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The Underground Railroad for Iraqi Women

Problem

Since its 2014 invasion of northern Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has made women a target of its extremist agenda. Where ISIS now rules, women have been forbidden to work and go to school. ISIS fighters have raped and kidnapped women into sexual slavery. They have executed women who insist on exercising their basic rights.

Iraqi Mother and Child

Solution

MADRE's local partner is the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI). Together with you, we provide humanitarian aid, shelter and safe passage, including to women survivors of ISIS sexual slavery.

Partner for Social Change
  • We run an underground railroad, an escape network, that saves women in danger. Through a community of local activists, MADRE and OWFI are able to sustain viable safe passage for women and girls fleeing violence and ISIS control.
  • We provide humanitarian aid and shelter. MADRE and OWFI run a women's safe-house and support network for women threatened with sexual slavery and extremist violence. This provides food, care and shelter to women in danger. And we have launched a new rape crisis center in northern Iraq for survivors to receive counseling and shelter. Some are the sole surviving members of their families: the center serves as a new home for them to restart their lives. Many of these young women have never attended school, and are learning to read and write for the first time. They are also receiving job training, learning marketable skills to reduce the risk of forced marriage.
Advocate for Human Rights
  • We call on the international community to confront violations of women's rights by ISIS and other extremists. We are also demanding changes to Iraqi policies that threaten women and girls, including a ban on shelters run by local women's groups.
  • We’re amplifying progressive Iraqis' voices. MADRE supports OWFI's radio station and newspaper in their call for human rights for women, ethnic and religious minorities, and LGBT Iraqis.

 

 

 

 

In the brutal landscape of Iraq’s conflict, vulnerable Iraqis have a place to turn.

Activists like our partners at OWFI are there. This is their country, and they know the lay of the land. When others can’t or won’t help, these women have the knowledge to navigate every obstacle and get aid where it’s needed. We must ensure that people escaping the violence of war have all necessary aid. The best way to do that is to support these local activists.

Yifat Susskind, MADRE Executive Director

Results
  • Threatened women find escape, protection from rape, and friends to lean on.
  • Women who seek refuge in OWFI's shelters receive human rights education and rebuild their lives as empowered activists.
  • Governments create policies that protect women, and empowered citizens demand rights for women, ethnic and religious minorities and LGBT Iraqis.
Jannat Peace Farm

Your Support in Action

Weeks ago, OWFI activated their emergency response network to help Iraqis escaping Mosul. Once families flee, OWFI activists are there, providing desperately needed food, water, medical care and other vital aid. Thanks to the support of MADRE members like you, we're reaching women and families with lifesaving care.

Partner

The Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) is a truly pioneering national women’s organization dedicated to rebuilding Iraq on the basis of secular democracy and human rights for all. 

Issue

Rape used as a weapon of war. Domestic abuse used to enforce submission. Worldwide, women face violence that strips them of power and agency. It devastates those who are targeted and destroys the social fabric of families, communities and societies. But women are stepping up to stop it.

Press and Publications

How You Can Help