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Around 1.5 million people in Iraq are refugees or internally displaced people, women, men and children who struggle every day to meet their basic needs and access essential services. While finding shelter and ensuring food for these people are obvious immediate priorities, education should be part of the emergency response as well as of long-term plans.

The number of informal settlements in Baghdad is increasing, and the Baghdad Provincial Council estimates that there are more than 220 settlements today. Government officials say this problem did not exist in the city before 2003 and that it was aggravated by the sectarian violence of 2006.

“The current security situation in Syria, along with the desire to protect my children, forced me to leave my home,” said Samira, a middle-aged Syrian mother who fled home with her four children months ago.

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The bombing of the Al-Askari Shrine in Samarra in February 2006 led to an escalation in sectarian violence which forced millions of Iraqis out of their homes in the months and years that followed.  Many sought refuge abroad, but large numbers of individuals also became internally displaced within Iraq, joining the many others who had left their homes during previous waves of displacement and forced population movements under the Saddam Hussein regime.

By Fabienne Vinet, PIO, UNAMI

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Article 19, Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Iraq conjures up many enduring cultural images: the great lions of Babylon, the Ishtar Gate, and the superb spiral mosque of Samarra are some of the most renowned. These vast archaeological riches, spanning centuries of civilization, are part of the national heritage that is shared by all Iraqis – and part of the patrimony of all humanity.

Baghdad, 9 May 2013 - The UN Iraq congratulates the three winners of the first edition of its contest for Iraqi women journalists. The stories submitted by Suha Audah, Enas Jabbar and Shatha al-Shabibi were selected by the jury as representing best the challenges faced by Iraqi women in their daily lives.

By Shatha Al-Shabibi
This is a story about murderers, victims and witnesses. The murderers are persons without virtue, but who talk about virtue all the time, and the victims are persons without vices, but the hunger has drawn a path for them and made them believe that it is the path of righteousness. The witnesses are full of fear, fear of scandal and punishment. They did not testify or give their names.

By Suha Auda / Ninewa
Their manner when they entered the sports hall seemed like that of a frightened person who creeps stealthily into a place to commit a secret offence. The juvenile girls entered one after another; each was looking around herself while a female or male trainer would volunteer to close the door behind them and lock it. We were surprised that we were allowed into the hall along with the girls. Then the sound of the gate being locked was heard, announcing that this hall is exclusively allocated for women and that entry of their male athlete colleagues is strictly prohibited.

By Inas Jabbar / Baghdad
Ammar (not his real name) works in a state institution in an Iraqi governorate. Revealing financial and administrative corruption cases, he wrote a detailed report on the issue and submitted it to those concerned. As a consequence, those whose corruption he reported threatened him against submitting the report. But he insisted on doing the right thing. Short time ater his wife was kidnapped. Since he had no evidence of their involvement in kidnapping his wife and therefore could not make accusations against them, he resigned and did not submit the report. A few days later, his wife returned. He therefore was certain that they were the perpetrators.

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