Update on MADRE’s Work in Iraq
Our work with OWFI has broadened this year, in order to meet the tremendous needs of Iraqi women and young people enduring their fifth year of US occupation and uncontrolled sectarian violence. Support from Global Giving members was instrumental in helping MADRE carry out this vital work.
Amidst the chaos and violence of US-occupied Iraq, the significance of widespread gender-based violence has been largely overlooked. Yet, Iraqi women are enduring unprecedented levels of assault in the public sphere, "honor killings," torture in detention, and other forms of gender-based violence.
MADRE’s current projects with OWFI include:
The Safe Houses project is currently comprised of five shelters and continues to identify and house Iraqi women and girls who are under threat of honor killings and other domestic violence, offer them essential counseling as well as human rights trainings, and work to increase women’s political participation and help Iraqi women resist escalating fundamentalist repression at home and in the public sphere.
The Underground Railroad for Iraqi Women
In addition to supporting the shelters, MADRE also founded The Underground Railroad for Iraqi Women in 2006 to help Iraqi women who are threatened with "honor killings" make their way to freedom.
Through these two projects, we:
• secure transportation and safe passage for women who are fleeing their homes to reach the shelters or other refuge;
• provide food, clothing, toiletries, bedding, and medical attention as needed, for women and their children;
• employ full-time security to patrol and safeguard the shelters and five staff members to run each center, including one part-time counselor to conduct intake interviews, provide individual and group trauma counseling for residents and their children; two full-time security staff; and, two full-time shelter attendants, each working twelve-hour shifts.
We are also supporting OWFI’s publication of their newspaper, called Equality, which informs readers internationally about the situation in Iraq and connects Iraqi women with resources they can turn to for assistance. The paper is distributed weekly, both nationally and internationally, and enables women committed to human rights to find one another.
Art Action for Peace
This year, OWFI and MADRE are also supporting a brave group of young Sunni and Shia artists and poets who are coming together to demand peace. According to the logic of civil war, these young people from warring communities should be enemies. Instead, they are joining together through art and poetry, calling for an end to civil war, and working to create a society that promotes human rights and freedom from occupation and religious coercion. Art Action for Peace gatherings include public performances where people come together to share their poetry and music. These gatherings have been banned by Islamists who systematically torture and kill artists and musicians. Several members of Art Action for Peace have been attacked, and some killed, but Iraqis who hunger for peace flock to these gatherings despite the danger. Recent Art Action for Peace events have drawn as many as 200 hundred people.
US Public Education and Media Outreach
MADRE also works to raise awareness in the US about the political, economic, and social effects of the US occupation of Iraq and US policies worldwide through our US Public Education Program. We believe that educated citizens can participate more effectively in shaping US foreign policy.
Our activities in 2007 to raise awareness in the US about US policy in Iraq have included:
• Press conferences, panel discussions, and a speaking tour on the recently released MADRE report Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy: Gender-Based Violence and the US War on Iraq, a groundbreaking report on the incidence, causes, and legalization of gender-based violence in Iraq under US occupation;
• Distribution of the report through MADRE’s website at www.madre.org, which receives 30,000 visits per month;
• Interviews and citations related to the report in The Chicago Sun-Times, Ms. magazine, Democracy Now!, Voice of America, and on ABC News Now, Nation.com, Yahoo! News, and WBAI and KPFK radio; and
• A national speaking tour in the US in April 2007.
Upcoming plans include:
• A Spring 2008 speaking tour of US colleges, universities, and communities, featuring Vivian Stromberg, Executive Director of MADRE, and Yanar Mohammed, the Baghdad-based Chairperson of OWFI. The tour will focus on women’s realities in US-occupied Iraq, and provide audiences with tools to advocate in the US for changes in US policy—creating the potential for the construction of a truly democratic and sovereign Iraq.
We thank Global Giving members for your important support for this necessary project and hope that you will continue your support.