Un ponte per... (UPP) is a voluntary association established in 1991. It started its activities as Un Ponte per Baghdad, right after the end of bombings on Iraq, with the aim of organizing solidarity initiatives in favor of the Iraqi civil society that was undergoing the effects of the war. Later on, the intervention of Un ponte per...has started to include Serbia and other Middle East and Mediterranean countries.
The social aim of the association is to prevent new conflicts, protect human rights and support civil society, especially in the Middle East, through informational campaigns, cultural exchanges and international co-operation projects. Un ponte per... believes that concrete solidarity programs are inseparable to the commitment of building links between civil societies in Italy and in the countries where the association works.
UPP PROJECTS IN IRAQ
THE HOUSE OF BOOKS IN BAGHDAD AND THE CULTURAL PROGRAMME
The project aims at safeguarding and restoring the book heritage of Baghdad National Library that was severely damaged during the conflict that started in 2003. Throughout the last 10 years, the catalogue of the volumes has been created and computerized. Three Iraqi restorers and two computer librarians were hosted as internees at the National Library of Florence in order to later create a restoration laboratory, a computerizing one and the Baghdad National Library website.
In 2010, the project has been re-launched through new trainings in Florence and international meetings, in view of completing the computerization of data and providing more technical tools to the Iraqi Library. In 2011 other Iraqi libraries could benefit from new training courses provided by the personnel of the Baghdad National Library that had been trained in Italy. At the same time, Iraqi librarians have been offering their help to the cultural centers of Iraqi minorities in order to safeguard the book heritage of the many communities forming the Iraqi mosaic of civilizations. The project phase dedicated to the minorities concluded at the end of 2013 with the presentation of a research on the book heritage of the many Iraqi religious communities and with six trainings courses for book conservation.
Since the end of 2013, a new project phase has been launched with the involvement of Erbil Citadel workers, who have attended a training course at Florence University about the management of a UNESCO heritage site.
A second aspect of the project addresses the creation of the first audio-visual archives at Baghdad Library, a multimedia library for children and the training of Iraqi technicians about film restoration at Bolonia film library.
Donors: Italian local authorities, UNESCO, European Commission, CEI, Italian Development Cooperation, Municipality of Florence, private Italian foundations.
CONFERENCE AND SOCIAL NETWORK OF THE IRAQI CIVIL SOCIETY
Since 2009, UPP has been organizing a yearly conference of Iraqi civil society through the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICCSI). The conference involves journalists, trade unionists, women, representatives of NGOs and human rights activists. After the first two meetings in Rome and Paris, the conference took then place in Erbil in 2011 and Basra in 2012. During the year 2013 the organizers turned the conference into the first Iraqi Social Forum, which took place in Baghdad in September 2013 with the participation of thousands of people. During the last meetings of the forum, several campaigns have been launched by Iraqi civil society for human and trade-union rights, for environmental heritage, against mercenaries and for freedom of expression. In order to support this process, UPP has been managing since 2010 the social network icssi08.ning.com and the website www.iraqicivilsociety.org (in English and Arabic). It also offers support in the organization of advocacy campaigns, the future planning and launch of initiatives by Iraqi NGOs.
Donors: Italian and Spanish local authorities, private Italian, Norwegian and Swiss foundations.
PROGRAMME FOR IRAQI MINORITIES - YALLA NILA’AB
At the end of 2011 Un ponte per... has launched a specific programme aiming at preserving the mosaic of civilizations that constitutes nowadays' Iraq. The project has the objective of facilitating the schooling of minors belonging to Christian, Yazidi and Kurdish minorities displaced to the North of Iraq. The programme Yalla Nila’ab includes the organization of entertaining activities, the opening of recreational rooms and the fight against school dropping in five different schools. 2500 children and their families have been involved so far, new football fields and playing rooms have been built and school materials and toys have been distributed.
PROVIDING AID TO SYRIAN REFUGEES IN DOMIZ CAMP (DOHUK PROVINCE)
Since the end of 2011 together with Iraqi Public Aid Organization we have chosen to quickly respond to the emergency and to offer support to Syrian women and men fleeing the war. In 6 months we have created in the camp of Domiz an orientation and psycho-social assistance service, which has reached thousands of people. Meetings were held to raise awareness about hygiene and health for 360 women chosen among the most vulnerable cases and 560 hygiene kits were distributed. Twenty-two teachers have received basic training to be able to identify among their children those that are more at risk and need psycho-social support. A team of young Syrians offered information and guidance to 2234 individuals, distributed over 3000 informative guides in the refugee camp and at the border with Syria. Within the project, training sessions for public officers of Dohuk immigration office were carried out about emergency management and the minimum reception standards to be applied during a crisis.
INTERVENTION IN DOHUK AND ANBAR PROVINCES
Since June 2013, the emergency intervention expanded and in addition to Domiz refugee camp we managed to reach the camp of Al Qa'im, near Fallujah. We specially identified 350 vulnerable cases through counseling sessions and visits to refugee families. About 50 workers were trained in the management of post-conflict trauma. Protected meeting and playing areas have been created for 500 girls and boys aged between 13 and 25 years. 6000 information guides were distributed and the information and training sessions for local authorities kept being implemented in the provinces. In the camps of Domiz and Al Qa'im, over 1300 families have received thousands of hygiene kits and 360 Syrian women participated to raise awareness meetings on health and hygiene.
THE EMERGENCY OF SYRIAN REFUGEES IN CAMPS AND URBAN AREAS
In August 2013, within a few days 63000 Syrian Kurds fled Iraq, mostly seeking refuge in Erbil. To face this emergency, a new phase of the program was started by extending the interventions also in the camps of Kawergosk and Darashakran, in the areas of Qushtapa and Bashirma. Since then, we have been working in all the camps and cities of Iraqi Kurdistan where Syrians fled to.
A mobile unit provided assistance and guidance to the refugees that live outside Erbil camp. Up to now, 350 individuals were assisted and counseling sessions started for another 2500. Our staff and volunteers, mostly Syrians, work in close coordination with the Health Department of Erbil and its psychiatrists in order to provide an adequate care, also in the hospital if necessary. A group of psychologists and psychiatrists regularly visits the camps while social workers organize everyday social and sports activities for the refugees. A group of social workers is also active in the major cities and in border areas to provide information and guidance on available services and the rights of refugees. Two cartoons were created to inform refugees about the services available, ideally reaching 15000 people.