Following the defeat of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq, women from Mosul in the north of the country have expressed their desire to restart their lives and move on from the militant group’s barbaric rule, which lasted just over three years.
Under ISIS rule, women were forced to cover their entire body in public, including their eyes and hands. Both ISIS’ “morality police,” (“Al-Hisbah”) and ISIS’ all female al-Khansaa brigade, were responsible for ensuring that women dressed and acted appropriately, and were subservient to men and the group’s so-called caliphate. Those that contravened the strict rules were meted out punishments, including beatings, public flogging or even biting.
Um Omar was one of the women who lived through this dark period. However, she and many others are determined to kick-start their lives and praises Iraq’s women for what they have suffered through.
“Despite the pain and suffering, we, during ISIS’ rule, were trapped but we have passed that stage,” said Um Omar. “We salute every Iraqi woman who struggled with her family”.
Since ISIS’ defeat in Iraq, a major focus has been to raise the issue of women’s rights throughout the country. This has been both at the governmental and civil society levels, as women across Iraq organise and lead the charge to both ensure that ISIS’ heinous acts cannot be repeated, but also work to ensure that the societal attitudes that have allowed for such a permissive environment against women to flourish are eradicated.
At the end of last year, a conference was held in Mosul, in conjunction with the local civil society organisation Masalla, to discuss women’s rights in the post-ISIS era. Shortly after this, the Organisation began a 16-day campaign to raise awareness of life for women under ISIS.
Furthermore, in the capital Baghdad, the Ladies of Baghdad Forum held its first event to discuss women’s rights in Iraq under the slogan “I am a woman, I am proud”.