39 – Fighting Domestic Violence in Iraq

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Domestic violence is a global issue that has close ties to human trafficking. Sandra Morgan, the Director of the Global Center for Women & Justice and Dave Stachowiak, one of the Center’s board members, interview Major Dr. Sami Hussein, Commander, Iraqi Directorate of Violence Against Women, on his work to prevent domestic violence and new legislation which is beginning to provide protection to women in Iraq.

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Dave: Welcome to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. My name is Dave Stachowiak.

Sandie: And my name is Sandie Morgan.

Dave: And this is the show where we empower you to study the issues to be a voice and make a difference in ending human trafficking.  And Sandie we are back today with a topic that is of great importance to human trafficking, and very closely related to human trafficking and that is the topic of domestic violence; and that is something that has been very much an issue globally, and not just here in the states. And I’m so pleased today that we have a guest with us that can really bring a tremendous global perspective to us and really educate us about this important issue.

Sandie: Well I’m excited as well. When I first went to the Kurdistan region of Iraq in 2009, I was really interested in beginning to understand more about how human trafficking happens in that part of the world. And I was invited to speak at the University of Duhok, and then, as a result of that, made some new friends. Many of you know that the Global Center for Women & Justice had a partnership with the university of Duhok to work on women’s studies projects. Well through that, over the last couple of years, I’ve made several trips; and I met Dr. Sami Hussein, who is the director of the directorate on violence against women in the Duhok region. Now the Duhok region is about a third of the whole Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq. So it’s a wide area; it’s not just one city. It has a million inhabitants and the job of doing anti-violence against women, against reducing crimes against women and children, and trying to change culture in the area of understanding of domestic violence is a giant task. And I’ve been very encouraged by the amazing leadership of Dr. Sami as a champion for women and children in that region. Dr. Sami has a degree in law, and I think what I’m going to do is ask him to step up to the mic and tell us a little bit about how he became the director of the directorate on violence against women: your degree, your title, what you do.

Sami: Hello, everybody. In beginning, excuse me for my poor English language. We could not find a translator for this evening, but I’ll try with my poor English language to explain our experience in Iraq.

Sandie: We appreciate that. And you’re English is excellent compared to my Kurdish!

Dave: And I should say too, we all just shared a meal together before stepping down to record here and Dr. Sami’s English is, I think, exceptional, so I’m so glad that you’re here to speak to us.

Sami: Thank you, very much. I work in the directorate of following violence against women in Duhok region, which is one of the governorates in the Kurdistan region. Duhok region is northwest of Iraq. About one million people live in this region. This directorate was established five years ago in 2007. It’s a very new experience for us, fighting violence against women and domestic violence. We began in 2007 in a Duhok town with very small stuff and a very small building, but now we have 8 offices in every town in the Duhok region. In the beginning, we just worked with 14 police officers, and we now have more than 180 police officers and social workers doing work with us in our directorate. We have a new law established by the parliament of Kurdistan, a new legislation, which is called “The Domestic Violence Law.” In the past, when any man hit his wife or hit his children, it was a very normal thing that happened in the family and the community, but now it is a crime. When anyone does that, he will be put in jail, according to this new law. Yes!

Sandie: Wow, that’s good! And before that, nothing happened?

Sami: No. Before that, nothing happened. Our work is very difficult because I think we’re swimming against the wave; because we cannot change the culture or change the custom in two or three years. I think that we need at least fifteen years to try to change our culture. Therefore, we start with the new generation in the Kurdistan region. We started a ministry of education, a ministry of high education programs, in the schools, beginning with the primary schools to the higher education, to the college, which put this program for domestic violence to make the students aware that it’s a very dangerous matter in the community and will make a big problem in the community.

Sandie: So, when you talk about changing culture, describe for me how the old culture treated women.

Sami: The old culture…they treat women like anything in the house, like a chair, like anything. The woman is apart of the man’s property. He can beat her. He can divorce her. He can do anything with her, and nothing would happen to him. Now…no. The idea is different now. We tried five years ago to make this awareness campaign. We now have a program. Every month we have twenty seminars, which we’ve divided in many towns in the Duhok region. In every town, we have two seminars. We go to the schools, we go to the colleges, we go to the community to make them aware of the violence against women and domestic violence; and we tell them this a very dangerous matter. And now the people can be warned about this kind of violence, and they understand it is very dangerous for our future. In the past, the violence against women was very normal; now everyone in the community looks at the violence against women and domestic violence as a crime.

