The New Humanitarian Annual Report 2021

  1. Home
  2. Middle East and North Africa
  3. Iraq

Local NGO warns of rising cases of sexual abuse

There has been a massive increase in reported cases of sexual abuse in Iraq since the days of Saddam Hussein's regime, according to the Women's Rights Association (WRA), a
local NGO.

The WRA recently conducted an in-depth study into the sexual abuse of women after receiving continued allegations of such maltreatment since December 2005. While fewer than five cases were reported per year in the Hussein's era, nearly 60 women have been raped in Baghdad since February, while another 80 were abused in other ways, according to the NGO.

"We've observed an increase in the number of women being sexually abused and raped in the past four months, especially in the capital," said Mayada Zuhair, spokeswoman for the WRA, adding that this is causing panic among women who have to walk alone.

Activists say the main reasons for the increase is the marginalisation of the population, lack of security and the negative psychological effects associated with war. According to Zuhair, women of all ages face abuse, while there are also cases of men and boys being raped by unidentified gangs. "Given the current insecurity, these incidents could increase if the government doesn't take urgent measures to stop these gangs," she said.

The Ministry of Interior has issued notices warning women not to go out alone. "This is a Muslim county and any attack on a woman's modesty is also an attack on our religious beliefs," said senior ministry official Salah Ali. "These gangs will pay for the pain they've caused." Ali added that several rape cases were currently being investigated and urged women to report any abuse.

In mosques, both Sunni and Shi'ite leaders have used their weekly sermons to spread awareness of this issue and have advised their largely male congregations to keep women safe at home rather than allowing them go out to work.

“These incidents of abuse just prove what we have been saying for so long," said Sheikh Salah Muzidin, an imam at a central mosque in Baghdad. "That it is the Islamic duty of women to stay in their homes, looking after their children and husbands rather than searching for work – especially with the current lack of security in the country.”

AS/SZ/AM


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

Share this article
Join the discussion

Right now, we’re working with contributors on the ground in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries to tell the stories of people enduring and responding to a rapidly evolving humanitarian crisis.

We’re documenting the threats to humanitarian response in the country and providing a platform for those bearing the brunt of the invasion. Our goal is to bring you the truth at a time when disinformation is rampant. 

But while much of the world’s focus may be on Ukraine, we are continuing our reporting on myriad other humanitarian disasters – from Haiti to the Sahel to Afghanistan to Myanmar. We’ve been covering humanitarian crises for more than 25 years, and our journalism has always been free, accessible for all, and – most importantly – balanced. 

You can support our journalism from just $5 a month, and every contribution will go towards our mission. 

Support The New Humanitarian today.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.

Join