Former ISIL prison converted into a place of joy and support for young people

The UN sexual and reproductive health agency and partners have transformed a previously grim detention center in Iraq into a sunny place for young people, which was once used as a prison by the ISIL terror network. 

The Ramadi Youth Safe Space was reopened on December 25 by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the Iraq Ministry of Youth and Sports, and the Governorate of Anbar, in what some perceived as a timely Christmas gift. 

The building was a House of Youth under the Ministry before ISIL captured it in 2014. It was severely damaged during the war. 

Ali Farhan Al-Dulaimi, Governor of Anbar, commended UNFPA for its continued support and investment in the governate’s young people during a ceremony setting off a fresh beginning for the revamped facility. 

The UNFPA Representative in Iraq, Rita Columbia, emphasised the importance of youth empowerment and participation in communal life. 

The Kuwaiti Ambassador to Iraq, Salem Al-Zamanan; representatives from the Ministry of Youth and Sport; the Anbar Directorate of Youth and Sports; and members from civil society and young people were among those who attended the opening ceremony. 

The Youth Safe Space is a center where girls and boys can learn life and leadership skills, as well as participate in peacebuilding and educational programmes. Prior to the conflict, the structure functioned as a special gathering place for Anbar youth to form connections and develop new skills in music, art, and science. 

Following the liberation of the territories, local youths decided to restore the structure to its original use and reclaim it as a youth center. The process was led by young volunteers, who made decisions about how to make the location more accessible to all youth in the surrounding areas, particularly the most vulnerable. 

UNFPA first assisted the young people in renovating two rooms for peace-building activities in 2018. With help from Canada, the Anbar Governor, and the United Iraqi Medical Society for Relief and Development (UIMS), UNFPA completed the renovation of the Youth Safe Space as local demand for youth services grew. 

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