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On May 18, Ms. Dhefaf Al-Jarahi, Country Manager of The Iraq Foundation, visited Al-Jadaa Camp in Qayyara District, Nenawa Province. In the context of the Foundation’s project “Empowering Returnee Women”,  she oversaw the training of returnee and IDP women leaders from Nenawa and joined the women and their families before and after the workshop.

The project, funded by the German Government, aims to build the capacities of returnee and IDP women in Nenawa, Anbar, and Salaheddin provinces, to become spokespersons and advocates for their communities. The training included women selected at previous workshops held in March and April for returning and IDP women, especially those with dependents. The workshops addressed 200 women, including 100 women from the Qayyara District center and 100 from Al-Jadaa. Through the discussion sessions, 24 women were selected based on their demonstrated potential and wish to become leaders and “ambassadors” for their communities.

On May 14-15, the first workshop was held in the Directorate of Education in Qayyara District center, and focused on communication skills, advocacy and advocacy strategy, negotiation skills, leadership skills and enhanced training with practical exercises. On May 17-18, the second workshop was held at the Eastern School of Akrabeh for the women leaders of the Al-Jadaa area.

Al-Jarahi held extensive conversations with the women to understand their needs and aspirations, and praised the high level of leadership and willingness of the women and their strong drive to improve their lives and the lives of their communities.

 

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Iraq Foundation is deeply concerned by the Human Rights Watch report that over 300 displaced families have been forced out of camps by the Iraqi army and other security forces to return to west Mosul. While IF understands the crowded conditions in camps and the need to accommodate more recently displaced persons from high-risk areas, no family should be removed from a camp against their will. In addition, these individuals are being sent to highly volatile areas in close proximity to the front lines. They are largely food insecure, do not have access to clean water, and have no economic opportunity to return to.

IF urges that the proper steps be taken by camp personnel and the international community to ensure safe shelter for all displaced persons. When returnees do go home, it must be to safe, secure areas with readily available water, food, and medical assistance. The sheer proximity of these newly-returned families to hazardous neighborhoods still threatened by Da’esh will only prolong the humanitarian efforts needed to rebuild Mosul.

DSC_0038IF has conducted multiple forums with Female Head of Households (FHH) in 5 recently liberated areas within the provinces of Anbar, Nenawa and Salaheddin. During these meetings, women volunteered to become leaders for their communities. These women will receive training to serve as advocates for their families and other women, and will work with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to relay information from Community Police Fora.

The empowerment of these women is essential to better facilitate stabilization in areas of return and enhance the safety and security of their neighbors. Empowering Returnee Women (ERW) project works with local authorities to assist this rebuilding process and create a platform that allows women to convey the most pressing needs facing their communities.

Next, the women will receive training on communication skills, advocacy strategies, negotiation skills, and networking skills. The exercises will strengthen the women’s capacity to act as advocates and ability to operate communications technology such as phone apps to assist in the disbursement of information.

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Within the wide breadth of destruction left in the wake of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Da’esh), the group’s agenda of eliminating cultural heritage struck a particular nerve for those watching the horrors unfold around the globe. While Da’esh’s horrific treatment of Iraqis and Syrians is not to be understated, the organization’s active decision to cleanse Iraq of its diverse, multifaceted, and irreplaceable artifacts of cultural history flies in the face of human decency and a collective sense of progress; we gage the advancements of our collective human society by understanding our origins and beginnings. In a more formalized sense, these acts also violate UNESCO’s Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, and our codified international understandings of historical preservation.

In the shadow of Da’esh and its upcoming inevitable defeat in Mosul, however, members of the global artistic community have sought to preserve, recreate, and re-engineer elements of the Tigris River Valley’s millennia-old artistic tradition.

Last month in London, Michael Rakowitz unveiled his vision inspired by the destruction of Ninawa in the form of his new piece, entitled “The Invisible Enemy Should not Exist.” The artwork, a sculpture of the winged bull Lamassu, is a recreation of a sculpture that “stood at the Nergal Gate of Nineveh from 700BC until it was destroyed by the extremist group in Mosul’s museum.” Its recreation, however, is in many ways a somber reflection of a legacy that can never be recovered – Rakowitz’s statue will be made from dated syrup tin cans instead of the original’s marble to demonstrate Iraq’s industry having been “destroyed, like the bull, by war.”