Sandie: And so, how did the men respond?

Sami: In the beginning, the response was not very good. But now, they respond better. And we hope that in the next year and the next next year, it will be very good.

Sandie: Okay, so the link between family violence and the changing cultural ideas about women connects a lot for me with why women and children are more at risk for human trafficking. So, in the course of developing your program with domestic violence more and more I’ve heard you talk about human trafficking as well. Why has human trafficking not been on the program in other law enforcement but it seems to be something you’re thinking about.

Sami: Yes, trafficking women is one of our ideas, one of the things we think about because domestic violence and trafficking are similar, I think. Because at anytime there may be a woman or there may be children that are victims of domestic violence, and at the same time they could be victims of human trafficking. And therefore, we now try to work in domestic violence and we prepared a program that deals with human trafficking and fighting human trafficking. Therefore, in Iraq, last year, the parliament of Iraq issued a new law, which recognizes human trafficking as a crime. And in Kurdistan now, we are trying to make a new law about human trafficking. Therefore, I am here now to take experiences with me, to take ideas with me about human trafficking and about domestic violence against women. And I hope that I can come back and bring this stuff with me to train them about domestic violence and human trafficking. I will try to bring two teams, one team that works on domestic violence and one team that works on human trafficking.

Sandie: It has been very rewarding for me to have you here as my guest this week. And we visited many members of the Orange County human trafficking taskforce. We visited Anaheim Police Department’s Family Justice Center. We visited Westminster Police Department and Lt. Derek Marsh who has been one of the main leaders on the law enforcement side against human trafficking, and also we visited the staff, the training and administrator of the taskforce. When you are walking away, you left with training materials and I was very impressed that there is such an openness—and I’m very appreciative of our Orange County Taskforce that they are very willing—to have your team come back and share your experiences with us as we share ours with you.

Sami: Yes. Maybe, about this idea, we will do it in two steps. The first step, we will take the trainer from Orange County to the Kurdistan region to prepare a training course for maybe one month for 200 of our police officers. And then, after that month, we choose 8 or 10 of them and bring them to Orange County to train them and make them trainers in two sections: first section domestic violence and the other section human trafficking. I believe that human trafficking will be an important part of the fight against domestic violence and violence against women. What we’ve seen the last three days was very exciting. And we appreciate Vanguard University and the Human Justice Center and also Sandie Morgan who helped us make this training course and also I appreciate Judge Carter who explained to us how they deal with criminals in the federal court.

Dave: Dr. Sami, I’m curious, because this legislation is so new, I can imagine you’re facing many challenges. What are the biggest challenges you are facing, you and your staff?

Sami: You’re talking about the domestic violence law?

Dave: Yes.

Sami: You know, the people in our community accepted this law with much difficulty. Until now, they didn’t like accepting this law because they accused the parliament and they accused this law that it was against their culture and their religion. But its not right. There is no culture, no religion, in the whole world that gave permission to man to beat his wife and beat his children and to sell them. Therefore, this law is very important for the Kurdistan region. And in every country, nobody can work for violence against women and human trafficking without the support of the government and the support of the parliament because they issue the laws and with the support of the government we can succeed in doing anything. And for our example, our government in the Kurdistan region, in 2007 when this directorate was established, they supported us all the way and they pushed us to do what is best for our community.

Dave: And is it both men and women that have difficulty with the new law, or is it primarily men?

Sami: Primarily men. Yes. They don’t accept this law. They don’t accept it because they think the woman is still apart of his property, and nobody can take this property from him and make a decision he does not want.

Sandie: So is it dangerous for you to be leader in anti-domestic violence.

Sami: Of course, it’s very dangerous. As I said, it is a swim against the wave because we swim against the culture, against the tradition. We’re trying to change it and fight against it.

Sandie: So, you have a law enforcement degree.

Sami: Yes.

Sandie: You studied crime. You have a Ph.D. in crime.

Sami: Yes.

Sandie: And that was a focus on cyber crime?

Sami: Yes, for cybercrime. Yes.

