Issa Suffy, Program Officer for the Alliance for Peace and Human Rights (far right, facing camera), delivers human rights training in Kurdistan.

In the midst of turmoil, Issa Suffy brings sanity through teaching the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Kurdistan is a geo-cultural region covering parts of Turkey, northern Iraq, parts of Iran and northern Syria. In the midst of the turmoil of Iraqi Kurdistan is Issa Suffy, a Program Officer and Trainer for the Alliance for Peace and Human Rights organization and member of the United Nations Assistance Mission.

When Issa discovered the United for Human Rights materials, he found just what he needed to teach his people about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). In his work he teams up with the UN Human Rights Office, UNICEF and UNOPS (United Nations Office for Project Services) to integrate the human rights principles into Kurdish society.

“All segments of Iraqi society need to understand the provisions of the UDHR,” says Issa, “and how these international standards affect governments and individuals.”

When asked what motivates him to tackle this subject he says, “My work is motivated by the fact that I live in Iraq and since I was born I have witnessed three wars that make me ask myself, ‘What are the reasons for all this violence, and how can we stop it?’ One of the situations I want to handle through human rights education is the fact that recognizing and accepting differences in a very complicated society like Iraqi society—which is full of different ethnic and religious groups—is not part of our culture.

“I want to establish positive and non-oppressive personal relationships, and resolve conflicts in a non-violent way. I want to achieve social change and have people take responsibility and participate in decisions, which implies participation, planning and decision-making.”

He elaborates further, saying, “Human rights should be the third source of law in Iraq and in any democratic society, a fundamental of everyone’s essential education, along with reading and writing.”

He discovered the UHR materials while searching the web for a description of the UDHR and coming across the website, which he describes as a treasure. “I downloaded the videos and delivered 17 training sessions, mostly to police officers of different ranks. I ordered the educator package and I was so happy, I started to put the posters everywhere. I put them on the walls to show the students who were coming in to class. That was the beginning of using the materials.”

“You are the only organization that covers this type of subject, and you are the only organization that goes into detail on each article of the UDHR to show it.”

At the time his materials were in English, but in 2016, he received his first order of United for Human Rights materials in Arabic and Kurdish. “Since I received the Kurdish materials I have managed to train intelligence officers to be human rights trainers in their academy, and I managed with my colleagues to change their views on how to use the UDHR for their benefit and to change the behavior of their co-workers and commissioners.”

He has since been working with the Kurdish Regional Government to train further security officers, as well as checkpoint officers and commissioners so they know “how to deal with citizens of Kurdistan region and tourists, in an equal and humanitarian way.”

Issa expresses what he values about United for Human Rights, with, “You are the only organization that covers this type of subject, and you are the only organization that goes into detail on each article of the UDHR to show it.”


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