“Women in Iraq are targeted by extremist groups, the international community must take action”. This is the message launched by RSC Fellow and Senior Advisor Siham Al Jiboury, during the proceedings of the Seminar “Women, Faith & Culture” organized by IFIIE International Foundation for Intercultural and Interreligious Education at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Rome, on November 14, 2018. In her remarks, Al Jiboury – who served as a UN official in humanitarian and peace-keeping missions for over 20 years – denounced “the predicament of Iraqi women, who are facing increasing discrimination and marginalization”. “Their engagement in the civil society and politics is purposely being curbed – she said –, and when courageous women stand out as human rights activists they get killed, as recently occurred in Basra and Baghdad. However, “even the women owning beauty centers are subjected to intimidations and harassment”.
Other signs of the worsening situation for Iraqi women are “the repeated attempts to introduce legislation aimed at legalizing child marriage as of 9 years of age”. According to RSC Advisor, “the pressure of the civil society groups and of the international community managed so far to prevent the final approval of the bill proposals, but new attempts will likely be made in the coming future, and they will succeed if Iraq’s civil society should continue to be disempowered”.
Al Jiboury also focused on the thorny issue of “the so-called women of ISIS”. Human Rights Watchreported about more than 1.400 foreign women and their children being held in prisons or camps by the Iraqi authorities since the liberation of Mosul and other areas from ISIS occupation. “They come from the Middle East, North Africa, as well as Asia and Europe – she explained –, and their role was not only as wives and mothers in the families of the male jihadists, because they also acted as recruiters, fighters, and even suicide bombers”. RSC Advisor argues that “this is a clear indicator of the growing role of women in terrorist organizations, and therefore the states and the international organizations are called to device ad hoc strategies to prevent women indoctrination and radicalization”.