OWFI is now providing shelter and support to by far the largest number of women and children we ever have — 26, some with children. We have responded in every way we are able to the many threats facing Iraqi women right now.
In January, we opened two new shelters. The first, in Kirkuk, provides protection for women from Hawija and other western Iraq cities who have fled ISIS abuses, as described above.
The second is in the southern city of Basrah, where a traditionally misogynistic culture has been strengthened by the growing power of the militias. This shelter offers refuge to victims of sex trafficking who were unjustly imprisoned as prostitutes, and then threatened with honor killing by their own families upon release. UN agencies asked us to help these women, since the government’s so-called shelters will not accept them.
Safe rooms have also been developed in the homes of several strong supporters of OWFI to protect women at risk of honor killing in Mosul itself.
We are especially proud of the leadership role that young, former shelter residents are playing in this new expansion of our sheltering capacity. “Graduates” of OWFI shelters are becoming the front-line feminists of Iraq.