‘Tonight I’m going to die’: the Iraqi women targeted by rapists

, The Guardian, 17 Apr 2018

reports that women suspected of Isis links face sexual violence in IDP camps,
amid claims they are being denied aid
report highlights the plight of thousands of female-headed families left to
fend for themselves after the death of male relatives while fleeing areas
around Mosul. Photograph: Claire Thomas
women suspected of family links to Islamic State extremists
are facing a campaign of sexual violence and exploitation in displacement camps
inside the country, according to a hard-hitting report from Amnesty

accounts of violence, including rape, come amid claims that authorities are
also denying aid to the women, as well as refusing them the opportunity to
return to their homes.
who visited eight camps for internally displaced Iraqis found that sexual
exploitation was occurring in all eight.
The very
people who are supposed to be protecting them are turning into predators

Maalouf, Amnesty
Based on
interviews with 92 women, the Amnesty
highlights the plight of thousands of female-headed families
left to fend for themselves after their male relatives men were killed,
arrested or forcibly disappeared while fleeing areas around Mosul.

In many
cases, the men’s only “crime” detailed in the report was escaping an Isis
stronghold, or having a similar name to those on questionable “wanted lists”,
or working in non-combat roles, such as cooks or drivers.
The most
serious allegations contained in the report relate to rape.
women told researchers they had either witnessed rape or heard the screams of a
woman in a nearby tent who was being raped by armed men, members of the camp
administration, or other camp residents – with claims that women were being
coerced into sexual relationships in exchange for desperately needed cash,
humanitarian aid and protection from other men.
20-year-old woman, Dana, said she had survived several rape attempts and was
facing relentless pressure to have sex with a member of the security forces in
her camp. “Because they consider me the same as an Isis fighter, they will rape
me and return me,” she said.
“They want
to show everyone what they can do to me – to take away my honour. I can’t feel
comfortable in my tent. I just want a door to lock and walls around me. Each
night, I say to myself, ‘Tonight is the night I’m going to die.’”
Many of
the women interviewed by Amnesty in IDP camps expressed fears for their safety.
Maalouf, the organisation’s Middle East research director, said: “Women are
being subjected to dehumanising and discriminatory treatment by armed men
operating in the camps for their alleged affiliation with Isis.
“The very
people who are supposed to be protecting them are turning into predators.
Iraqi government must show it is serious about ending the violations against
these women by holding all perpetrators to account and stopping all armed men
from entering the camps.”
threat of sexual violence comes on top of evidence of other forms of abuse and
discrimination aimed at the women, including the refusal of tribal elders to
allow them to return to their home towns and villages.
Those who
do manage to return have experienced eviction, forced displacement, looting,
threats and abuse, including sexual abuse and harassment, in some instances,
seeing their houses defaced with the word “Daeshi” (or Isis) and having their
electricity, water and other services cut off.
I ask myself: why didn’t I just die in an airstrike?” said Maha, another woman
interviewed for the report. “I attempted to commit suicide but I didn’t follow
through. I put kerosene on myself, but before I set it on fire, I thought of my
“I feel I
am at my end. I am in a prison here. I am completely alone – without my
husband, my father – no one is with me any more.”
situation for women is likely to get even worse as international funding for
the humanitarian crisis in Iraq
is projected to decrease sharply. Before Iraq’s parliamentary elections in May,
displaced people are being urged to leave IDP camps as the government’s focus
turns to closing and consolidating them.
added: “The authorities must also immediately end the systematic and widespread
practice of forcibly disappearing men and boys with perceived ties to Isis,
which has has left thousands of wives, mothers, daughters and sons in desperate
“To put
an end to the poisonous cycle of marginalisation and communal violence that has
plagued Iraq for decades, the Iraqi government and international community must
commit to upholding the rights of all Iraqis without discrimination. Without
this, there can be no national reconciliation or lasting peace.”