MADRE Articles


Posted on: Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Keywords: Women's Health, Combating Violence Against Women, Peace Building, Iraq, Middle East

Dear Friend of MADRE,

I just spoke with Yanar Mohammed, Director of our partner, the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), and I knew I needed to write to you immediately. Yanar describes a truly desperate situation on the ground in Iraq right now.

  • Years of war have taken the lives of many men. Millions of families are now headed by women. But 90% of women are unemployed, leaving many mothers with no way to feed their families.
  • For women who do have jobs, it’s extremely dangerous to work. Islamist militias, boosted to power by the US occupation, have launched a campaign of targeted assassination against women professionals to prevent them from stepping outside traditional gender roles.
  • No government social safety net exists to support women and families in these desperate times. Whatever safety net did exist was dismantled by the US after the invasion.

Yanar told me truly horrifying stories. Mothers are being forced into choices no mother should ever face simply to feed their children. Extreme measures like selling their organs on the black market and being forced to work as prostitutes have become commonplace.

I’m writing to you and other MADRE friends because I knew right away you’d want the opportunity to help.

OWFI urgently needs funds now to open two additional women’s shelters as soon as they possibly can—bringing the total number of OWFI women’s shelters to seven. Especially urgent at this time is an effort to rescue young, teenaged women who’ve been forced into prostitution. These girls are trapped because they simply have nowhere to go. If their families learn what they are doing, they could be murdered in an “honor killing.”

The new shelters could mean the difference between life and death for dozens of young women. In addition to shelter, OWFI will provide teachers to help these high-school-aged women catch up on their lost schooling. They’ll offer job training and help the young women find safe employment. And most importantly, they’ll provide a safe space where even in these desperate times women can help each other find some hope.

I know it’s difficult to imagine the despair and desolation our sisters in Iraq experience each and every day. It’s even more difficult to know that this suffering has come at the hands of our own government. But we must not turn away from the truth. Here are just a few of the stories Yanar shared with me:

  • Basma lost her husband, 9-year-old son, and brother to mortar fire in 2004. She sold a kidney a few months ago to pay for her 11-year-old son’s school, but Basma doesn’t know what she’ll do the next time tuition is due.
  • Suha is 16 years old. She used to dream of being a doctor. But Suha lost five crucial years of schooling to the war, and with little education and few skills, she feels her only choice is to follow the path of other young women who work as prostitutes.
  • Karima says her three children are the only beauty in her life and her only hope. But to put food on her family’s table, she’s forced to have sex with strangers.

These stories remind us that we must continue to demand that our government end this war in Iraq. But RIGHT THIS MINUTE, there is something you can do to make a real difference for hundreds of women and their families.

Please rush your emergency gift today and help MADRE provide OWFI with the resources to open two new shelters in Baghdad.

Thank you, once again, for everything you do to support MADRE’s efforts worldwide.


With deep appreciation,

Vivian Stromberg
Executive Director

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