Mother of three Um Muhammad al-Daraj, 35, recently went through a traumatic ordeal to try to save her husband’s life.
She told IRIN her husband was kidnapped by militants who had accused him of supporting the insurgents. After two days without news of her husband, Ahmed, two people came to her home and ordered her to follow them to meet her husband, who was reportedly being interrogated.
“I didn’t think twice and left my children with my neighbour. I was desperate for any news of Ahmed and they drove me to a distant neighbourhood where my husband was supposedly being held.
“After half an hour’s drive we reached [predominantly Shia] Sadr City and my legs were trembling because I know how dangerous the area is and the guys with me didn’t speak a word.
“They asked me to enter a disgusting-looking house and told me to wait. A rude man came into the room and bluntly told me that I had two choices: have sex with him and get my husband released or return to my home and never see Ahmed again.
“I was shocked and started to cry. I fell to the ground trying to kiss his feet and begged him to release my husband and not to treat me badly.
“The man told me that he would be back in 15 minutes and by that time would want to know my decision. In those minutes I hated my beauty and myself. I know that if I had been an ugly woman this wouldn’t have happened to me, but the life of my husband was in my hands.
“After 15 minutes - I was crying the whole time - the man came back and repeated the question and I didn’t have any option than to accept, in order to save Ahmed’s life, even knowing that after that they might kill us both.
“I had to forget my honour to save my husband’s life. It was the most terrible 20 minutes of my life. I just felt pain and wanted to vomit all the time. In the beginning I tried to refuse but was hit in the face and had to cry in silence, while asking God’s forgiveness.
“After that he told me to put my clothes on and the same two men drove me home, with tears streaming down my cheeks. I couldn’t look at my children because I felt dirty. I didn’t even know if my husband was going to return.
“Later that evening Ahmed appeared on the doorstep with signs of having been hit in the face, and when I went to kiss him he told me that I was dirty and that he was going to divorce me as he had been forced to watch the whole scene and preferred to be killed than see his wife sleeping with another man, even if it was to save his life.
“Two days later he left home and went to his parents’ house and said that soon I would get the divorce papers. Even now I cannot believe that losing my honour to save his life was taken by him as a betrayal.
“Now I’m alone, without a job or husband, with three children to look after. Sometimes death is the best way to end suffering.”
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
Help make quality journalism about crises possible
The New Humanitarian is an independent, non-profit newsroom founded in 1995. We deliver quality, reliable journalism about crises and big issues impacting the world today. Our reporting on humanitarian aid has uncovered sex scandals, scams, data breaches, corruption, and much more.
Our readers trust us to hold power in the multi-billion-dollar aid sector accountable and to amplify the voices of those impacted by crises. We’re on the ground, reporting from the front lines, to bring you the inside story.
We keep our journalism free – no paywalls – thanks to the support of donors and readers like you who believe we need more independent journalism in the world. Your contribution means we can continue delivering award-winning journalism about crises.