Sandie: And I know I watched you with Lt. Derek Marsh at Westminster Police Department today, and I can see that you’re ready to fight human trafficking on the internet.

Sami: Yes, my Ph.D. degree is in cyber crime. One of the crimes that happen on the internet is human trafficking and selling women and children through the websites.

Sandie: Okay, and you have a new situation that’s very critical in Duhok right now because of the conflict in Syria. And I was very impressed when I heard from you what you’re doing in that area. Can you tell us about that?

Sami: Yes, we have more than 29,00 refugees from Syria.

Dave: Wow.

Sami: They came from the Syrian border. And we made a camp for them in Domees, about 10km from Duhok. And the governorate supports this camp and we make a document for them, which allows them to leave the camp, go to the city and work. In the other camps, they do not allow the people to leave. In Duhok, we help make a new life for them.

Sandie: So, the United Nations Humanitarian Relief Commission is working with you. And you also have set up some sub-stations for domestic violence?

Sami: Yes. UNCR visited us about a month and a half ago. And we suggested to them to open a small camp, a small center, to try to solve the problem dealing with domestic violence and violence against women and we are now prepared to open this small center.

Sandie: That’s wonderful. Because for me, in my work against human trafficking, when I see that you have tens of thousands of displaced people who have no resources, I look at that and say that this is a prime area for recruiting victims that think they will go to a job. But if they have a safe place and if they have opportunity and they know they are going to be taken care of, then they know they are not going to be as at risk so it’s excellent prevention, and I applaud you.

Sami: Thank you. We worked with UNCR on two or three cases. They sent two or three cases of dangerous situations to us, and we worked with them and we solved the problems, which were about violence against women. Yes. And also three weeks before I traveled to USA, we opened a center called The Anaheim Family Justice Center. We visited them today. This center tried to solve without sending it to court and the police station. They try to solve very simple problems that happen inside the family, like small domestic violence. We have two or three sections in this center, which work with us. Social workers work with us. Volunteer lawyers work with us. And our staff also works in this center. This is a corporation between our directorate of social affairs and the directorate of medical affairs. And we established this center together.

Sandie: So, it’s community partnership?

Sami: Yes.

Sandie: Not just law enforcement.

Sami: Yes.

Sandie: That’s excellent. I also want to let people know that Dr. Sami presented a lecture last night at Vanguard University. And he’s given us permission to make his PowerPoint available. So we’ll put a link to it in this podcast. So people can see more detail about that report, because it’s all translated into English for you.

Sami: Yes. And another thing…in Duhok we established three years ago a council, a committee, that is called The Committee of Following Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. This committee was established in 2009, in which our directorate and the governorate of Duhok and the University of Duhok and the other districts worked with us with the NGO organization. WE meet every 60 days, and we try to solve any problem that has happened in the Duhok community and the decision is issued by the governor. And this committee now, by the decision of Mr. Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, has been established in the Arbīl governorate and also the As-Sulaymānīyah governorate. It’s been a very good experience for following violence against women and domestic violence.

Sandie: That’s excellent. So your work is being multiplied across all of the regions of Northern Iraq.

Sami: Yes.

Sandie: That’s wonderful. And for me, personally, when I see how you are beginning to work on the issue of human trafficking…in Duhok of all places, you are very strategically located, because there are two borders right?

Sami: Yes. Syria and Turkey.

Sandie: And how far to the border to Duhok?

Sami: From Zaho, about 5km, from Duhok about 60km.

Sandie: So, it’s very close.

Sami: Very close.

Sandie: So, border trafficking issues will very naturally fall into the responsibility of Duhok.

Sami: Yes, and now, we need to establish a new unit of human trafficking. I tried to talk with the Mr. Prime Minister for opening a unit for fighting human trafficking.

Sandie: And we are at your service.

Sami: Thank you, very much.

Sandie: Dave, do you have any other questions?

Dave: I just am really humbled by your work and your service to humanity and I am humbled that you came here to Orange County and joined us in studio to share your experiences with us and I just am so grateful for the work that you’re doing on behalf of people that do not have the ability to speak and do not have the education experience that many of us in the studio here have, so it’s really an honor and a pleasure to have you here.

