Statement Of Solidarity With The Women Of Iraq
The Association of Middle East Women's Studies (AMEWS) would like to express its solidarity with the people of Iraq who have suffered from dictatorship, economic sanctions, an invasion and occupation, years of militarization, and a new authoritarian government. The most recent suffering by Iraqis, caused by Islamic State (IS) forces, is so far mainly affecting religious minorities.
Iraqi Christians have been systematically targeted by Islamist extremists since 2003, but the attack by IS is unprecedented and has meant that most Christians felt forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in the KRG-controlled area. Yezidis have been protected in recent years by the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) and its peshmerga forces, but their retreat before IS leaves the Yezidis exposed to forced conversion or death, and their sacred shines subject to certain destruction.
The Yezidi religion is an offshoot of ancient Iranian beliefs, with later Islamic and Christian influences. Once widespread across the region, they now flourish only in Sinjar and Sheikhan where their holiest site of Lalesh is located. Yezidis have long lived in harmony with their neighbours, but for IS they are not â€˜People of the Book;' they are sometimes considered to be 'devil-worshippers' and thus have been singled out for particularly violent oppression and murder.
Given our remit as the Association of Middle East Women's Studies, we are particularly concerned about reports of rapes, forced marriages and forced captivity of several hundred Yazidi women by IS. Given IS' and other Islamist extremist track records, both Sunni and Shi'a, we know that women suffer in gender-specific ways from their control: strict regulation of mobility and dress code often go side by side with forced marriages, forced prostitution and gender-based violence.
We call on the UN, on the US government, all policymakers, and on all concerned NGOs, to take all possible measures to assure the survival of the Yezidi and Christian communities in their ancient homelands, and to channel all possible humanitarian aid to the KRG and relevant NGOs. We call on the Iraqi politicians to establish unity government to protect religious and ethnic minorities as well as women who are all particularly vulnerable to the invasion by IS.
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