Iraq: Focus on increasing cases of abused women

According to the Ministry of Public Works and Social Affairs, there has been a significant increase in cases of abuse against women, especially in the capital, Baghdad.
Jamila (not her real name), aged 28, is too afraid to leave her home, in fear that she will be raped again. She says she constantly relives the nightmare she endured three months ago at the hands of an unknown attacker on the streets of Baghdad.
“I’m afraid that if I leave my home someone will attack me again and I feel dirty. I tried to commit suicide but my mother stopped me,” Jamila said.

“It was the worst day in my life and I lost something that I will never get back again – my virginity and dignity,” she said. Jamila has been psychologically scarred and is pregnant with the child of the attacker and will soon to undergo an abortion.

She is just one of hundreds of cases of sexual abuse in the country that have taken place since the US-led invasion in 2003 when thousands of criminals were set free from the prisons, officials say.

Insecurity in Iraq has given criminals an easy environment in which to operate again, locals say. Most of the attacks are on university students, according to the authorities.

“When we say that we want Saddam Hussein back in the government they think that we are insurgents, but the truth is that with him there was security and never a case of rape,” Jamila said.

The current Iraqi government, however, says it will not deal lightly with convicted felons and recently executed three men found guilty of murder and rape on 1 September.


According to the Ministry of Public Works and Social Affairs, there has been a significant increase in cases of abuse against women, especially in the capital, Baghdad.

“Sometimes we are astonished with the number of cases that the local NGOs bring to the ministry or from those who search for direct help from us,” said Khalid Abdel Kadham, a senior official on the Ministry of Public Work and Social Affairs.

Abdel Kadham explained that although there are no accurate statistics available, nearly 400 cases of female rape and 35 cases of men rape have been reported to NGOs since April 2004.

However, Women for Peace, a local women’s NGO, believes that the number could be more than double as many women choose not to report rape or abuse, mainly for cultural reasons.

“Every week we receive at least two cases of women being raped and those who have been sexually abused are running away from their families in fear of honour of killings,” Youssra Ali, a spokesperson for Women for Peace said.

The NGO, in partnership with the authorities is looking to find a solution for the cases and is following up on criminal cases.


One of the biggest problems faced by victims of rape in Iraq is the response from their families to the crime, who often resort to an honour killing. An honour killing is where a female is killed by a relative to protect the honour of the family.

Suraya, (not her real name), aged 21, did not tell anyone that she had been raped, afraid that she would be a victim of an honour killing.

But she had no choice when she found out she was pregnant.

“I told first my mother one month after what happened to me and after I discovered that I was pregnant. My mother gave me three hours to run away afraid that my father was going to kill me even though I was the victim, so I searched for the NGO, it helped me and I am in a safe place now,” Suraya said.

Some victims’ destiny is much worse than hers.

“My sister was killed by my father when she returned home from college one day and told him that she had been raped by another man. My father pressed her neck on the ground and strangled her to death and hit her head with a piece of wood,” said Mona (not her real name), the sister of a victim of rape and honour killing.

Today Mona has also left her home in fear of her father and is in a safe house.

“I cannot live with a monster in my home that killed his own daughter,” she maintained.

The father has been taken to court for the death of his daughter, but with a high possibility of not being found guilty because according to the notion of honour killings, he was only maintaining the honour of the family, Mona’s lawyer said.

At present under the law anyone who commits murder or rape faces the death penalty.


The Ministry of Interior says it is doing all in its power to provide a safe environment for its citizens.

“We have been taking drastic measures to guarantee that Iraqi people will soon live in peace and security, but for that we need the people to understand that the problem should be considered as a whole,” said Col. Ala’a Jalil, a senior officer on the Ministry of Interior.

Some 15 criminals have been brought to justice for rape crimes so far in Baghdad, Jalil explained.

Others believe that women need to have active participation in the government in order for proper justice and the safeguarding of women’s rights.

“Women are being raped and sexual abused and instead of the government increasing our power to judge and defend ourselves, they are just decreasing it trying to keep us out of politics and the important sectors of the society,” said Juan Khalaf, a female activist and member of the National League for Women Rights in Iraq.


There are encouraging signs, however, of progress is increasing support for abused women.

The Ministry of Social Affairs is creating partnerships with local NGOs, to have access to cases of rape and sexual abuse in the country, as few people approach the authorities on such issues.

“We have opened special houses to help women who have been raped so they can return to society and live a normal life,” Abdel Kadham said.

Many local NGOs have also started to give lectures on how women can defend themselves with some even offering lessons in karate and judo.

Source: IRIN, 14 Sep 2005