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Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq Prevails, Winning Year-long Court Battle

OWFI members celebrating their recent win.

Earlier this year, the Iraqi government filed a lawsuit to dissolve the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), a longtime MADRE partner protecting human rights and providing crucial support for women escaping violence and discrimination. But OWFI has prevailed! After a long legal attack, launched in retaliation for OWFI’s brave truth-telling and life-saving work, this week a judge dismissed all claims against OWFI. 

The charges brought against OWFI sought to strip their legal right to operate as an organization and threaten essential protections they've provided, including through a nationwide network of shelters for women. This victory is a repudiation of the government’s attempts to curtail civil rights and is a testament to OWFI’s vital work. 

In January 2020, the government began the lawsuit as a politically-motivated attack against OWFI’s support of popular, pro-democracy uprisings and their work providing shelter for domestic violence survivors. MADRE provided legal strategy support to OWFI and continues to advocate for legal recognition of their work. 

MADRE’s team of legal experts helped support OWFI through this long and winding legal battle, demonstrating our steadfast support for our partners through thick and thin. You can read MADRE’s amicus brief in support of OWFI here. (The Arabic and Word versions of this brief are available upon request. Please contact

As MADRE reported in the past, the Iraqi government has never fully recognized a core element of OWFI’s work — their lifesaving network of shelters — choosing instead to harass and threaten them for years in retaliation for providing this much-needed service.

This need for shelters became even more apparent in the time of the ISIS occupation when fighters targeted women with rape and sexual slavery, and people in danger had few places to turn. OWFI stepped up in this time of desperate need, mobilizing to provide care, counseling, and shelter for survivors of ISIS violence. For this, they continue to be recognized and commended by local judges and authorities across the country for their essential work — the same work that their government attacked.

OWFI has also spoken out courageously, on the airwaves of their human rights radio station and as part of the months-long popular uprising, for a more just society, for democracy, and for an end to corruption.

MADRE will continue to stand in solidarity with the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq and confront any future attempts to undermine their work. We are glad that the case has been dismissed, and as a vital champion of human rights and democracy in Iraq and around the world, we look forward to continuing to support OWFI’s lifesaving work.