Non-governmental organisations in Iraqi Kurdistan are lobbying for a change in the regional law relating to their work. They say the decades-old law is preventing them from doing their job.
According to legal experts in the semi-autonomous, northern region, aging legislation on how NGOs can be founded and funded is having a negative impact on important social welfare work in the region. Law Number 18 was last amended in 1993.
“The law is old and has a lot of holes,” says Hokr Jatto, a local lawyer and human rights activist. “The law explicitly gives the political class the right to interfere in the NGOs.”
Jatto also points out that the role of NGOs in Iraqi Kurdistan has changed. They used to act a little bit like unions, defending the rights of those they represented – say, farmers or engineers.
The old law on NGOs says that, in order to register an organization, permission must be obtained from the authorities. “The law also allows the state to arrest or close any association that starts working before getting those permissions,” Jatto notes.
The rules around funding are also tricky, he adds, explaining that it’s very unclear where NGOs can get money from.
“We support amendments to this law or even a whole new law,” says Narudin Butti, who heads the Zheen Association for the Physically Disabled in Dohuk. “We are having a great deal of trouble getting funding.”