past months ,he witnessed many cases of abandonment of children in the city, all of which were of newborns who were only 1 or 2 days old, and the guess is that the child was born outside the marital bed and was disposed of in that way. However, Diyar’s case is different because he is one month old, and he has a proof in writing by one of his parents that the reason for his abandonment is a living hardship.

An abandoned child, found by security agents, in a waste dump


Recurring Cases

By the same method of exclusion, with the exception of a piece of paper, members of the 9th emergency regiment in the new Mosul area, early in the morning of Tuesday, April 28, found a baby girl, not older than one week, who was also wrapped in a blanket and placed in a landfill.

“She was gently sleeping when I found her above garbage bags near a wall separating the street from an abandoned land where there were many loose dogs … I don’t know what would have happened to her had I been a little late in reaching her,” says the security man who found the girl, with great sadness.

He stated that his colleagues also had similar experiences about two months ago with a baby girl who they found  lying on the ground in the Al-Tanak neighborhood, west of Mosul. Cats had scratched her face, so they had to transfer her to the general hospital, where she recovered and then transferred two days ago to the orphanage in  Al-Zuhour area.

Then he added, with an anxious tone: “I don’t understand why they throw their children in landfills and on sidewalks. Don’t they have mercy in their hearts that makes them at least put them in front of the door of an orphanage or a mosque?”

There is no Infant Nursery School

The Social Welfare Directorate in Dohuk Governorate in the Kurdistan Region announced, through its Director Sherzad Hamid, its readiness to accommodate the baby girl, and called on the local government in Nineveh to facilitate her transfer to his district to provide her with the necessary care.

This comes because the orphanage in Mosul does not have the ability to care for children of this age, and this is why it is customary to hand over those found to the Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital to take care of them temporarily, but this is dangerous at the present time due to the Corona virus.

After the news about abandoned children circulated in Mosul, social media activists addressed the local government in Nineveh and the central government in Baghdad to take measures to ease the strict restriction on movement, such as lifting the precautionary curfew from Corona, granting urgent aid to needy families and accelerating compensation for those affected by the war, who are estimated at 40,000 people.

Parliament members and officials expressed through their official accounts their willingness to adopt children, which sparked widespread controversy, and many criticisms were directed at them for their attempt to deal with the results without submitting proposals to address the causes, especially that they are able to take decisions and legislate the necessary laws.

Lawyer Basil Mukhtar, who specializes in personal status issues, was surprised by the ignorance of some of the parliament members  representing Nineveh Governorate, who are members of the highest legislative authority in the country, of the laws in force, since they do not know that Iraqi law does not approve adoption, but rather approve (Guardianship) and with several conditions according to Juvenile Care Law No. (76) For the year 1983.

Guardianship differs from Adoption in that the guardianed minor or juvenile is not included in the family with all the rights, so he does not inherit like the adopted son in other laws. Rather, the guardian recommends to him in the will, a share less than the supposed share of the ordinary son in the heritage or legacy, and this is according to Article (43 / Second) of the same law.


Unprecedented Unemployment

Before the precautionary measures to confront “Corona”, Mosul was suffering from an unprecedented increase in the level of unemployment that exceeded 70% , according to Hiyam Elham, a member of the dissolved Nineveh Governorate Council, due to the war’s destruction of the economy in addition to the disruption of factories , governmental and private production projects , agricultural and livestock sectors, and transportation sector.

Jamila Ghazi, a widow in her fourth decade, lives with her three children in a rundown house in Al-Aqeedat neighborhood in the west of the city. She did not pay the rent for the second month in a row and relied on charity food baskets to feed her young children and survive the extreme poverty.

She said while looking at her children playing: “I cannot imagine my life without any of them”

“We survived together from death during the war, and together we will survive from hunger and Corona as well,” she added as she struggled to stand on her feet.

About 2,000,000 widows and divorced women in a country ,that has gone through a series of external wars and internal conflicts , are facing harsh living conditions in the absence of state support and the lack of social welfare salaries, which amount to 100,000 Iraqi Dinars per person per month, the equivalent of 84 US Dollars.


She was gently sleeping when I found her above garbage bags near a wall separating the street from an abandoned land where there were many loose dogs … I don’t know what would have happened to her had I been a little late in reaching her,”


Suicide cases increase

Disruption of sources of living and the forced confinement of families in their homes for nearly two months resulted in many suicides, not only in Mosul, but also in other Iraqi cities.

Some of these suicides remained secret and did not go beyond the scope of the walls of the houses or the neighborhoods where they happened, while other suicides spread nationwide.

In Mosul, after more than a month of imposing a curfew, which ranged between total and partial, and the complete cessation of the vast majority of business sectors, the River Police managed, on April 21, to rescue a 49-year-old man, moments after he threw himself into the Tigris River from above the destructed part of the Fifth Bridge.

