The ISIS Threat to Women: Tools to Protect Rights and Counter Gender Based Violence in Iraq and Syria

The Presidential Precinct, the Women’s Center and AMAR International hosted a one-day conference in Charlottesville, Virginia on October 27, 2014 to discuss the topic of violence against women in conflict and post-conflict situations in Iraq and Syria. Amid the violence that has proliferated across the region with the ISIS advance, women have been disproportionately affected, and are often specifically targeted for rape, torture and abuse. Furthermore, those who have found themselves within ISIS controlled areas have suffered a huge backward step in their day-to-day fundamental freedoms.

The conference brought together NGO practitioners, academics, representatives from US Government agencies (USAID, State Department, DoD) and international institutions (UNHCR, UNICEF, World Bank) — as well as UVA faculty and students — to discuss the current situation of women in Iraq and Syria, US policy goals and responses, lessons learned and responses for enduring solutions. The AMAR U.S. delegation included the Foundation’s President and the UK Trade Envoy to Iraq, Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, and members of AMAR field staff in Iraq who are providing direct assistance in that region.

Conference outcomes included the production of a lessons learned document, toolkits for practitioners combating violence against women and agreement on future academic research to assess the effectiveness of approaches implemented.

The Situation in Iraq

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 10.43.10 AM“The most terrible atrocities are now being carried our in Iraq. I met a mother, who fled as ISIS gunmen were rounding up groups of people in the streets, and heard that the two girls she left behind in Mosul were captured and have now been sold, presumably as slaves or wives, to ISIS fighters.” – Baroness Nicholson, August 30th, 2014

Baroness Nicholson has recently returned from the front lines of northern and central Iraq where she met dozens of refugees under the care of AMAR staff.  During her visit, she witnessed how the current crisis has disproportionately affected women.

She has since appeared on several news networks to leverage further support, including Al-Jazeera, the BBC and ITV. Her personal account, “Lost daughters and orphaned children: Iraq has become a tragedy everywhere you turn” was featured in the Sunday Telegraph on August 30.