Despite this somber overtone, not all artists subscribe to such a macabre perspective. Nino Thabet, an 18 year old Iraqi artist who studied art at Mosul University, recently started to craft miniature replicas of statues destroyed by Da’esh, such as Lamassu, in nearby Erbil. Thabet is not so naive as to suggest that his art makes up for the “antiquities of [his] country, a civilization that is thousands of years old,” but states that his art sends a global message that “we want to rebuild our civilization and continue to grow artistically.”

Across the Atlantic, Samar Abdulrahman, a refugee settled in Kennewick, Washington, finds a personal connection to her family and Iraqi heritage through art. Separated from her brother, Omar, who is also an artist, Abdulrahman paints pictures that connect her new life in the United States with imagery of the Baghdad of her childhood, and in turn, with her brother who still resides there. Her paintings are reflective of both the beautiful country she was raised in, and of the promise of family reunification and a future that is “happy and safe.”

While the artwork of Rakowitz, Thabet, and Abdulrahman reflect differing viewpoints and memories of recent Iraqi history, they more importantly echo the endurance of Iraq’s artistic and cultural legacy, one that extends beyond antiquity and into an infinite, as-of-yet-unwritten future. In this continuing heritage, it reaffirms the urgency of protecting and preserving Iraq’s cultural record, one that is still under threat of extinction, while we, as a global community, still have the opportunity. Their artistry is a testament to the influence of an Iraqi cultural legacy that resonates the world over, reverberating outwards from the headlines we read, the art we preserve, and the stories its refugees tell.

 

By Connor McInerney

Restricting journalism and freedom of the press deprives people from their most important resource: knowledge. When the public is unable to access valuable information, it obstructs their ability to learn and weakens nations as a whole. It is in the interest of all leaders and governments around the world to ensure an entirely free press in order to ensure future prosperity. When the press is respected, democracy flourishes. When governments are transparent, their populations thrive.

Iraq has proven to be an extremely hostile ground for journalists. Freedom of information is restricted, and the very lives of journalists themselves are constantly threatened. Iraq suffered one of the highest death tolls in 2016 with 11 journalists losing their lives according to the International News Safety Institute. To make matters worse, those responsible for such attacks have rarely been brought to justice. Journalists take great risks to tell the stories that make our world, and we owe it to them to protect their efforts with the utmost respect. The Iraq Foundation urges the international community and governments everywhere, not just in Iraq, to do all they can to protect these most sacred liberties and the individuals who devote their lives to a cause greater than themselves.

 

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Iraq Foundation wishes Yazidis everywhere peace and prosperity during the beautiful celebration of Sere Sal to mark the new year. This joyous occasion is testament to the relentless spirit of the Yazidi faith and communities all over the world.

Sadly, countless Yazidi women, children and men are deprived of this celebration as so many remain missing, captive, or have perished in the atrocious acts of Da’esh. The suffering they have endured will not be forgotten. We stand in solidarity with all Yazidis and look to the future in hopes that this year and all that follow will usher in a new era of peace.

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IF is proud to commemorate 12 years of hard work by our Iraq Country Manager in Baghdad,Dhefaf Al-Jarahi.Dhefaf has been with the Foundation since 2005 and has been a leading force behind our programs on the ground in Iraq ever since. Her passion for her work is apparent every day and is a true embodiment of the mission of IF to create a better future for the people of Iraq. IF wishes her nothing but further successes and achievements down the line.

 

 

Dr. Saniha Amin Zaki, a leading Iraqi physician, passed away last week. She was born in 1920 in Baghdad to an Iraqi family of Arab, Kurd and Turkman heritage.

She was a pioneer in medicine and the second Iraqi woman to enter medical school. After the establishment of the Iraqi government in the year 1921, Iraq underwent rapid change, embracing education, modernization, and ambitious concepts of personal freedom and the advancement of women. Many Iraqi women followed Dr. Saniha’s lead in mid-century, attending university and graduating as doctors, lawyers, and architects.

In 1943 Dr. Saniha graduated from the School of Medicine in Baghdad University. She earned a Master’s degree in Medicine from the University of London in 1965 and was Professor of Pharmacology in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Baghdad.

She was a believer in education for women, and the right of women to professional and personal self-fulfillment. She stands as a noteworthy role model for women in Iraq today, who in a reversal of decades of progress, endure discrimination, exclusion and gender-motivated violence unlike anything seen in previous eras.

Open letter to Mr. António GuterresUnited Nations SecretaryGeneral

Letter from a group of Women Civil Society Organisations in MENA

Dear Mr. Secretary-General,

We congratulate you on your appointment as Secretary-General of our United Nations and, recalling your swearing-in ceremony where you called on leaders to listen to the needs of their people in the interest of the global stability upon which we all depend, we call on you to heed the recommendations set out herein in your mission to serve our common humanity.

