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After Iraq was liberated from ISIS in 2017, work intensified in the province of Al Anbar to protect surviving women and girls. This is what IOWAF’s chairperson, Dr. Nada Al Jubori, talks about at a meeting within Operation 1325’s capacity-building program for women in the Middle East. 

– We want to create hope among exposed women to strengthen them as leaders and create policies that lead to positive change in society to achieve gender equality, says Dr. Nada. 

During the meeting, which was arranged on Zoom, almost 30 women from Iraq, Yemen and Sudan participated. All participants are active for peace in their local areas. The meetings are arranged by Operation 1325 to offer the peacebuilding women a place to exchange experiences and an opportunity to learn from each other. 

Healing from trauma is crucial 

Dr. Nada tells us that the women of Al Anbar province need to heal from the trauma of sexual exploitation committed by ISIS. She believes that it is of great importance to focus on women’s mental illness in order to best reintegrate women into society. 

IOWAF stands for Iraqi Organization for the Women and the Future. They support local civil society organizations with capacity-building training sessions held by psychologists. In Al Anbar, they have also re-established a listening and guidance center for psychological support that is visited by female survivors. 

Dialogue with religious leaders benefited women 

Dr. Nada goes on to say that IOWAF has, among other things, engaged in dialogue with religious leaders, clan leaders and other civil society organizations with the aim of protecting the surviving women who have been prisoners of ISIS in Al Anbar and have been raped. This dialogue was within the framework of an initiative between IOWAF and the Iraqi Sunni Endowment Office, which is a Sunni government fund responsible for the administration of Sunni mosques in Iraq. 

The result of this initiative was the issuance of a legal fatwa, which is an opinion of a jurist in Muslim law. The issue was published in February 2017 with the title “Islamic Sharia position on the rape of women”. This fatwa involved a public acknowledgment by religious leaders that it is forbidden to punish a raped woman or describe her as a sinner or an adulterer. 

Dr. Nada therefore believes that the Al Anbar province has succeeded in safeguarding women’s rights and in including religious leaders in the work.