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Helping Families to Realise Their Rights: DRC's Legal Aid in Iraq

Posted on 06 Mar 2024

Displacement affected communities in Iraq continue to be exposed to severe protection risks, compounded by continued political uncertainty, insecurity, and economic decline.

More than one million people in Iraq remain displaced more than six years after the defeat of the Islamic State (IS). These communities are unable or unwilling to return home due to complex barriers, insecurity and discrimination and many continue to be reliant on humanitarian aid to meet their basic needs.

Five million people have returned to their homes in Iraq, many still lack durable solutions due to ongoing challenges such as infrastructure destruction, limited access to essential services, and barriers to reclaiming property rights.

The demand for assistance to acquire civil identity documentation, which is a prerequisite for accessing public services and Iraq’s social protection schemes, remains high. Without access to legal identity and civil documentation, affected populations are unable to access essential services such as healthcare, education, livelihood opportunities, and are unable to freely move throughout their county.

Civil documentation is also often a requirement to access housing, land and property (HLP) rights, including reclaiming occupied property, protecting tenancy rights and preventing arbitrary evictions. Women, including female headed households, encounter more difficulties accessing their HLP rights due to customary practices and patriarchal inheritance rights.

DRC and the Protection Consortium of Iraq’s Legal Aid

DRC forms part of The Protection Consortium of Iraq, alongside the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in partnership with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), and in close collaboration with Justice Centre Iraq (JCI) and REACH. Funded by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), the Consortium exemplifies a collaborative effort to address pressing protection concerns and foster lasting solutions for displaced populations in Iraq.

Within the consortium, the legal aid programming is designed to mitigate protection risks for individuals affected by conflict in Iraq, encompassing a range of vital legal services. Through legal awareness sessions, beneficiaries are equipped with crucial information about available government services and avenues for access. Additionally, legal counselling sessions offer tailored advice and support to individuals and households, addressing their specific legal concerns and needs.

Furthermore, DRC provides indispensable administrative assistance, aiding individuals in document preparation and facilitating their engagement with government offices and services. Legal representation by DRC's lawyers ensures that individuals have effective advocacy before courts or quasi-judicial authorities.

This comprehensive legal aid package not only addresses immediate legal challenges but also enables people to access additional DRC services such as multipurpose cash assistance. Operating through both fixed site locations and mobile outreach, DRC ensures accessibility to people in both community safe spaces and dispersed informal sites, underscoring its commitment to reaching even the most remote and vulnerable communities.


Once we received our IDs, we started moving with more comfort.

/  Hamoud

Hamoud’s story

Hamoud, a 31-year-old father of four was displaced with his entire family in 2017 when clashes broke out between IS and forces attempting to liberate his hometown. The family found refuge in Al-Madrag camp, where they lived for two and a half years. Yet, they were again displaced when the camp was closed by the Government of Iraq.

Due to ongoing insecurity in their hometown, the family were unable to return home and instead were forced to live in an informal site in dire living conditions with incredibly limited access to vital services or support. The social protection network was inaccessible to them due to a lack of civil documentation and high travel costs.

DRC’s protection team identified Hamoud and his family during an outreach visit to the informal site. Hamoud and his wife’s ID were outdated, and they had not been able to obtain any identification documentation for their four children.

The family were simply unable to realise any of their rights; they were unable to move freely around due to a high number of checkpoints and they had no access to healthcare or education. They also faced acute difficulties earning an income due to the remote location of the informal site and their inability to travel to find work.

DRC’s legal team worked with the family to finalise the legal procedures and obtain their legal documentation. Finally the family were able to begin realising their most basic rights.

“Once we received our IDs, we started moving with more comfort. We have applied for the social welfare salary with the guidance from DRC lawyers, we have been visited by the government social employee who has checked our condition, finalised the procedures and now we are waiting to start receiving the salary.”

Hamoud’s family can now finally begin to live a more dignified life whilst they remain in displacement. They will be able to travel, access healthcare and the children can restart their education.


My original area was destroyed totally during the war and there are no services like water or electricity.

/  Mostafa

Mostafa’s story

Mostafa and his wife Noor have four children. Fighting between IS and armed forces trying to liberate the area completely destroyed the family's village and so they were forced to find safety elsewhere.

“My original area was destroyed totally during the war and there are no services like water or electricity. Even the government buildings are destroyed. Therefore, no one wants to return; our houses are damaged and even the security forces do not recommend going back.

I have been displaced since 2014 and till this moment, I have no intention of going back. We hope that one day the government will reconstruct our area and we can go back to our houses.”

The family found themselves with no other option than to live in an informal site in a complex that was built without official permission. They are at risk of eviction due to having no formal proof that they are permitted to live in their current home.

“Now my biggest fear is that I will be forced to leave this area and be displaced again, because I am living in an illegal property. Even my neighbours have the same feeling because they also live in illegal properties.”

The family also lacked the means to earn an income due to their remote location and an inability to travel freely to find work.

“On the other hand, we hardly find work in the area because we lost our documents and belongings when we left our houses. So, this is another fear, the landlord might sue us and throw us out of the house if we cannot pay the rent.”

The family felt incredibly vulnerable and were unable to find a solution to their concerns.

“We were hopeless and frustrated until the DRC protection team visited us in their regular field visiting and met me and my family.

We were hopeless and frustrated until the DRC protection team visited us in their regular field visiting and met me and my family

/  Mostafa

They assessed our situation and our living conditions, and accordingly they helped us in paying some rent and provided us with the information and knowledge in terms of Iraqi lease and rent law - that month I could not pay the rent because of lack of job opportunity, and I am daily worker, sometimes I find jobs some days no. They also provided awareness session on housing rights and rent law, and how we can claim our rights.

In addition, one of the case workers referred me to the other DRC services and now I am enrolled in a small business grant and I hope to open a small shop to fix and sell mobile phones to help myself and my family economically.”

“We hope that DRC continues in their activities and services in the areas where IPDs and vulnerable people live. Because DRC helps many people and gives support to most vulnerable people.”

This programme allows DRC to deliver vital protection services and help some of the most at-risk communities in Iraq realise their rights as citizens of Iraq. 

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