Abu Mahmoud, who survived suicide, is a father of 4 children, whose house was destroyed in the Old City during the war and does not know how to provide the rent for the house he lives in the Zanjali area, and he hates to reach out for charity by others.

Abu Mahmoud, who was a builder, has diabetes and he faces severe seizures of depression as a result of fear and anxiety that overwhelmed him in recent years, said that the government “did not compensate him for the damage caused to his house, which was all he had , although he applied for compensation 2 years ago.”

Lieutenant-Colonel Faisal Al-Juhaishi, the commander of the River Police platoons that recovered Abu Mahmoud that morning, said that another platoon did the same thing only a few hours later with a woman in her forties  who also threw herself over the oldest bridge in Mosul (the old bridge).

The police officers thought that what the woman had done was the result of an outburst of anger, so when they found that she had calmed down, they left her, but after few minutes, they were surprised that she was drowning in the waters of the left bank of the river, attempting to commit suicide again, so they rushed towards her and forced her out of the water.

Lieutenant Colonel Faisal stated that she was handed over to the Thagafa Police Station, north of the city, to be detained as a precaution, for fear of a new suicide attempt, especially that she was determined to do so due to what she described as differences with her husband.

He noted that he ordered the staff under his command to deploy with their boats in areas close to the five bridges of the city in anticipation of other accidents, and said: “We have become anxiously following the pedestrian paths on the bridges, because we do not know at what time someone will try to jump from there.”

This precautionary measure contributed to saving the life of a 44-year-old man, who jumped on the night of May 2 this year, over the ancient bridge trying to end his life, but a prompt member of the river police caught him before he disappeared in the darkness of the river and took him to the river bank and then to the police station to prevent him from trying again.

Less than a week ago, Mosul had witnessed two burning incidents in which two women were killed, the first in Al-Aikdat neighborhood on April 16. A source in the Nineveh police stated that a woman had burned her house and that investigations were being conducted to find out if what happened was a suicide or otherwise.

The police did not comment about a second incident reported by local media about a young girl burning herself in  Al-Bakr neighborhood, east of Mosul.

Social Media activists warned against circulating news about suicides or abandoning children for fear that they would be an incentive for others to think to do the same, and they presented evidence for that by tracking events which occurred in short times. Many of them indicated that the fear of “Corona” overshadowed problems that may be much greater.

A blogger from Mosul wrote a widely circulated Facebook post in which he said: “Nineveh is completely free of Corona virus, but it constantly records cases of suicide and the abandonment of children.”

The first suicide incident recorded in Mosul was on March 29 after the outbreak of the “Corona” Pandemic. It was of a young man named Abdullah Kadhim, who was found hanging by a rope tied to the ceiling of his room.

The initial information that was available to the police was that he was under severe economic pressure, after losing his job in a restaurant in the city, from which he was discharged with his colleagues due to the curfew, and his wife deserted him, leaving him with their three daughters who he had to support .

His older brother stated that Abdullah exchanged messages on the night of his suicide with his wife, who firmly refused to return to him because he was without a job. He sent her photos and videos of the rope he had prepared to hang himself with, but she did not inform anyone of this.

He continued, “My brother could not bear the financial distress he recently suffered as a result of losing his job … The psychological pressure was immense, and he did not withstand it.”


Domestic violence

Poverty and unemployment, which are rising in Nineveh, not only increased suicide rates and abandonment of children, but also increased cases of domestic violence, especially with the imposition of curfews. Mosul investigation courts recorded a significant increase in complaints related to domestic violence during April compared to previous months.

Court Judge Amer Al-Rabie stated that he had examined 85 complaints related to domestic violence crimes that all occurred since the curfew was imposed on March 16.

This volume of complaints is very high compared to the same period a year ago, when it did not exceed 20 cases.

However, these numbers remain limited and constitute only a small part of the actual numbers, according to experts, because women usually do not go to court to complain about their husband or any relative, because the society in Nineveh is characterized by its tribal nature, or as human rights activists describe it as masculine.

Diaa Fattah, who works as a mechanic, lives in the Karama neighborhood, east of Mosul. He appeared before the investigating judge based on a complaint filed by his wife, who accused him of beating her, which caused her permanent eye disability. Fattah looked confused as he waited for his turn to appear before the judge handling family and child protection issues, in accordance with Article 413 of the Penal Code 111 of 1969.


About 2,000,000 widows and divorced women in a country ,that has gone through a series of external wars and internal conflicts , are facing harsh living conditions in the absence of state support and the lack of social welfare salaries, which amount to 100,000 Iraqi Dinars per person per month, the equivalent of 84 US Dollars.