As women activists from the Middle East and North Africa, we have witnessed the important role women are playing in bringing about positive change in the region, often at considerable personal risk to themselves and their family. Following a 10- year campaign by women’s organizations in Yemen, the Yemeni National Dialogue fixed the age of consent to marriage at 18 years for both sexes in the draft constitution. Meanwhile in Morocco we drafted legislation to combat people trafficking, working in alliance with parliamentary blocs to ensure the draft was considered and approved. From Libya through to Iraq, women have provided essential medical, legal, psychosocial and financial support to victims of war and conflict – often without prior experience of rights-based community activism.

Despite these gains however, women in the region continue to face grave threats. We refer first, to the deepening of violence perpetrated against women before, during and after conflict. Women are increasingly impacted by the spread of small and light weapons, Similarly, the extensive use of explosive weapons in highly populated areas, and the systematic destruction of infrastructure and health facilities affected women in Syria and Yemen gravely and disproportionately. Conflict-affected countries have also experienced steep rises in people trafficking, principally women and girls, who are often forced into domestic and sex work and slavery. In Palestine, women are at the receiving end of increased domestic and other forms of social violence associated with the effects of a protracted military occupation. Similarly in Egypt, incidences of sexual harassment and assault on women have multiplied exponentially since 2011.

Second, the failure of mechanisms to support meaningful participation of women activists and women’s organizations in political processes both at the domestic and international levels means that women’s experiences and perspectives have been largely absent from dialogue and decision making to resolve conflicts. In Syria, we have been unable to influence negotiating parties to agree to a 30 per cent quota for women’s representation, whilst in Yemen the participation of women in UN- sponsored peace last summer was abysmal with two (2) women representing the government, one (1) woman representing the General People’s Congress, and zero (0) women representing the Houthis.

Third, the increasingly repressive measures against civil society, including restrictions on NGO registration, scope of work and funding, as well as freedom of movement through the imposition of travel bans on activists by individual regimes and more recently by the USA, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, against seven Muslim-majority countries, mostly in the MENA region, represent attempts to silence the rarely heard voices of civil and political activists working to secure and safeguard human rights and equality for all in the face of extreme adversity. Ultra conservative and reactionary elements in political currents across the MENA region, and globally, have made advocacy on women’s rights issues near impossible, with women human rights defenders becoming victims of murder and enforced disappearance.

You will be aware that popular feeling towards the United Nations throughout the Middle East and North Africa is one characterised by a lack of faith in the Organisation’s ability to implement its mandate in line with the principles of the Charter. You will know that this is because the Security Council has repeatedly been unwilling to responsibly discuss the situation in numerous countries of the region, including Syria and Palestine, let alone enforce its own resolutions. You will know that trust has been lost because of the actions of some UN agencies, funds and programmes in the region.

But you may not know that our trust has also been lost because of the lack of action on the part of some UN envoys and mediators in the region to implement Security Council resolutions and other provisions of international law which call for the meaningful inclusion of women in their delegations and negotiating parties. Indeed, some envoys have publicly questioned the relevance of CEDAW in the region.

We welcome your acknowledgement of the shortcomings of the United Nations today and your commitment to reform the way it works. As part of your road map to advance women’s rights and set the UN back on track as an Organization that works for the common interests of our shared humanity, we set out below 10 points which we urge you to consider:

