WADI Projects: Prisoners

A Brief Description of WADI's activities to empower Prisoners in Iraqi-Kurdistan


Working in the prisons of Iraqi Kurdistan and empowering prisoners is one the important aims of WADI's activities. Since 1998 WADI promoted several activities and projects at the prison of Sulaimanyah. Our aim with this projects is to improve the human rights standard inside the penal institutions. For the prevention of future crimes, our projects are helpful for the rehabilitation of the prisoners. The institution shall be able to give the prisoners possibilities to live a life without crime. The goal is to change their minds and to give the inhabitants of the prison the abilities to be able to return into society as a useful person.
In Iraq under the rule of Saddam Husseins prisons were the places, where this Regime committed the heinous crimes against it's own people. Torture in all forms, prison cleansing campaigns and mistreatment were the rule, while the live of a human being counted nothing. Changing the attitudes towards prisoners is an important step to improve the overall situation of Human Rights in Iraq.

Description of the Prisons in Iraqi-Kurdistan:

In Iraq-Kurdistan the prison is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Social Affairs. The Ministry is known as an institution of social reform. In opposite to Saddams regime the aim of the execution of a sentence is not revenge or torture but rehabilitation. The specialized General Directorate of Social Reform directly supervises the activities of the prisons administration and the manner of living of the prisoners.
The Prison of Sulaimanyah consists of the following departments:

  1. Dept. of Men: In this largest division of the prison 500 men are imprisoned. They are sentenced from three months up to 25 years of imprisonment.
  2. Dept. of Women: In this part of the prison normaly 15 Women are imprisoned. Their imprisonment lasts between 3 and 25 years.
  3. Dept. for Juveniles: This division contains about 40 to 50 people. Here the period of imprisonment is short.

Activities that are Promoted by WADI Inside the Prison:

07.12.2004 | IRIN News

Newspapers, Kurdish-prison style

WADI so far has preformed a couple of long term projects in the different divisions of the prison. These projects were very successful for the rehabilitation of the prisoners and have become a foundation for the prisons work. Because of that the reforming office has given WADI the license to continue the work with the imprisoned people. The WADIs prisoners project consists of the following sections:

A. Mens Department

a. The workshop-projects:
The purpose behind this project is to teach the men useful occupations to benefit them when they are released. These skills shall also help them, when they still live inside the prison, so that they are able to entertain themselves and get some economic profits. Specially those, who are poor, and those, who have come from far away places - so they cannot be visited by their families - often depend on learning new skills. For that reason WADI promotes different workshops.

I. Carpentry workshop:
This workshop was founded in 1999. Untill now 20 prisoner have benefited from this workshop by finishing to learn an occupation. The prisoners got the chance to work for different ogranisations; such as: KCF, ICRC and WADI. Because of this extension of clients much more carpentry courses could be performed, so now up to 70 prisoner are learning carpentry in this workshop.

II. Blacksmith Workshop:
It opened in 2000. WADI supplied it with all necessary tools and the main materials for work. One reason for founding this project was its necessity as a complementary part for the needs of other projects. It also played an important role building up the structur of the prison. Especially, more than 500 iron beds were made here for the use of the prison. Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) has ensured orders for beds, that were buildt in the prison of Sulaimanyah.

III. Computer Training Courses with Specialized Teachers:
On the prisoners own initiative in 2002 a workshop that deals with computer-skills was opened by WADI. The prisoners suggested to ensure computers and arranging courses for them.
At first it was unbelievable for prisoners to have computers etc. inside the penal institution. But after an agreement with the director of social reform, WADI was allowed to install 3 computers, a printer and what else is needed to open computer-courses inside the prison.
The reactions of the prisoners were very positiv. In every course 10 prisoners learn and train how to use computers. Untill now 3 courses were arranged and every course lasted 15 days. The prisoners, who passed the course, try to give their new learned computer-skills to other prisoners. We also tried to connect the prison with the Internet. But because the prison is 7 km far from the Internet center in Sulaimanyah, this project failed because of technical problems.
For the prisoners these courses are important to issue their periodical. This means that there is an expansion of their activities. This workshop promotes the social live and the communication inside the penal institution, which is important for an reaction against the negative consequences of imprisonment.

IV. Training Courses to Eradicate Illiteracy:
Many prisoners are illiterate. That is why we opened periodical courses for them. We also helped them to build up courses on their on initiative. In every course 50 to 60 prisoners are learning and training how to write and read. Every day the prisoners are taught for two hours on the base of a constant program. Prisoners who learn fast and well, are rewarded for encouragement.
Because of the urgency, we promoted and opened several courses to fight illiteracy. We ensured the needs of the courses and provided teachers as well as stationary. The prisoners reactions were very enthusiastic about the courses.
These courses were arranged by WADI in cooperation with the Ministry of Education. There is an formal agreement to install this courses on a regular basis.