Sami: I am happy to be here this evening and talk through this program about domestic violence and violence against women and human trafficking in the Kurdistan region in Iraq and it’s a big honor for me.

Sandie: Well, one of the disadvantages of a podcast is that people listen but they can’t see. And I want to describe for them who you are. Dr. Sami is a young men, and you expect this kind of wisdom and strategic planning from someone older but he has already demonstrated a great deal of patience and wisdom, but he moves forward every year to make this program stronger. And when I began to ask more questions last year, he was supposed to come several months ago, he said he could not come because his daughter is sick. So would you tell us about your family, because it is important?

Sami: Yes, I’m married, and I have two little girls, one of them three years old and the other is one year old. When I left them in Kurdistan they became sick. I hope to return back as soon as I can.

Sandie: So when I see what Dr. Sami is doing in the Duhok region and I realize he has two little girls, I imagine a future for them—and he’s nodding his head—and a future for his own daughters that will be safer and full of greater opportunity for these young woman.

Sami: Yes. We work for our community and for our next generations. We try to make their life more safe.

Sandie: Well, I think you’re doing a wonderful job and I can hardly wait to have you come back and visit again.

Sami: Thank you, very much.

Sandie: Do you have any questions for us or any words, how can our communities be a better support for the cultural change you’re trying to do.

Sami: I really appreciate you and Vanguard University and everyone that has helped us on this trip and showed us what you’re doing in Orange County. It’s my first visit to the United States. The United States is a very nice country. I started my visit in Detroit, then I flew to Denver, I saw Denver from the plane, and now I’ve spent three or four days in Orange County. Orange County is a very nice place.

Sandie: Well we are happy to have you here!

Sami: Thank you, very much. I wish I could return back to Orange County or the United States next may.

Sandie: Okay, we’ll look for you!

Sami: Thank you, very much.

Dave: And a brief note to our listeners: don’t go anywhere quite yet because we have an important announcement for you in just a moment.

Dave: Well thank you so much for tuning in today to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast 39. Sandie and I are just so pleased to have you as a listener to this show and to have you as someone who truly cares about this issue and making a difference in ending human trafficking. And that’s why we wanted to take a moment here and let you know about an opportunity for you to help us out, but more importantly than helping us, it’s helping the show to be able to get a little bit more traction out there in the world, so that more people learn the lessons here about human trafficking and everything we’re trying to do through the Global Center for Women & Justice here at Vanguard University. And the reason I mention that is because the 8th annual podcast awards have just been announced in the last couple of weeks. And if you have been a fan of this show, if this show has been helpful to you, if you care about this issue, Sandie and I would like to ask you to please take a moment and nominate this show for a podcast award. And we don’t expect to win the award by any means, but we’d love to get on the list and be nominated for the award because what that would do is bring even more attention to the show and help us to get the message out there about how we can all work together to end human trafficking. So if you would be willing to do this, here’s what you’ll need to do. The nominations for the podcast awards close at midnight, Monday October 15th. So if you are listening to the show right as it’s coming out on October 11th, you just have a few days to get on there. It just takes about two minutes to do. Here’s what you’ll want to do: go to podcastawards.com. When you get to that page, you’re going to see a nomination ballet for a whole bunch of different categories, and we would suggest that you nominate this show in the education category. And what you’ll need to do is just type the name of the show, Ending Human Trafficking Podcast, in the web address, which is gcwj.vanguard.edu. You can nominate other podcasts as well too, but nominate us for the education section. Just fill out your name and email address at the bottom; you can add any comments if you want, and hit submit. It really doesn’t take a whole lot of folks for us to get potentially nominated for that category. And like I said, it really provides a wonderful service to this community by helping us to get more visibility and to reach more people.

Dave: And that is all the time we have today. I want to thank my cohost, Sandie Morgan, as always, for her expertise. I also want to thank, especially, Dr. Sami Hussein, who was here all the way out from Iraq visiting Orange County this week, for stopping by in studio and teaching us more about what he’s doing in human trafficking. And if this is an issue that is important to you, and you’d like to know more, and you have questions for us, you can always reach us at (714)-966-6361 or you can send feedback to our email address, gcwj@vanguard.edu. And Sandie, I will see you again in two weeks for our next show. Thanks for listening everybody. Have a great week.

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