Humanitarian actors highlight women’s role in recovery and peacebuilding in Iraq
On 19 September, the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Iraq to the United Nations in Geneva, human rights activists and UN Women participated in a side event of the 36th Human Rights Council, where they discussed the “Impact of Terrorism on the Rights of Women”.
The panellists at the event, organized by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Iraq, included Iraq's Permanent Representative, Ambassador Mu'ayad Salih; the Chief of Crisis Preparedness, Prevention and Response at UN Women Geneva, Hiba Qasas; the Iraqi human rights activist, Waleed Al-Hilli; the Deputy Director of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Geneva, Rudolf Müller; and human rights activist and head of office for Empowering Women at the AI Kho’s Foundation, Maha Ridha. The panel highlighted the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and the importance of women in peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts.
Noting that women are a strong constituency to counter and prevent extremism and radicalization, Ms. Qasas said: “Enhancing women’s participation and leadership in counter-terrorism in response to crisis and prevention efforts is inherent to a whole-of-society approach and key to effectiveness of both crisis and prevention efforts.”
Giving an overview of the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and the Iraqi Government’s measures to address the needs of the population, Ambassador Salih thanked the important work of the United Nations.
“By being responsible for rape, human trafficking and sexual slavery, these violent extremist groups violate human rights,” stressed human rights activist Waleed Al-Hilli, and elaborated on the significant role of the Government in the fight against ISIS.
Ms. Ridha, from the Al Kho’s Foundation, informed the participants about the current situation of Iraqi women and children from a human rights perspective: “Around the world, and not only in Iraq, women are used as objects to fight in conflicts. It is vital for the international community, the United Nations and the Human Rights Council to support these women and prepare the future of the children born in conflicts.”
Describing the humanitarian situation in Iraq more broadly, Mr. Müller (OCHA) explained that while international efforts have helped 2.2 million Iraqi civilians return home, the surge in violence between armed groups and government forces in Iraq has resulted in more than 3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) across Iraq and has left more than 11 million in need of humanitarian assistance. He urged the international community to maintain its support for Iraq by contributing to recovery and rebuilding efforts and warned that a drop in support now would jeopardize hard-won gains.
Ms. Qasas concluded the event by emphasizing the crucial role of women in humanitarian crisis, reconciliation and peacebuilding efforts. “While women can be victims and their rights are violated and compromised, they are also a strong constituency to counter and prevent extremism and radicalization,” she said. “Engaging women is not only a rights issue; it makes for better stabilization and lasting peace.”
UN Women works around the world with humanitarian actors to ensure that crisis response and prevention fully integrate gender equality and women’s empowerment. Learn more about UN Women’s humanitarian work.