NEW YORK - March 8 - In recognition of International Women’s Day, and in the context of persistent sectarian violence in Iraq, MADRE, an international women’s human rights organization, calls upon the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) to address the severe escalation of violence against women in Iraq.
In its bimonthly Human Rights Report covering the period of November 1 to December 31, 2005, UNAMI, while correctly describing a trend of “major human rights violations” during the period under review, failed to mention the prevalence in violence against women in Iraq. Yet MADRE and women’s human rights advocates in Iraq have documented a pattern of grave and increasing violence against women in Iraq since the US invasion in March 2003. Moreover, these violations of women’s human rights are occurring not only within the family, but within the very spheres addressed in UNAMI’s report, namely, through attacks by armed groups, violent crime, arbitrary arrests, and mistreatment of detainees.
In a recent letter to the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, MADRE wrote: “We commend the reconstruction activities of UNAMI’s Human Rights Office, including efforts to strengthen Iraqi human rights institutions, build the capacity of civil society organizations, and promote a culture of human rights in Iraq. Yet, in order for these efforts to bear fruit, they must address the gender-based human rights violations that threaten more than half of Iraq’s population.”
In order to sufficiently address the precipitous spike in “honor killings” and numerous other forms of gender-based violence since the US invasion, MADRE calls upon UNAMI to incorporate gender training into its proposed professional development trainings for the Iraqi Ministries of Interior (for police officers), Justice (for members of the judiciary), and Health (for health workers). MADRE also urges UNAMI to seek the expertise of the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, and in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur, devote an upcoming Human Rights Report to the issue of gender-based violence in Iraq.
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Yifat Susskind, MADRE’s Communications Director, was born and raised in Israel and was active in the Israeli women's peace movement for several years before joining MADRE in 1997. Her critical analysis of US foreign policy and women's human rights in the Middle East and other parts of the world has appeared in online and print publications such as TomPaine.com, Foreign Policy in Focus, and The W Effect: Bush's War on Women, published by the Feminist Press in 2004. Ms. Susskind has also been featured as a commentator on CNN, National Public Radio, and BBC Radio. She is the author of a book on US foreign policy and women’s human rights and a report on violence against women in Iraq, both forthcoming.