V. Language Courses:
By our initiative language courses in English, Arabic and French have been arranged in the prison. Many of the prisoners have learned English. That enabled them to direct demands towards International Organizations. These courses were useful in raising learning standards inside the prison. In addition to the courses festivals and special exhibitions have been arranged. This has strengthened the social structure inside the prison in a very positive way.
Gifts were distributed for the active prisoners. For every organised activity many people from foreign organizations were invited. On the day of the festival, prisoners have also been invited to make a picnic outside the prison. This was done for the rehilitation of the prisoners, so they can see and feel that they are part of their society and that they are not excluded from it, because of their crimes. On the other hand they could realise, that they are busy with useful things in the prison and that their work is appreciated by the civil society.

VI. Library and Creation of Horizon-Group:
In 2001 a Library was built with the help of WADI. The Library now contains more than 1300 different books. The prisoners are using the library as a center of education and communication. The library also has a room for meetings. In this room the culture and education seminars for the prisoners take place.
The library has also a constant exhibition of the hand-made products of the prisoners. It is open for all prisoners, whenever they want to borrow books and take them to their cells. Daily newspapers are available for their use as well.

Some prisoners are issuing a special periodical, which is published in a form of a book:
After developing the prisons library, WADI thought about establishing a special committee for the prisoners to supervise their cultural activities. For this purpose we established the "Horizon of Reformation" group. WADI helped this group to perform several activities, especially issuing a special wall-periodical called "Asoi Goran". This Prison-Wall-Newspaper is a unique project in Iraqi Kurdistan. Every prisoner can write articles about any topic without censorship. Each year WADI publishes the best articles as a book for distribution in order not only to encourage the prioners, but to show the Kurdish Society, that there is a life behind the walls of the prison.
Also prisoners are empowered to write for Kurdish Newspapers and weeklies like Hawlati. Where possible we try to encourage the exchange between the prison and the "outside world".

B. Women Department:

The number of the imprisoned women is just between 10-15. This created an environment for close cooperation between the prisoners and WADI. The activities of WADI since 1995 in the women's prison were:

  • Conducting a successful campaign against the capital punishment for women in 1995.
  • Sponsoring the protection of women's rights in the prison.
  • Ensuring their special needs like clothes and other sanitary needs.
  • Opening sewing training courses.
  • Opening courses to fight illiteracy. Like in the mens department a constant center is opened now.
  • Ensuring specialized doctors for women's diseases and urgent cases.
  • Building a special library for women.

Participating in the establishment of a board to defend women in the prison.
In 2002 a board was found by WADI and ASODA and Information Center of Women. This "Board for the Assistance of Women in Prison" is still active and plays a good role in protecting the prisoners rights. It coordinates the activities of different local and International NGO's, who are supporting the Women in Prison

C. Juvenile Department:

WADI does not have constant projects in this part of the prison. Nevertheless we have sponsored the infrastructure in this division in the past.
Now the arrested young men just stay for a short time inside the penal institution. This department now is a specialized and separated part of the whole institution. It is not called prison any longer, but department of rehabilitation. Many other organizations work in this division. So we decided just to develop WADI's activities in the other divisions of the prison of Sulaimanyah.

Future Plans:

In 2003 WADI started to support the Women Prison in Arbil by enlarging the library there.
Since a long time we are trying to get funds for opening "Family Rooms" in Sulaimanyah Prison, in which the prisoners could meet their families once a month overnight in a private atmosphere in order not to alienate from them. The right of privacy (meeting their wifes etc.) should be granted.
Now after the liberation of all Iraq we are planning to expand our activities to other parts of Iraq in order to improve the situation of prisoners there. As far as possible projects of Sulaimanyah Prison should be implemented in other prisons of the country.
Also we intend to offer training courses for Social Workers and other employees of the Iraqi Prisons to offer them more knowledge about the reformative programs, which were developed in Iraqi-Kurdistan during the last decade. Prisoners should be treated according to the Human Rights standards in order to change the attitude in Iraq towards Prisons.
These training courses should also be held inside Sulaimanyah Prison in co-operation with the Horizon Group to include the prisoners in these programs.

prepared by:
Falah Muradkhin Shakir
WADI Sulaimanyah
Mai 2003

Donation Account:

WADI: Postbank Frankfurt · Account 612 305 602 · BLZ 500 100 60

WADI - Association for Crisis Assistance and Development Co-operation
Headquarter: Herborner Str. 62, 60439 Frankfurt/ M, Germany
Tel ++49-69-57002440, Fax: 57002444, Email:

WADI Branches in Iraq:
Sulaimanyah: Tel: 00964-770-1588173
Arbil Office: Tel: 061 -7600305
Homepage: www.wadinet.de