Erbil / Mariwan Faydullah Salihi
Broken windows and glass all over the floor, no lights and air conditioning working and sweating people running around . A large, empty and dirty hall, just at the entrance of the old building, is the main area of the building allocated for some organizations related to disabled people. It also contains the office of the Kurdistan Deaf and Mute Society, Erbil branch. After walking up the dangerous, broken stairs, comes the dark and frightening walkway.
“Many deaf and mutes are walking around this walkway, just like crazy people”, said the old and tired looking security guard of the building.
The Kurdistan Deaf and Mute Society is located in a building that looks like it hasn’t been inhabited since the 1970s. It’s the same building where the local Communist Party takes office. Some of the members of the society, mainly men, are wandering around doing nothing. They’re mostly unemployed and have children and families to take care of. The only person working at the society who’s not deaf and mute is Ms. Shno Taher, 26. She’s a volunteer social worker and sign-language translator for the deaf and mute at the society for 10 years now, according to her.
“Our society in Erbil has currently more than 500 members and since eight months, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has cut all their financial support to us”, translated Taher in sign language from Ibrahim Abdulrahman Mohammed, 37, President of Kurdistan Deaf and Mute Society-Erbil. All members of the society are deaf and mute, including its President.
Taher also mentioned the reason why the KRG has cut the financial support: “The KRG wants to unite the Erbil branch of the society with the one in Sulaimaniyah, but this hasn’t happened yet. As a result, the government doesn’t want to support us financially. The decision has made us suffer a lot. The Sulaimaniyah branch does get financial support and is operating much better than ours. The neglect of the Erbil branch is unacceptable for us. Deaf and mute people everywhere should be treated the same way. They’re all human. Our government should find them jobs and open training courses for them. Most of the deaf and mute are very smart people, but they’re neglected by their family, society and the government”.
She was hoping for the immediate return of financial support from the government and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s). “We start selling our personal mobile phones to finance our work and support our members”, according to her.
While talking about their sufferings she also mentioned that during the Kurdistan Region presidential and parliamentary elections, they got many visits from officials promising them financial and moral support. “Those were, unfortunately only false promises”.
“All of us at the Kurdistan Deaf and Mute Society are asking our government and especially our President and Prime Minister, to give us special attention. We are all loyal citizens of this country and our rights should be protected. Our people can’t talk. If they could, they would have gotten their rights years ago.”