Iraq is experiencing one of the largest internal population displacements in the world and the recent surge in sectarian violence threatens to unleash a wave of new violence against women and girls.
Since the beginning of 2014, the UN estimates as many as 1.2 million people have been uprooted due to fighting between militants from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS), local Sunni tribes, Shia militias and the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).
According to the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), more than 7,000 people were killed in the last six months and more than 13,000 injured. In the month of June alone, UNAMI recorded 2,417 deaths and 2,287 injuries. This is the highest month of casualty rate since 2007, the peak of Iraq’s sectarian civil war in the aftermath of the 2003 US-led invasion.
Shortly after the conquest of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, ISIS militants armed with assault rifles went door to door taking “women who are not owned” for Jihad Al-Nikad, or sex jihad. In just one week (Jun 9 – 12), women’s rights activists documented 13 cases of women who were kidnapped and raped by the militants who also forced men to watch the rape of their wives, daughters and sisters. Of the 13 women, four of them committed suicide out of shame; one woman’s brother even committed suicide because he could not bear the guilt of his inability to protect his sister.
Before the conflicts, it was already difficult being a woman in Iraq, but the current wave of conflicts threatens to make life even worse for them. UN Population Fund (UNFPA) warned at the beginning of this month that an estimated 20,000 women and girls in Iraq are at an increased risk of sexual violence as a result of the mounting crisis in the north and west. It also raised public attention that the violence in northern Iraq in the past month has displaced approximately one million people, in which there are 250,000 women and girls, and including nearly 60, 000 pregnant women, are all in need of urgent health care and protection.
Women and girls have often been the center of sexual and gender-based violence amidst conflicts around the world. Let us pray for the displaced people of Iraq, especially for women and girls who are most vulnerable amidst conflicts. [IPS, UN]
Meditation on Scriptures:
‘You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
You encourage them, and You listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that mere earthly mortals will never again strike terror.’ (Psalm 10:17-18)
Pray for Iraq that:
- The leaders of the Iraqi government, ISIS and religious sects can actively participate in the settlement of the current conflicts in Iraq.
- The rights of women and girls in Iraq will be protected.
- The required support (esp. funds) in continuing life-saving humanitarian assistance will be met.
- The Christians living in Iraq will not be persecuted amidst the sectarian conflicts.