“I want to exist on paper to follow my dreams,” Mohamad,* a 16-year-old who was abandoned by his biological parents, told his SEED Foundation lawyer, who has been supporting Mohamad’s legal efforts to obtain his ID and other legal documents in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI).
Mohamad’s birth parents gave him up early in his childhood, thus he has no memory of his birth parents, full name, or birth date. Mohamad grew up under the care of his guardian/foster family**, but, lacking legal documentation, he could not enroll in school, find employment, register for government support, or access other services that require documentation.
To fulfill his desire of receiving an education and putting an end to his stressful situation, Mohamad contacted SEED in hope of receiving legal support.
After taking on the case, the SEED lawyer contacted the Duhok hospital Mohamad was born in to get information about his birth parents and birth date. With the hospital’s support, the lawyer diligently dug through records and multiple phone numbers, and, after a month, they discovered Mohamad’s biological father.
Despite having located his birth parents, the lawyer was still unable to obtain all the information and documents needed to issue an ID because Mohamad’s birth parents did not have his birth certificate or remember his birth date. They also did not have any legal documents of their own. According to Iraqi and KRI regulations, IDs cannot be issued to children whose birth parents are not registered and do not have a marriage certificate.
To obtain an ID for Mohamad, the lawyer first worked on obtaining IDs and a marriage certificate for his birth parents through the courts. There were major delays in obtaining the birth parents’ documents due to court closures and movement restrictions from COVID-19 and the birth parents’ slow cooperation. The lawyer also worked with the hospital to schedule a medical age assessment to determine Mohamad’s age.
Despite the difficulties and challenges, the SEED lawyer successfully obtained the documents required by the court to proceed with Mohamad’s case. The court then issued his papers, which the lawyer personally delivered to Mohamad.
Mohamad and his foster family thanked SEED for the efforts our lawyer put into the case. “We did not know how to proceed on this issue and who could help us. We did not have money for a lawyer and didn’t know where to start,” the foster family said.
Overcome with joy, Mohamad exclaimed, “I have many possibilities now. I can enroll in school, get a driver’s license, get married one day, and buy a house.”
According to a UNICEF report, the birth of 166 million children under age five remains officially unregistered worldwide, while 237 million children under age five lack official proof of birth registration. SEED delivers legal services to respond to the high number of unregistered children in Kurdistan, supporting them to access crucial public services, including health, education, and livelihood, in the KRI.
*Name and minor details have been changed to protect client confidentiality.
**Iraqi law does not permit adoption, while legal guardian/foster parents cannot transfer their family name to a child.