In 2007, MADRE and OWFI continued to shelter women from honor killings and life threatening violence. All of the women helped by the Safe Houses project have incredible stories; following are some recent cases.
Rasha, from the city of Diyala, is the widow of a man murdered by one of the several militias targeting so-called insurgents. Her husband’s killers continued to visit her daily at her home, raping and torturing her. Nazik, of Tikrit, left her husband, who beat her regularly. Nahida’s husband suddenly began to abuse her when he joined up with a terrorist gang. Um Missaab, a returning political prisoner attempting to reassimilate into society, suffered at the cruelty of her in-laws. Hind escaped a prostitution network, and was followed by two others, Sanna and Bushra. Nadia and her daughter escaped an oppressive marriage, and sought help from militia officials who now threaten and psychologically abuse them. Shila left her hometown of Rania, in the Kurdish territories of Northern Iraq, when plots of her murder, in the name of honor killing, surfaced. A mother and daughter from Mahmoudiya sought shelter after the daughter was raped by an impostor Mulla who claimed to have been treating her for depression.
Painstaking measures are taken to make the shelters as safe and stable as can be expected, but OWFI’s operation are still at the mercy of a government which devalues their work and sees victims as honorless women undeserving of protection; officials at all levels go out of their way to make OWFI’s business matters as difficult as possible. In addition to the larger shelters, staff members have begun to house threatened women and families in their own homes. This spreads out the women and lessens their chances of being found by their tormentors.
Children who live at the shelters are enrolled in schools, or, in more dangerous cases, tutors are arranged for private lessons at home; they are also trained in basic computer skills, in hopes of increasing their employment opportunities. All shelter residents receive health care from Nahida Ismail, a registered nurse who uses her connections with a network of volunteer doctors and gynecologists to see that all the women get proper care.
In addition to the work done in shelters, OWFI has launched several advocacy campaigns in the Kurdish North of Iraq (also known as Kurdistan) discouraging honor killings and seeking to repeal an article of the regional Constitution which endorses use of the Islamic Sharia law to uphold honor killing cases in family court. The initiatives, led by OWFI activist Houzan Mahmoud, were quite successful, rousing support from many social and intellectual groups in the area, and the offending article was removed from the criminal code.
MADRE and OWFI were deeply moved the support of the Global Giving community for this project. Your donations have been crucial to the heavy demands of being the sole shelter network for Iraqi women escaping abuse and honor killings. Thanks to you, we have been able to expand security forces, conduct more outreach, shelter more women and children, and save more lives.
We hope that you will continue to support OWFI through its new project now up on Global Giving, “Art Action for Peace: Support Young Iraqi Artists.” This project is focused on OWFI’s popular youth outreach initiative, where hundreds of young Sunnis and Shiites join together to call for an end to civil war through art, poetry, music, theater, and dance. Rather than succumbing to sectarian hatred, the young people involved work to create a society that promotes human rights and tolerance.
Again, we thank you for your support.