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Report on Human Rights Violations against Women and Girls in Iraq

Together with the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) MADRE submitted a report on human rights violations against women and girls in Iraq to the U.N. Human Rights Committee for its consideration prior to the review of the Government’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) during its upcoming 134th session (28 February – 25 March 2022) and in response to Iraq’s replies to the Committee’s List of Issues.

The report describes persistent human rights violations in Iraq and the Government's failure to implement the Human Rights Committee's prior recommendations to address them. It also provides suggested recommendations for the Government of Iraq.

In 2019 and 2020 Iraqi civil society engaged in peaceful demonstrations, calling on the Government to end corruption and unemployment. In defiance of patriarchal gender norms, women joined the demonstrations to demand rights and equality. They faced significant repression and violence, while suffering additional public reprobation from key religious leadership for breaking with traditional gender norms. To date, not a single person who committed crimes against women involved in the protests has been held accountable, and women human rights defenders continue to be targeted. Moreover, domestic violence continues to be on the rise in Iraq, with an alarmingly steep increase in 2020 and 2021. To date, the Government of Iraq has failed in its obligation under the ICCPR to take proper measures to protect and promote the rights of victims of torture, “honor killings,” or other forms of domestic violence in need of shelter.

Additionally, ISIL fighters have not been prosecuted for sexual and gender-based crimes committed in Iraq. Women and girl survivors of ISIL’s gender-based crimes remain vulnerable to discrimination and social stigma because of their perceived ties to ISIL.

Iraq is at a fragile crossroads, making it more important than ever that the international community support Iraqi civil society’s efforts to protect human rights. Women are key actors in efforts to avert conflict and build just societies, and their meaningful participation is linked to recognition of their basic human rights, including the right to be free from gender-based violence.

Key recommendations the Government of Iraq include the following:

  1. Pass the draft Family Violence Protection Law, including the provision permitting privately run shelters. The law would set a historical precedent providing recognition of victims and holding abusers accountable for attempted ‘honor’ crimes and other forms of domestic violence. It is currently pending in the Iraqi parliament.
  2. Provide adequate protection to Iraqi NGOs providing shelter. Women’s organizations not only provide shelter for the most vulnerable; they also act as first responders, providing much-needed aid and peer-to-peer support – without the sectarian strings often attached to religious groups and associations.
  3. Conduct prompt, impartial, and thorough investigations into attacks against women human rights defenders, including attacks against women human rights defenders that participated in protests, and hold perpetrators accountable.
  4. Ensure that the Yazidi Female Survivors Law is promptly and effectively implemented, and that all women victims of ISIL be given effective access to justice and reparation.
  5. Adopt the draft Law on the Protection of the Rights of Religious and Ethnic Minority Groups and the Draft Law on the Protection of Diversity and Prohibition of Discrimination, which aim to eliminate discrimination based on race, color, sex language, religion, political or other opinion, nation, or social origin.

Read the Report.

Read MADRE’s previous submission to the Committee.

A second report, focusing on violations of the civil and political rights of the LGBTI community in Iraq, was submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Committee. Due to security concerns, the report will not be made public. It is however available upon request.

February 15, 2022