Thousands of Iraqi women have experienced horrific traumas in wartime. They have been raped, trafficked and murdered, by violent extremists like ISIS fighters, and face abuse and harassment from their own government.
Victims of such abuses have limited resources and safe spaces. For instance, few government shelters exist, and those that do require a judge’s order to gain access. This leaves many women at risk of violence. Meanwhile, Iraqi law still prevents local organizations from operating their own shelters to meet this need.
The Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), with the support of MADRE, is working to challenge the law that prevents non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from safely sheltering victims of abuse. We are confronting stigmas against these kinds of shelters that threaten our ability to successfully reach those who need help.
In her statement, Yanar explains "Our organization shelters women at the risk of patriarchal violence, trafficking, and forced marriage without conditions that defeat the purpose of protection, while security forces accuse us of kidnapping women, or even running brothels."
The very identities of Iraqi women often depend on gaining permission from the men in their lives. Many women do not have their own form of official identification, and the government refuses to provide it without permission by male relatives or husbands - an impossibility for women escaping abuse. Women are left essentially "stateless," without the means to acquire employment, receive health care, or register children in school - unless sanctioned by a man in their life. Women are not seen as individuals. Young girls are also victimized by policies that allow for forced marriages of girls as young as twelve.
Yanar Mohammed advocates for solutions that protect women and girls from violence; that provide means of support so they may thrive; and that reject the discrimination of Iraqis on the basis of their race and gender.