Following the ousting of President Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraq has become the scene of devastating war and destruction with only short intervals of relative calmness. The Iraqi people suffer greatly under the ongoing conflict. Girls and women are the victims of extreme violence and abuse. Since the beginning of the conflict, women stand side by side men during protests, oppose extremism and other forms of oppression and play a crucial role in providing support to victims of violence.

Grave human rights violations like attacks on civilians, kidnapping and torture are committed by all armed forces, girls and women are systematically abused. The sectarian and religious discourse in society leaves women vulnerable to religious extremism and legislation contradicting women’s rights. The country finds itself at a new low with the rise of ISIL in 2014. ISIL commits great atrocities, including torture, killing and enslaving people, amounting to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.[1] ISIL enslaves and rapes girls and women, Yazidi and other women of minority groups are specifically targeted. Women living within ISIL controlled territories are subjected to strict ISIS rules – preventing them from participating in public life. Women’s organisations in Iraqi Kurdistan are gaining their efforts to protect the rights of the Yazidis, women in particular, through providing mental health care and involving the government in developing a roadmap for their rehabilitation.

Women’s rights are completely neglected in Iraq. Gender based violence such as domestic violence, rape and honour killings are widely spread. There is an increasing number of girls not attending school and a rise in prostitution, child marriage and polygamy. Women’s organisations are the most important providers of support to victims of violence, such as shelter, counselling and legal support. Women are sidelined in political and peace processes and inequality by law prevails. The new political parties law still does not include a quota. The draft domestic violence law is still not approved by parliament. Women’s organisations inexhaustibly fight for the social, economic and political inclusion of women. It is a milestone for all women’s organisations in Iraq that the National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325 was signed by the Iraqi government in 2014. This is an important step towards the protection and inclusion of women in conflict situations.

[1] U.N, High Commissioner for Human Rights, ISIS may have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide: UN report (March 19, 2015)

Read here more about the latest developments in Iraq