Meanwhile, nearly half (355,000) of school-age children in the displaced population in Iraq remain out of school, according to a U.N. report released in February, while one-third of all Syrian refugee children were.
For females, the situation is worse: In Iraq, girls stay in school only until the age of 10 on average, according to the Save the Children.
Still, a household survey by Unicef, known as a multiple indicator cluster survey, found that female primary completion rates for primary, lower secondary and upper secondary education are 73 percent, 47 percent, and 43 percent, respectively.
Meanwhile, 24 percent of Iraqi women are illiterate, compared to 11 percent of all men, according to a September 2020 report by the World Bank, “Breaking Out of Fragility: A Country Economic Memorandum for Diversification and Growth in Iraq.”
Iraqi education data show that the number of students enrolled starts to steeply decline after grade 6. The top five reasons cited by Iraqis interviewed by the Norwegian humanitarian group are costs, child labor, child marriage, having missed school for more than two years, and a lack of proper identification documents.
‘Stateless’ and Excluded
The most vulnerable in Iraq are the 1.4 million internally displaced people, the 4.6 million returnees still trying to get resettled, and about 250,000 Syrian refugees, most of whom have been living in or around camps and informal settlements for more than three years, say aid officials.
All these groups as well as some non-displaced Iraqis have long been grappling with substandard living conditions due to infrastructure damage, a lack of services and poor employment opportunities. Many also continue to face violence.
But the biggest issue for many is that they can’t prove who they are.
When Islamic State was in control, the armed group usually confiscated state-issued identification papers and issued its own. The Iraqi government, however, has never accepted these documents—even having one can put Iraqis at risk of arrest.
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As a result, millions of Iraqis are missing the documentation necessary to access school, healthcare and employment, being able to travel out of their area, or receive aid. Those who lack papers are suspected of having been associated with the Islamic State.
And it’s nearly impossible to get new papers due to the backlog, the bureaucracy, and the bribery sometimes necessary, says a recent report by the Norwegian group, “Barriers From Birth: Undocumented Children in Iraq Sentenced to a Life on the Margins”
For adults, the critical issue is being unable to earn or receive aid. For children—one in five of those displaced lacks documentation—it means they can’t enroll in school. For everyone, it also means looking for other ways to survive.
Noor, who lives in Hamam Al-Alil camp in the Nineveh governorate with her three children, told the Norwegian nonprofit she’s struggling to survive without identification. She lost it after fleeing the fighting in Mosul. When she tries to leave the camp, officers ask, “Maybe you or your daughter are not Iraqi?”