Photo: Karin Råghall/Kvinna till Kvinna

Why The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation works in Iraq

After a US-led coalition overthrew Saddam Hussein in 2003, the resulting societal instability triggered conservative reactions and a return to more traditional patriarchal views on women’s roles in society and at home.

Conservative forces have attempted to restrict women’s rights 

The Iraqi constitution regards men and women as equals, and there is currently a law regulating family law matters that does not discriminate based on religious affiliation. However, conservative forces in parliament have previously been pushing for a law change to replace these provisions with one that allows each religious community to regulate family law matters. If such a change were to pass, it would, among other things, allow girls as young as nine to be married off. 

Men also have the legal right to “discipline their wives.” In the Iraqi region of Kurdistan, the legislation is better, with a domestic violence law that, for example, prohibits female genital mutilation and forced marriages. In reality, however, there is still a great deal of violence within families even in the Iraqi part of Kurdistan, and cases of underage girls being married off are common, especially in economically disadvantaged families. 

Supporting women forced to flee 

During 2011-2012, fundamentalist/extremist Islamists gained increasing influence in Iraqi society, and in 2014, IS (Islamic State) took over parts of Iraq. Dress codes have since become stricter, and women’s freedom of movement has been further reduced. Ethnic and religious minorities, such as Yazidis, are particularly vulnerable, not least women who have been used as sex slaves by IS and who live under constant threat of sexual abuse and trafficking in refugee camps. 

Several of our Iraqi partner organisations work to support women who have been forced to flee due to violence from IS and other militia groups, and who now live as internally displaced persons. They previously lived in refugee camps, but they were closed in 2021, putting women’s lives at high risk of gender-based violence and poverty. We provide support to individuals from various religious and ethnic groups, including the Christian and Yazidi minorities. 

Published 5 June 2024