In Iraq, the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI)’s network of shelters and safehouses are the only refuge of their kind for women and girl survivors of ISIS violence, and have proved critical in helping survivors and their children integrate back into communities and build a better future.
Sadiya* is one of these survivors, who now wants to share her story with the world to call for justice.
Sadiya is from a town in northern Iraq, where she lived peacefully for many years with her husband, an Iraqi security forces agent. When ISIS took control of her town in 2016, Sadiya’s husband was forced to flee for his safety. ISIS later interrogated Sadiya about his whereabouts, but she protected him and refused to reveal his location. Displeased with her response, the ISIS members detained Sadiya for nearly two weeks, where she was subjected to continuous sexual and violent assault. Following Sadiya’s release, her husband returned home – but was unable to accept Sadiya’s experience at the hands of ISIS. He accused Sadiya of inflicting shame upon their family by “giving herself” away and began frequently beating her. Her husband later remarried but enslaved Sadiya as the new couple’s servant by stealing her legal documents, leaving her with little hope of escape.
OWFI was alerted to Sadiya’s case last year and coordinated a rescue effort to bring her to their safehouse. After a year of holistic support from OWFI–including shelter and psychosocial counseling–Sadiya has healed from some of her trauma and improved her physical and mental well-being. She stated, “Without OWFI I would have been dead because of my husband’s abuse and the shame I experienced from my family for something I didn’t have any control over.” Sadiya reports that she is now a stronger person, and thinks of herself as a survivor, not a victim.
In fact, Sadiya leveraged this strength to provide a testimony of her experience at MADRE’s and OWFI’s newly-launched truth and accountability hearings, which are a series of community-led gatherings designed to bring together survivors, along with Iraqi judges, United Nations accountability mechanisms, and civil society groups, to acknowledge the experiences of survivors of ISIS violence and promote healing and community acceptance. Upon learning of the hearings, Sadiya was overjoyed at the possibilities of redress and bravely suggested taking part in order to bring international and local attention to survivors’ stories, like hers.
Thank you for supporting MADRE’s and OWFI’s efforts to protect and heal survivors of ISIS violence, such as Sadiya, and advocate for justice! We couldn’t do this vital work without you.
*Name has been changed to respect the privacy of the individual.