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Iraqi government launches rehabilitation programme for prisoners

The Munasaha programme will start in Anbar and Baghdad and expand to other provinces in April. [Thaier al-Sudani / Reuters]

The Munasaha programme will start in Anbar and Baghdad and expand to other provinces in April. [Thaier al-Sudani / Reuters]

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The Iraqi Ministry of Interior launched the Munasaha programme on Wednesday (March 9th) to rehabilitate prisoners in Anbar and Baghdad.

The programme is designed to educate inmates about the damage terrorism causes to Iraqi society and explain that terrorism violates the law and is considered a sin by all religions.

While the programme is aimed at inmates who operated with al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations, all prisoners can participate in the programme.

"Most of the detainees held in Iraqi prisons are between the ages of 18 and 50, and we believe they were victims," said Col. Majid al-Ghargan of the Ministry of Interior's directorate of social guidance and advocacy.

"Iraqis could not have become involved in crime and terrorism if they had not been deceived and misled to believe in certain slogans and principles."

Al-Ghargan told that the programme will start by working with more than 2,300 inmates in Baghdad and Anbar prisons, and then continue to other provinces in April.

Volunteering clerics and sociology experts will deliver lectures on Islamic doctrine, Sharia, the history of peace and war in Islam, human rights, and the duties and rights of individuals in society.

"Inmates will have the chance to have one-on-one meetings with the lecturers and sheikhs, in which they can ask any personal questions, confess their guilt and ask repentance from God, and pledge to never go back to those acts after the end of their terms," said Munasaha programme director Lt. Col. Fawzi Salih.

Salih said that prison management will not force inmates to take part in the programme or listen to the lectures, but he noted that there was a large turnout on the first day of the programme.

Capt. Raed Hussein of the Directorate of the Tasfeerat Detentions of Anbar province said that many inmates regret participating in acts of terrorism and "wish they could go out to warn people against the dangers of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups".

Hussein said some inmates co-operate with Iraqi security forces during interrogations, "but a few of them still have their heads filled with useless ideas".

"We hope the programme will help rehabilitate them because in the end they are still Iraqis and they should know that the path of fire will end in death," he said.

Family members of detainees welcomed the new programme since it gives inmates a chance to correct their ideas before they return to society.

Talal Abdullah, 43, who lives in Baghdad, said his brother was sentenced to 14 years in prison after he was captured by security forces inside a house used as a hideout by a terrorist group.

"The evil men misled my brother and exploited his youthful enthusiasm to use him in acts of evil and black hatred that are not within his character," Abdullah said. "He had repented when I saw him last time in prison. I wish the new programme would help steer him towards the right path."

Fadhil al-Dulaimi's son has been in prison for seven years after he was convicted of belonging to al-Qaeda and participating in acts of violence.

"Not much is left of his term and I wish he would listen to the scholars and professors so that he will know by then that I was right when I told him to stay away from bad friends," said al-Dulaimi, 57, who lives in Fallujah.

"This programme is a lifeboat. I wish my son could get out of prison and build a family and contribute towards building a better future, instead of killing people and possibly being killed in the end."