A women’s rehabilitation shelter in Al-Athamiya, Baghdad, suffered a fire that killed six young women and burned and injured other residentson the evening of January 3rd. It was found later that seven young women had filed a complaint against the administration, which was not considered adequately. Official sources announced that the seven young women burned themselves in what amounted to a mass suicide attempt in protest against the management of the governmental rehabilitation shelter.
We found that the bodies of other women, that were not totally burned, had signs of severe beatings. These young women asked the management to bring them back to the prison which they felt was less harmful than the governmental rehabilitation shelter. It is known that this shelter is dedicated to teenage females who have completed their prison sentences and have no family or supporters, and houses displaced women from ages six to twenty-two. They consider girls in the shelter homeless and morally delinquent and they imprison them in the shelter without any possibility of communicating with the outside world. The behavior of the shelter towards young women does not belong to the modern world that recognizes human rights. Evidence from government sources showed that the seven young women had attempted mass suicide and only one woman survived.
The suicides happened because of the women’s depression due to bad treatment that crushed their humanity and made them lose hope of having an acceptable life with improved conditions and respect. Suicide was their scream of protest. The mass suicide by six young women can only be explained by the fact that these women had been subjected to psychological, physical and moral torture. This abuse and sexual exploitation were systematic and impossible to escape from.
OWFI has extensive experience of caring for more than eight hundred women fleeing from domestic violence, death threats and exploitation. OWFI works to provide safe and peaceful shelters within an environment of women’s empowerment. We followed the scandals of this governmental shelter in previous years and received many cases of young women who left and came to our shelters. By contrast, OWFI has not lost any women except for two when armed groups attacked us from national security institutions. These groups were acting as militias and ignored the warrants and the order of the judge. They kidnapped two of our residents in recent years and brought them back to their violent families. We have submitted our complaints to the United Nations and are still waiting for the results of their investigations. In response to the crime of the burning of six young Iraqi women, we demand the competent institutions to:
First, publish the results of the investigation for
the public, hold fully accountable those who are responsible for this crime,
and declare the reasons that pushed these women to end their lives. In
addition, that they
recognize the failure of the government and compensate those who have been traumatized by the fire and other victims of the psychological torture in this house.
Second, close all the government shelters and assign qualified people to manage the tasks in a responsible way, and protect women from the patriarchal terrorist groups such as the national security and intelligence militias that attacked our offices and shelters.
Third, amend the “Protection from Family Violence” draft law, replace the government shelter paragraph with one for shelters that are managed by women’s organizations. Also, provide financial support for this task without any governmental guardianship that turns the shelters into places of corruption, sexual exploitation and psychological torture and of young women.
OWFI invites women and human rights organizations to join us in defending the young women’s rights and filing a lawsuit against the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs that was responsible for them committing suicide. We will not accept the extreme secrecy exerted by the ministry to prevent our visits to the shelter or to the young survivor to get the details of what happened.
The Iraqi state’s view towards women is as private property of men and family who can be respected only if they have a man that defends their rights. But other women who have been left alone, homeless and vulnerable do not constitute any importance to the state, institutions and law, since no man can defend them. In this country, there is no recognition of women as citizens who should be protected by state and law.
The Iraqi state neglected these young women, abused and sexually exploited them, which led them to commit suicide.
A government official is trying to put the blame on the victims by claiming that they had psychological illnesses. Wouldn’t this official have psychological illnesses if he was subjected to systematic humiliation, beatings and rape?
Shame on the oppressive, patriarchal state institutions for exposing Iraqi women to continued violence.
Shame on the judicial and security institutions that impose violence on women and on women’s organizations rather than protecting them.
However, the reins of power will not last for the most backward and corrupt elements of society who have established the humiliation and punishment of women in Iraq.
Long live women despite the oppression of male – dominated society and dark forces of tyranny.
Long live equality between women and men.
Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq
January 6, 2018