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One Year after ISIS Invasion: Women’s Rights Activists Demand Right to Broadcast Lifesaving Information

One year ago today, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) seized control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. One year later, extremist violence has displaced more than 3 million Iraqis, many who have sought refuge in the relative safety of southern Iraq. To better reach those at risk, women’s rights activists call on Iraqi government officials to end the suspension of their human rights radio station.

Last June, Al Mousawaat (meaning “Equality”), a radio station operated by the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), was shut down after a government raid. In a sweeping crackdown triggered by the ISIS invasion and growing sectarian divides, the Communications and Media Commission of Iraq suspended the frequencies of targeted radio stations.

OWFI asserts that they were targeted for their secular, rights-based content. They further stress that the radio station is an integral mechanism to connect at-risk, displaced people to food, secure shelter and other vital support services.

Yanar Mohammed, President of OWFI, said today, "Entire communities have been uprooted, and they need to know they are not alone. Every day, we’re reaching out on social media, through our newspaper and through our activist networks. But when our radio station was live, we could reach millions more with our words of hope."

MADRE, an international women's human rights organization and OWFI’s partner, is collaborating with international media agencies to advocate for the renewal of local radio licenses and the creation of additional frequencies.

Lisa Davis, Esq., MADRE Human Rights Advocacy Director, said today, "The suspension of OWFI’s frequency was discriminatory. What's more, the Communications and Media Commission of Iraq is preventing at-risk Iraqis from accessing information that can potentially save their lives.”