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Iraqi Organizer, Yanar Mohammed, Speaks Before the CEDAW Committee in Geneva

Yanar Mohammed, Executive Director and Founder of the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq, speaks before the CEDAW Committee in Geneva.
Yanar Mohammed, Executive Director and Founder of the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq, speaks before the CEDAW Committee in Geneva.

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."

A view of the room where Yanar is speeking. People are seated in a circular fashion. As Yanar speaks, her image is projected onto a screen hovering above a panel.

Click here to read Yanar's testimony (English translation).

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.

Click here to read Yanar's testimony (Arabic).

 

Additional Readings:

Report on Gender-Based Violence and Discrimination against Iraqi Women and Girls

Report on Violence and Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Iraq

November 26, 2019