After escaping years of anguish in ISIS captivity, Zhiyan Khaleel is deprived of the right to get an education.
Zhiyan was a 7th grader when ISIS militants abducted her in August 2014. She has been free since 2019, but she is not allowed to go back to school because of her age and years of being cut off from learning.
“I was attending an Arabic school at the time. I was very clever, but ISIS came and turned all our happiness into hell,” Zhiyan said.
I was cut off from school for five years due to my abduction by ISIS. They didn’t let me register later
Zhiyan is now 20 years old and resides in Rwanga Camp in Duhok province. She still has the desire to get an education. “I tried hard to go back to school, but the Nineveh Education [Directorate] wouldn’t register me,” Zhiyan added.
"I was cut off from school for five years due to my abduction by ISIS, and then they didn’t let me re-register [in school], and there are no accelerated courses at the camps for me to attend,” she said, adding that her schoolmates are now studying in universities.
According to the guidelines of Iraq’s Ministry of Education, any student who is cut off from school for two years, must attend evening school, and any student who is cut off from school for four years, loses the right to attend school and must take accelerated courses.
Marwan Jad’an, who represents the IDPs at Rwanga Camp, told KirkukNow: “Only at our camp, there are 15 students who are unable or not allowed to attend school due to older age.”
According to the Office for Rescuing Kidnapped Ezidis, of the total of 6,417 kidnappees, 2,500 have been rescued, of which about 2000 are children and adolescents.
Dildar Ali Rafo, another rescuee, said: “I was rescued in March 2018 and due to my older age, I wasn’t allowed back in school. Despite many attempts by my family, the Education [Directorate] wouldn’t budge.”
Dildar was 11 years old, a 5th grader, when she was kidnapped. She is 17 now.
I liked school very much and still do. That’s why I want to return and study engineering in the future
“I was attending an Arabic school. I liked school very much and still do. That’s why I want to return and study engineering in the future.”
Dildar’s parents, two sisters and a brother are still missing.
She hopes that the special schools are opened at the camps and in Shingal for those are not allowed in regular schools due to older age.
There are two different education directorates in Shingal, one for education in Kurdish and another for Arabic. In total, there are 54,000 registered students in Shingal, most of whom are displaced and live in the Kurdistan Region, mostly in IDP camps.
Sa’d Mtto, head of the Federal Government’s Shingal Education Directorate, told KirkukNow: “The General Education Directorate of Nineveh has promised to resolve the issue of those students after we sent a formal request.”
Shingal Education Directorate has suggested providing special classes for the rescuees to get accelerated education, combining two grades in one year.
There are schools across Iraq that provide accelerated education. Three such schools exist in Mosul but none in the camps.
The issue of Shingal’s students is an exceptional case and must be resolved quickly
abdul-Hameed Majeed, an official at Nineveh Education Directorate, told KirkukNow: “We don’t have accelerated education at the camps. The issue of Shingal’s students is an exceptional case and must be resolved quickly.”
Majeed too suggests establishing special schools for accelerated education for the rescuees.
The promises and suggestions from officials don’t give much hope for Zhiyan Khaleel, she says, adding that they have become victims twice; being kidnapped by ISIS and being deprived of an education.
“Through your outlet, I ask for this problem to be solved so that we can go back to school and so that school can alleviate a little of the pain from our abduction and our boredom.”