January 26, 2015 – Women in Iraq and Syria are the targets of brutal oppression and sexual attacks perpetrated by ISIL. From January 26-28, in Istanbul, Turkey, a landmark event will convene Iraqi and Syrian women's rights advocates working to protect survivors and to document evidence of sexual violence and rape as a weapon of war. As representatives of government and civil society, we join these courageous leaders to support their lifesaving work and as allies determined to end sexual violence in conflict.
In Iraq and in Syria, women's rights activists are organizing against ISIL brutality, offering aid, shelter and care for survivors, and voicing an alternative to ISIL's fundamentalist ideology. Bravely, they mobilize to protect women on the ground while speaking out as human rights defenders calling for international action. Their expertise is indispensable to efforts to confront ISIL and build lasting peace.
Globally, the movement to end sexual violence in conflict has built significant momentum. In June 2014, the UK sponsored the first Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, gathering governments and civil society to forge a new commitment to reduce impunity, enact legal reforms, boost support for survivors, and enhance multilateral cooperation. This summit augmented the commitments made the previous year by 155 countries that endorsed the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.
This week’s landmark gathering of Iraqi and Syrian women’s rights activists and their allies, sponsored by the UK's Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI), continues this momentum. Furthermore, it will highlight grassroots women’s strategies that should be supported by the international community.
Yifat Susskind, Executive Director of MADRE, an international women's human rights organization and a civil society partner of this convening, said today, “The global women's movement has a long history of powerful collaboration, and this week’s gathering is an exemplar of that. We have come together across borders to share our strategies and to steel our resolve to confront threats to women’s lives. MADRE remains committed to support Iraqi and Syrian women’s grassroots organizing and to promote their human rights internationally.”
Madeleine Rees, Secretary General of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), said today, "Each day, Iraqi and Syrian women activists are organizing to defend their human rights against the ISIL threat. Our partners are here to share this experience with each other and with the world, and offering the opportunity for the international community to help sustain their life-saving work."