ip-ACIRR, the International Platform for the Protection of Persons with Disabilities in Situations of Armed Conflicts and for Inclusive Reconstruction and Recovery.
The ip-ACIRR aims to engage actors active in the fields of disability rights, inclusive society-building and armed conflict, to promote awareness and initiate joint reflection on strategies that can inform practice as well as developing more adequate legal frameworks and mechanisms, both at national and international levels.
I had to leave my home in 2012, at the beginning of the armed conflict in Syria. I had no other choice but to leave after my home was surrounded by guns and helicopters. All of the people living in my neighbourhood had already left. We, my mom and me, remained as the only family left in the neighbourhood due to my disability. My uncle decided to come to our neighbourhood, risking his life in order to help evacuate us. I have always had concerns about accessibility, as a woman using a wheelchair since my childhood, so I was extremely reluctant to leave my home. However, I realised that if I insisted on staying, I would be risking the lives of my mom and my uncle as they would not leave without me. Our journey to reach the safe zone lasted six hours. In the meantime, I had two questions in my mind: Are not these parties to the armed conflict aware that they are putting civilians’ lives in danger? Are not they aware that not all of the civilians have the same ability to escape from the conflict and save their lives?
Two months later, I arrived in Sweden. This moment of escaping and these two questions became the only thing in my mind day and night. Since I am the President of the Cultural Forum for People with Special Needs in Syria, I began to work from Sweden to support other persons with disabilities who have experienced the same difficulties in Syria or in other countries with conflicts. At the same time, I realised that the available resources, both legal and non-legal, about the situation of persons with disabilities in armed conflict were limited. This reality led me not only to write about this topic for my master’s thesis in International Human Rights Law at Lund University, but also led to the creation of ip-ACIRR.
The Role of the ip-ACIRR
In situations of armed conflict, people with disabilities are particularly exposed. Armed conflict destroys the underlying conditions people with disabilities rely on to make their lives work and creates a need for finding new solutions under adverse circumstances. Humanitarian practices, relief agencies, institutions and current legal instruments are not well equipped to address the needs of people with disabilities during ongoing conflicts, while armed forces and parties to the conflict seldom prioritise protection of civilians, or people with disabilities in particular.
The challenges connected with armed conflict fall into three main groups:
Challenges during ongoing armed conflict, including preventive measures, protection, evacuation from war zones and ensuring that relief reaches the groups that need it.
Challenges in post-conflict societies, ensuring that disability perspectives are included in peace talks and reconstruction strategies.
Addressing long term consequences of armed conflict, notably societal impacts when large segments of populations have become disabled as a consequence of the conflict, and the long term legal and financial responsibility for removing unexploded devices, remediating chemical contamination and clearing land-mines.
The ip-ACIRR collaborates with the Raoul Wallenberg Institute and the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University, Sweden.