Fattah expected he would face up to a year in prison. “But this is not what my wife is aiming for,” he whispered, then he continued, turning around, “My lawyer told me that my wife’s lawyer wants to base on the domestic violence complaint that they will investigate with me shortly to file a separation case in another court. If they prove here that I severely beat her, the judge in that court will rule to separate us and she will get her full rights with her custody right of our two children. ”

Fattah admitted that he persisted in his quarrel with his wife, but he insists that the beating happened for the first time. He attributed the matter to psychological pressures that he went through for stopping his work and his long stay at home due to “Corona”. Then he said in a serious tone: “They should find a solution for unemployment due to Corona, not to interfere in our family affairs.”

Lawyers confirm that separation cases in courts and divorce cases outside them increased in recent years, while they were limited years ago in a closed tribal society such as that of Mosul.

Women’s rights activist Suha Odeh says that women’s ignorance of the law and the lack of adequate legal protection for them in Iraq has relatively increased rates of abuse recently, after all of society faced enormous pressures due to the repercussions of “Corona”.

Suha believes that  attacks against women have been going on for a long time, and the matter does not end when the woman submits a judicial complaint or even obtains a positive court ruling to do justice to her, “because she will also get stigma from the community which will view her as the perpetrator and not the victim.”

“As a result, women who are assaulted rarely go to courts to get their rights,” she says: “Those who do so risk everything and are often determined to end their married life”.

Suha warns that what is heard of suicide or domestic violence incidents recently “is nothing but the tip of the iceberg, and under the water lie daily agonies and death for many who are unable to even say a word about what happens to them.”

She stated that the abuse of women does not occur only from the husbands, but also from fathers, siblings and even children in some cases. And all of them unload their anger, mostly due to economic problems, that they as women often have no part in.

Dr. Asmaa Ghanem, a mental health consultant, stated that extreme poverty of a large segment in Nineveh lies behind the increase in domestic violence, suicide and children abandonment. Because the person’s inability to fulfill the requirements of life for him and his family and the lack of solutions in front of him make him surrender to frustration, despair and depression, so he commits things without appreciating their consequences.

Asmaa says:” Mosul has gone through very difficult circumstances in recent years that have resulted in severe psychological damage to the people, and there should be awareness for the need for psychological treatment and the community should not exercise the role of the ostrich by hiding the head in the sand, ignoring the existing problem.”

The population of Nineveh is about 4,000,000 people, yet there are only 14 doctors specializing in mental health, and the reason for that, according to Dr. Asmaa, is that many still call the psychiatrist “the mad people doctor” to belittle him, in addition to the lack of government support for this specialty and lack of interest in it.”


Violence against Men, too

Violence is not limited to women only; men have their share as well.

On April 28, Al-Karkh Investigation Court in Baghdad announced the ratification of the statements of an accused woman of the crime of burning her husband inside his house in the University neighborhood in the Baghdad, after she poured petrol on him during his sleep and burned him after she took her children out of the house.

The investigating judge stated that the defendant was referred to the criminal court in accordance with Article (406-a.b) of the Iraqi Penal Code 111 of 1969, because she had committed her crime after planning it and wanted the result – premeditated murder – and she will be punished by death penalty by hanging if she is convicted of her crime.

The “Kurdistan Men Union” organization had announced a census of violence against men in the region for the year 2020. There was an increase in cases of violence against men in the region during the curfew due to the “Corona” virus, compared to the same period last year. Police stations received 175 complaints from men who had been subjected to violence and recorded 17 suicides and murders by women with the help of relatives.

In a statement issued in mid-April, the United Nations Mission in Iraq expressed its grave concern about the “outbreak of domestic violence” in Iraq as a result of the increase in tension between family members in light of the home quarantine caused by “Corona”.

The statement cited examples of violence, including “the rape of a woman with special needs, the assault of a husband, the suicide of a woman as a result of domestic violence, and another woman burning herself for the same reason, as well as self-harm due to repeated marital abuse and sexual harassment of a minor.”

The statement called for the speedy legislation of the law against domestic violence because it would hold perpetrators of crimes of gender-based violence accountable, including “the perpetrators of heinous events.”

Unlike the Kurdistan region, which enacted a law against domestic violence bearing the number (8) in 2011, the rest of Iraq is still awaiting approval by the House of Representatives on the legislation of the “Anti-Domestic Violence” law, which was referred by the President of the Republic, Barham Salih, in September 2019.

Yasser Ismail, head of the Naya Media Training Center, stressed the importance of passing the law to curb what he called the spread of domestic violence and that it would ensure family cohesion and achieve stability in society.

He pointed out that the Naya Center is currently participating in a national campaign to support and advocate for the law, along with civil society organizations, journalists and human rights activists who agree that the increase in violence rates within the Iraqi family is due to the absence of clear legal texts that protect family members, especially women, children and girls.

Representatives enthusiastic about the bill held large blocs in the parliament responsible for delaying its approval, noting that their religious and tribal backgrounds do not like women having the right to protect themselves from beatings, insults and threats to their lives.

The report was completed with the support of the “NIRIJ” Network for Investigative Journalism and was co-prepared by the Nineveh Investigative Team.


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