This profile refers to people with disabilities, including mental disabilities, as well as those who have severe medical issues, including mental health issues.
The Government of Iraq has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and has adopted the Law No. 38 on the Care of Persons with Disabilities and Special Needs, including the establishment of a Commission for the promotion of respect and protection of the rights of people living with disabilities. However, people with disabilities are among the most vulnerable communities and often neglected in public discourse, according to the UN.
Persons with disabilities face a wide array of societal discrimination. The prevailing perception among the public is to treat persons with disabilities as charity. According to UNAMI, persons with disabilities ‘face common experiences of often multiple, intersecting and aggravated forms of discrimination which hinder, prevent or impair their full enjoyment of their rights and their full and equal participation in all aspects of society’. This often leads to isolation of persons with disabilities and exacerbates negative psychological effects. Adults and children with disabilities are at a higher risk of violence than non-disabled, and those with mental illnesses could be particularly vulnerable.
Hospitals and other health services in Iraq are heavily concentrated in urban areas. Such facilities are either scarcely or not at all available for inhabitants of the poorer governorates. Both health services and medication are available in a public and a private sector system. There is no public health insurance system.
The lack of materials and specialised staff create difficulties in treating high numbers of patients. In addition, the system lacks doctors and medical staff who have reportedly left the country over the past years due to the conflict, lack of payment of salaries and corruption.
Following the conflict against ISIL, many civilians and members of the security forces have been left with injuries and disabilities, which require aftercare, prosthetics, and support equipment. Government and public health facilities that provide secondary treatments to emergency care, especially those treating long-term disabilities, have difficulty providing free treatment.
With regard to mental health, it has been reported that there are huge needs and the available services do not meet the demand. Challenges to the mental health system in Iraq include the lack of funding and infrastructure, limited number of mental health professionals, location of services, as they are often too far away for people to travel, as well as stigma.
Concerning the access of disabled persons to the educational system, USDOS has noted reports that persons with disabilities experienced discrimination due to social stigma and ‘many children with disabilities dropped out of public school due to insufficient physical access to school buildings, a lack of appropriate learning materials in schools, and a shortage of teachers qualified to work with children with developmental or intellectual disabilities’.
The lack of personnel and adequate infrastructure to appropriately address the needs of individuals under this profile would not meet the requirement that an actor of persecution or serious harm is identified in accordance with Article 6 QD, unless there is intentional conduct on the part of a third party, in particular the intentional deprivation of the applicant of appropriate healthcare.
In the case of persons living with mental and physical disabilities, the individual assessment whether or not discrimination and mistreatment by society and/or by the family could amount to persecution should take into account the severity and/or repetitiveness of the acts or whether they occur as an accumulation of various measures.
Not all individuals under this profile would face the level of risk required to establish a well-founded fear of persecution. The individual assessment of whether or not there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to face persecution should take into account risk-impacting circumstances, such as: age, nature and visibility of the mental or physical disability, negative perception by the family, etc.
Nexus to a reason for persecution
According to available information, if well-founded fear of persecution could be substantiated in the individual case, such persecution could be for reasons of membership of a particular social group (e.g. persons with noticeable mental disabilities, due to their innate characteristic (disability); and distinct identity linked to their stigmatisation by the surrounding society).