Shelters for Women in Iraq

 
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Photo 1 (c) OWFI
Photo 1 (c) OWFI

With your support, MADRE and the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) created the Women’s Peace Farm, a shelter for women and families displaced by extremist ISIS violence. At the Peace Farm, women and the children in their care find safe haven. Not only that, they are growing food, earning income and beginning to rebuild their lives.

In a recent conversation with our OWFI activist partners, including director Yanar Mohammed, they shared with us stories and pictures from the Peace Farm.

We’d like to share a few with you now.

Photo 1 - Here’s Yanar with a baby girl born at the Peace Farm. Her mother, Reemah*, arrived at the farm pregnant and alone, after fleeing ISIS violence with only the clothes on her back. The other women at the farm quickly rallied to support her, buying small goods, baby clothes and presents with some money they pooled together.

Today, both mother and baby are healthy and safe, and are benefiting from the community of support they’ve found on the farm. Reemah has found comfort in the new friends she’s made. And she’s growing food and earning income to support her daughter. She didn’t think she’d ever feel safe again after the violence she escaped, but slowly, Reemah is rebuilding a peaceful life.

Photo 2 - Here’s an OWFI staff member with three young girls living at the Peace Farm. One of these young girls is named Asma*. She and her mother escaped from northern Iraq after her family was targeted with deadly ISIS violence. She’s been living at the Farm for a few months. At just 9 years old, Asma has already been through a tremendous amount. But despite the hardships she’s endured, she remains positive, happy and healthy.

What’s more, she’s already an impressive community organizer! Asma goes around the farm asking the other children living there if they have any needs, from socks to books to clothes. She makes a list to share with OWFI staff members and follows up to make sure that the children’s needs are met. Asma is thriving as a budding community organizer. And OWFI is so glad to have Asma, a young activist in the making, advocating for the children at the farm!

Our partners describe the farm as an oasis of hope, where families like Reemah’s and Asma’s can regain the sense of security and safety they’ve lost. The women living at the farm, they say, are united and resilient. The Peace Farm is a true community of support for women and families who have lost everything.

Your support of MADRE is seeing women and children in Iraq through the crisis of war. Thank you so much for making this work possible. We can only do it because we have you standing with us!

*Names have been changed to protect their identity.

Photo 2 (c) OWFI
Photo 2 (c) OWFI
Yanar Mohammed(center) leader of OWFI at the farm.
Yanar Mohammed(center) leader of OWFI at the farm.

Displaced by extremist violence, women-headed households are now flooding central and southern Iraq. They need humanitarian aid, shelter and resources to rebuild their lives. With MADRE, our local partner, the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), is meeting these urgent and long-term needs.

The Women's Peace Farm is a way for displaced women farmers to achieve self-sufficiency and provide for their families. What's more, they support one another through the crisis of war.

This project also alleviates the need for factory-farmed food aid. This enables women farmers to remain independent and strengthens their sense of personal agency and resiliency.

Near the southern Iraqi city of Karbala, OWFI secured a tract of land to start the Women's Peace Farm. Together, we purchased 5 caravans and equipped them with basic appliances. These provide shelter to 54 people (mainly women and children). OWFI also provides food for women and their families on a daily basis and covers their minimal living expenses such as transportation to the clinic and doctor fees.

Now, thanks to supporters like you, the farm is thriving. Already, the women have raised eggplants, peppers, okra and cucumbers. And just last week, we heard from our partners that a new crop of tomatoes was coming in!

The Women's Peace Farm is an innovative answer to the crisis of war, displacement, and violence impacting Iraqi women. Thank you. Your support strengthens the work of our brave partners in Iraq.

The situation for women in Iraq is beyond distressing. It is desperate. ISIS, a brutal jihadist group, has made women direct targets of its extremist agenda, forbidding them from going to work, school or even being in public without a male "guardian." One of our local partners told us that women doctors and professionals in Mosul, including her own sister, were publicly whipped for not covering themselves up.

Women have been systemically raped, kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery by and for ISIS fighters. Large aid agencies and governments have not been able to reach ISIS-controlled areas to deliver urgently-needed humanitarian aid and shelter for these women — but you have.

Thanks to your support, MADRE and our local partners, the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), are delivering humanitarian aid and safe passage — even to women in ISIS-controlled areas. Together, we’re operating the only women's safe-house network in northern Iraq for women fleeing sexual violence there.

With your help, women in Iraq have access to safety and to the services they need to rebuild their lives out of crisis and into peace. Thanks so much for supporting this life-saving work.

P.S. MADRE’s latest op-ed on our work in Iraq, More Powerful Than ISIS, has been published on the Huffington Post! We were also published in openDemocracy, analyzing "The stories we tell about ISIS and women" and the ways these promote Islamophobia. I hope you’ll take the time to read these pieces and share them with your networks. Thank you!

When ISIS militants invaded Iraq earlier this summer, the whole world was taken by surprise. No government or big aid agency was prepared for the crisis. But because of you, we were able to respond immediately. Thanks to our on-the-ground partners who are able to reach Iraqi communities other organizations cannot, we were able to send emergency aid, including food, water and medical care to women and children most in need.

For example, the UN and other large relief groups have not been able to get aid into the town of Samarra, currently surrounded by ISIS forces. But just last month with your support and through the local connections of our partners at the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), we were able to deliver food packages and other aid to 120 families there.

And that’s not all you’re helping us do. As deadly violence against women by ISIS intensifies, we’ve continued to expand our secret shelter services. Your support enabled us to open the only women’s shelter in ISIS-controlled northern Iraq, offering vital emergency refuge to women escaping rape, kidnapping and forced marriage.

Thank you. Your support truly strengthens our sisters in Iraq who are working around the clock to respond to this urgent crisis.

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Project Leader

Yifat Susskind

New York, NY United States

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