  1. Include the candidate’s track record in advancing women’s rights as a central criteria in making senior appointments, including envoys, mediators and representatives, as well as the head of the departments of Political Affairs and Peacekeeping Operations. Such appointments should also be gender- balanced and culturally diverse.
  2. Ensure that senior staff, including envoys and mediators to conflict countries in the MENA region, as well as representatives and heads of the departments of Political Affairs and Peacekeeping Operations, comply with international law. In particular, Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and its associated resolutions, and CEDAW, including through robustly advocating with negotiating parties to meaningfully include women in their delegations, including through quotas, and to integrate women’s experiences, rights and perspectives through the work of the delegations.
  3. Ensure sustained, high level gender expertise to the UN Secretary General including through an ongoing Senior Gender Advisor to the Executive Office of the Secretary General with core support and a high level of influence, in order to ensure that women’s rights and gender issues are integrated across all analysis, planning, policies and activities.
  4. Strongly encourage the Security Council to integrate women’s rights and gender throughout its work, including by reporting on the 2015 Global Study on Women, Peace and Security in thematic and country-level work both in and outside of New York.
  5. Ensure reliable, accessible, and flexible UN funding to women’s organizations and efforts in support of women’s rights at the grassroots level is prioritised and increased by advocating for other multilateral and bilateral donors to increase their support; encouraging substantial increase in development assistance allocated to women-led civil society for gender equality (CRS code 15170); calling for strengthening of civil society-inclusive UN funds (such as the Global Acceleration Instrument, Peacebuilding Fund WPS Initiative); developing strategies to enhance participation of women led civil society in donor conferences, and; calling for the lifting of restrictions on the work of women’s organisations and human rights defenders due to domestic ‘counter-terrorism measures’, in Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Lebanon especially.
  6. Take concrete actions to address the shrinking civil society space in the MENA region as well as the systematic targeting of women human rights defenders.
  7. Ensure that UN Women works collaboratively with and in support of women’s grassroots associations, including by adequately investing in gender and peace budgets of UN Women, DPA, DPKO and other entities; providing training and support and; ensuring monitoring and accountability mechanisms to evaluate such initiatives that enable women to contribute to cycles of learning and improvement for peace.
  8. Condemn the proliferation of explosives, small firearms and light weapons in the region, which have immediate and long-lasting effects that include the destruction of civilian infrastructure and increased gender based violence.
  9. Strengthen UN support for fragile and conflict affected states to realise the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 5 and 16 on gender equality and peace. This should include: addressing gender equality and peace data gaps including on arms transfers, which directly impact gender based violence (SDG 16.4); taking action to increase the number of UN funds that include civil society in the leadership and financial allocation of the funds (such as with the Global Acceleration Instrument); building mechanisms with international financial institutions to strengthen women’s meaningful inclusion, and evaluating and improving the impact on women’s human rights in conflict settings of IFIs in post-conflict reconstruction.
  10. Establish a women’s civil society board to regularly advise him and his team on issues relating to the advancement of women’s rights. This board should be comprised of representatives of women’s organizations, including youth movements, from across the globe as well as New York-based organizations.
  11. The Secretary-General should report yearly to the General Assembly on progress made on (i) the integration of women’s rights and gender issues across the three pillars of the Organization, human rights, peace and security and development and (i) your commitment to reach gender parity across the Secretariat, and Agencies, Funds and Programmes.

We stand ready to work together to move from a culture of fear of one another to trust in each other, and to work with you, Secretary-General, to build a world defined by the values enshrined in the UN Charter, and to restore trust in the United Nations.

Yours, in respect and solidarity,

ABAAD – Resource Centre for Gender Equality – Lebanon

Adaleh for Rights and Freedoms – Yemen

Appropriate Communication Techniques for Development – Egypt

ASUDA – Kurdistan Region, Iraq

Atwar for Research and Community Development – Libya

Awan Organization – Iraq

Badael – Syria

Baghdad Women Association – Iraq

Basmat for Development – Syria

Bihar Relief Organisation – Syria

Dawlaty – Syria

Fondation NISSA pour la Culture et la Démocratie – Tunisia

House of Ideas – Yemen

Iraqi 1325 Network – Iraq

Iraq Foundation – Iraq

Kesh Malek – Syria

Musawa-Women’s Studies Center for Equality – Syria

Palestinian Women Development Society – Palestine

Sawa for Development and Aid – Lebanon

Sawa Foundation – UK

Sisters’ Arab Forum for Human Rights (SAF) – Yemen

Syrian Female Journalists Network – Syria

Syrian Feminist Lobby – Syria

Syrian League for Citizenship – Syria

Syrian Women League – Syria

To Be for Rights and Freedoms – Yemen

Together We Build it – Libya

Union for Women’s Action – Morocco

Urnammu – Syria

Woman Leadership Institute – Iraq

Women Now for Development – Syria

Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counselling – Palestine

1325 Network – Libya

Arabic Version: http://wilpf.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/SG-Letter-30.03.2017-Ar.pdf

March 8th is a day to honor the achievements and contributions to society by so many inspiring women. It is also to recognize the rampant inequality women undeniably encounter not just in Iraq but around the world. Despite our current capacity as a global society, structural oppression still restricts women from the most basic freedoms and permits unjust persecution in societies rooted in patriarchal norms of the past. While progress has been made for women’s participation as citizens and in government, recent social shifts have threatened these advancements and turned the clock backward on the status of women in society. Far too many women are still denied an education, and face high risks of domestic violence, child marriage, and female genital mutilation. As critical as it is to provide women with the tools they need to prosper, it is equally important as a community to work together to empower them to build a strong, safe, and prosperous society.