As Yanar Mohammed, co-founder and the director of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, attends the Women Stop War conference in The Hague, she describes the current situation in Iraq. “The country is under a prevailing culture of militias, which have the upper hand. … They say, ’It’s either us or ISIS.’” Mohammed says civil society is sandwiched between Shia and Sunni extremists, and argues a secular approach is the only way to resolve the conflict in her country.
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AMY GOODMAN: I also spoke on Sunday with Yanar Mohammed, co-founder and director of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. She came to the Netherlands from her home in Baghdad. I spoke to her on a bus after she had addressed Nobel Women’s Initiative on her way to the WILPF event. I began by asking her to describe the current situation in Iraq.
YANAR MOHAMMED: The country is under something that’s nothing less than a civil war, where the Iraqi government, led by the Islamist Shia parties, is attacking the ISIS-conquered cities, and the massacres are underway, both sides. And we, in the Organization of Women’s Freedom, are trying to get to the women who are escaping the enslavement of ISIS, and opening shelters for them. But in general, the country is under a prevailing culture of militias, which have the upper hand. And nobody can be complaining about it, because whenever we say anything, they say, “But we are the ones who are liberating you from ISIS. It’s either us or ISIS.”
So, the Shia Islamist government is bombarding us with the Shia culture, militia culture first, and then we are afraid that they bring us the laws that we had just stopped last year, the Jaafari law, where they bring legal status to the marriage of nine-year-old girls, daughters. This is a law that we had just stopped in 2014. And now, with the victory of the Shia militias, they might take the opportunity and bring it back on us in Iraq. So, the civil society is doing its best to work against the trafficking of the Yazidi women, to speak out against the oppression of ISIS to people, but we are being sandwiched between a culture of Shia Islamism from the government and Sunni barbaric Islamism from the ISIS. If you are a young person in Iraq, if you are a woman in Iraq, you are totally alienated, because there are massacres left and right, and there is enslavement in the 21st century. And everybody tells you that this is a democratic times that we are living in.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you see as the answer?