Human Rights

Protecting women who suffered from sexual abuse by ISIS


A joint UN-Iraqi plan has been created to protect victims of sexual violence in former ISIS-held areas in northern & western Iraq.

Among the most horrific crimes committed by ISIS was its brutal and degrading treatment of women, especially those from religious and ethnic minority communities in Iraq. The level of abuse and violence inflicted upon women in both Syria and Iraq by ISIS was unprecedented. The group enacted strict laws controlling how women’s clothing, movement as well as their behaviour, punishing anyone who falls out of line severely.

Recently, the United Nation’s Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pamilla Patten, visited Iraq and met with a number of women’s rights activists and civil society groups that help empower women in the country.

In a press conference Patten announced the execution of a joint UN-Iraqi plan to protect victims of sexual violence in the areas that were once controlled by ISIS. As part of the plan, offenders will be brought to justice and punished for their actions.

While everyone felt the horror of ISIS rule, minority communities in northern Iraq experienced the worst levels of abuse. The sheer level of violence and systematic rape on Yazidis devastated the entire community. The actions of ISIS against them has been characterised as genocide, with many still suffering the psychological trauma from this dark chapter in Yazidi history.

Over 9000 Yazidi women and girls were kidnapped by the militant group and sold into slavery, where they suffered abuse and rape by ISIS fighters. Many women and children remain missing.

Several Yazidi women in Sinjar, however, have resisted ISIS in Iraq under numerous banners, including the “Brigades of Sinjar Resistance” and “Brigades of Sinjar Women Resistance”. Sinjar was eventually liberated in 2015 as a result of the offensive in November named “The Fury of Melek Taus”.

Women who have suffered at the hands of ISIS have lost everything including their homes and family members. Many are still suffering severe psychological problems due to extended-periods of sexual violence. A comprehensive plan of action must be taken by the government and other authorities to provide support for these women and reintegrate them back into their communities and society.