News from
The Organization of 
Women's Freedom in Iraq
Crisis Update

The situation in Iraq remains desperate. And yet, our plight has been pushed off the front pages by bad news elsewhere. This update is to let you, our allies and supporters, know what the people of Iraq are facing. Please help us be remembered by sharing this information with your networks.
The cruel, misogynistic and backwards culture of ISIS creates a reign of terror in the north and west. Young women are taken from their homes as sex slaves, men are killed, widows and children flee with nothing seeking safety, overwhelming the resources of the places they end up. Recently ISIS expelled all the Christians from Mosul, seizing their property and threatening them with violence. They were respected part of the community with a long history in Mosul. It is a myth that sectarian differences have long divided Iraq. For many decades religious identity was separate from politics and the different groups lived together peacefully.
Sadly, the violent culture of ISIS has brought forth a similarly violent and repressive militia culture in central Iraq. Sectarian hatred and violence is on the rise. The government has all but ceded control to sectarian militias, who commit 
atrocities with impunity. Recently, the Assayeb Al Haq Militia attacked a building in Zayouna complex in Baghdad because it housed a brothel - officials of the Interior Ministry had identified it to them - and committed a mass killing of 28 young women and 3 gay men.
Some days we feel like we have reached the end of our rope; traumatized refugees flood central Iraqi cities seeking shelter from violence, and even the most stalwart long-time activists wonder if it is time to leave for another country. 
But the hundreds of thousands experiencing violence and deprivation cannot leave. And so we get up each day and do everything we can to help them. 

~ Yanar Mohammed, President, OWFI

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Escalating Violence and Dislocation in Iraq: How OWFI is Aiding Women and Children in Desperate Situations

OWFI activists are putting all their energies into helping as many of the dispossessed and displaced as possible. Here are some stories from this ongoing crisis.

Children at the Kerbala Shelter
Children fleeing violence find safety
at OWFI shelter in Kerbala
Children at Our New Kerbala Shelter
Children enjoy the air at our new Kerbala shelter
Residents at the Karbala Shelter
Residents at the Kerbala shelter. These women did not cover themselves like this in their home town. But they are traumatized and weary, and anxious to fit in to this new city, so chose to
in front of a male photographer.

Kerbala, a city to the west of Baghdad, has seen a flood of terrified refugees fleeing from ISIS controlled areas to the north, many of them women and children. As we had committed to doing when we saw the scope of this need, OWFI found and rented a three bedroom house in a safe area, and are housing and supporting three widows and their children there. But the need is great and continues to grow; and we are working to expand our help and rent house. 


You can read more about our intensive work with refugees in Kerbala in last month's newsletter here.


Ruquia and her mother
Ruqaia and her mother


Ruqaia is a baby girl born during the ISIS shelling of Telafar. Her mother, Laila, a Turkomen, walked and travelled for weeks to reach Baghdad and some semblance of safety. We found them malnourished and traumatized, with little more than the clothes on their backs. We are now providing them with food, shelter, medical care, and the support of our caring community of women.


Shia Turkomen widows from Telafar who have fled ISIS violence.
Shia Turkomen widows from Telafar
who have fled ISIS violence

These young widows, refugees from Telafar, told us about more than 25 young women who were taken by force by ISIS into sexual slavery. ISIS' brutality, and the actions of the Kurdish ruling parties, have caused hundreds of thousands of Shia Turkomen people to flee for their lives. 


This group of women and children has found rough lodging in the town of Nahrawan, where OWFI is providing them with humanitarian aid and support. The two women wearing beige vests are OWFI activists.


Yet Still Life Goes On
Haneen and her husband celebrate the birth of their first child.
Haneen and her husband celebrate
the birth of their first child
Despite everything, we want to end on a happy note. Pictured above is Haneen. She had a very difficult childhood and found her way to our shelter a few years ago.

Now, having gotten the support and help she needed and deserved, Haneen has become a strong activist and a skilled radio technician at our Al Mousawat Radio. She is happily married and recently celebrated the birth of her first child, a daughter named Julnar. 


Women in Iraq want the same things as women around the world: the opportunity to get an education, make a living, form a family, and be a part of their community. It is heartbreaking to see so many killed, abused, and forced to flee their homes.


How You Can Help

Don't let the desperate situation in Iraq fall from the world's attention. Help us let the world know what is really happening.

  • Forward this update to friends and colleagues.
  • Share this update with your social media networks using the buttons at the very top under your email address.
  • Donate, if you can, to help us provide more humanitarian assistance to families who have lost everything.
Building Feminist Resistance in Iraq since 2003