Sign In / Up

Add contribution as a guest

Your email will not be displayed publicly
Benefit of signing in/signing up to personalize comment

Comment as a guest

Your email will not be displayed publicly
Benefit of signing in/signing up to personalize comment

Login

Not a member Register   Forgot Password
or connect using
 

Email

 

Rudaw

Middle East

Yezidi women must not face rape stigma: Congolese doctor Mukwege

By Robert Edwards 2/7/2018
-
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — World renowned gynecologist and women’s rights campaigner Dr Denis Mukwege visited Duhok and Lalish in late June to meet Yezidi women recovering from the ordeal of sexual slavery at the hands of ISIS.

Mukwege, 63, who is widely celebrated for his work treating victims of rape as a weapon of war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), says Yezidi women share the same needs as rape survivors in conflict zones elsewhere.

“Sexual violence is equal everywhere,” he told Rudaw English. 

In the summer of 2014, ISIS militants blitzed across northern Iraq, conquering major cities along the Tigris River Valley and the homelands of the Yezidi minority in Shingal. 

Thousands of Yezidis were rounded up and slaughtered; more than 6,400 Yezidi women and girls were kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery. Although around 3,200 were later rescued or escaped, many are still missing. 

“Can we imagine, in the 21st century, women being sold as animals? This is not acceptable. And we are responsible. All of us … We have to take our responsibility and just say that this should not happen - never again,” Mukwege said. 

Although wars are fought by different means and for different ends, Mukwege says the use of rape in conflict has the same goal and the same consequences everywhere. 

“When you can discuss with women coming from Colombia, Bosnia, Congo, Liberia, Sudan, everywhere, you can see that now in all conflicts women are victims,” Mukwege said. “So if there is conflict, we need to really think about this question: Why are men using rape as a weapon of war? 

Photo: Panzi Foundation

“It’s only because rape as a weapon of war is very effective. It’s not only destroying the victims but it’s destroying all the community, destroying family, destroying society.

“Most of the time, men are the ones doing the fighting for power. But the victims are women and children. And after the war, most of the time, women and children are just forgotten.

“And this is terrible because it’s just to destroy not only the victims, but also the next generation. Because now women are thinking the only solution is to leave the country. This is not a solution.

Many of these displaced Yezidi women now live in camps in the Kurdistan Region, while others have been granted asylum in Europe and other countries for specialist care. Fearing their rapists are still at large, and that security forces will again fail to protect them, most will not return. 

“If all of them leave the country, they are just going to disappear,” Mukwege said. “They have identity. They have to protect their identity. But how can they protect their identity if they don’t feel they are protected?”

 


Dr Mukwege visits an IDP camp in Duhok in late-June 2018. Photo: Mukwege Foundation


Mukwege was invited to the region by Yazda, an NGO created in 2014 to help Yezidi women raped by ISIS militants recover and reintegrate. He took part in a workshop to pass on his expertise. 

He also met with Khurto Hajji Ismail, the spiritual leader of the Yezidis, who broke with tradition and decreed the victims of rape must not be stigmatized. 

“I visited Baba Sheikh and we discussed how displaced Yezidi women should come back in the community and be reintegrated into the community,” said Mukwege. 

“This is something he did in the community that is really wonderful, because the big problems we are facing in many countries is with religious authorities who are just excluding women because they were raped. And it’s not their fault. It’s because they are not protected that this happens. So if you exclude them after, you don’t protect them. It just punishes them a second time.” 

 

Photo: Panzi Foundation

June 19 was the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict. The theme for 2018 was the plight and rights of children born of war. 

Speaking in Baghdad on June 27, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Political Affairs and Electoral Assistance (DSRSG), Alice Walpole, called for the protection of children born out of rape.

“Women and children usually suffer the brunt of armed conflicts. For those that lived under ISIL however, the suffering was unprecedented. This suffering unfortunately continues as they are often rejected by the society and viewed as affiliates rather than victims,” she said.  

“I, therefore, urge the Government to ensure that children born of rape grow up in dignity, with official legal status, so as not to be perpetually marginalised and stigmatized,” Walpole added. 

Mukwege says the international community also has a part to play in helping Yezidi women find justice.

“Even if the one who committed the rape is not known, there are commanders, and these commanders must be responsible for what happened for Yezidi women,” he said. “And I think if they can get justice, they also have to get reparations for what happened.”  

Mukwege recommends an holistic approach to help victims of rape in war, including medical treatment, psychological support, socio-economic assistance, and legal aid. 

“If we don’t work on these four pillars, my conclusion is you can’t really restore the dignity of women and give them a new life,” he concluded.

Comments

 
Dr Paul Kingery | 4/7/2018
This is old news, that raped girls should not be stigmatized. Now who has the guts to report the real news that all babies born to Yezidi girls from rape are being taken away from them by their hateful Yezidi families and communities, abandoned, left to die in Baghdad orphanages, refused entry to Yezidi shelters and Kurdish orphanages and dying by the hundreds as a result even though their mothers want to keep them???!!! The only place a Yezidi girl can live with her baby in Kurdistan Region is in the Gula Nissan safe home near Dohuk. Few Yezidis are lifting a finger to help these babies.
Post a New Comment
Comment as a guest or Login for more enhanced interactive experience

Be Part of Your Rudaw!

Share your stories, photos and videos with Rudaw, and quite possibly the world.

What You Say

Zagros | 7/20/2018 5:27:06 AM
Pete, if you had traveled the world as you claim then you'd have known that Rojava is not the most egalitarian system in the world. You'd have known...
Outsider | 7/21/2018 4:36:24 AM
The PKK/KCK/PYD/YPG reminds me on the political system in the "good old" Communist countries... yes you have a choice.. hence claiming demo...
Assad or Turkey? Uncertainty surrounds future of Qamishli
| 17/7/2018 | (13)
Shaxawan | 7/18/2018 7:35:12 AM
All what US gave us is some scraps whike they support Irani militias and Sunna Arabs with the most developed weapons. Shame on you US, still seeks...
Robert Patrick Shuttlesworth | 7/21/2018 3:33:58 AM
My fellow Americans, why are we allowing our leaders to ask permission to form Kurdish security forces, from some of the very people the Kurds have...
US to arm two more Peshmerga brigades – if Baghdad permits it
| 16/7/2018 | (4)
Mohamedzzz | 7/19/2018 5:39:19 PM
''A deal was reached Tuesday between regime-backer Russia and rebel-ally Turkey''... I always said Turkey 'IS' the problem, Problems cannot be solved...
kurd | 7/21/2018 2:21:45 AM
Mohammaedzzz@ you have always been wrong. the main problem for kurds is PKK+YPG. they are cancerous cell on body of kurdistan. they are in service...
Thousands evacuate pro-regime Syria towns
| 19/7/2018 | (3)
Dlawar | 7/20/2018 10:33:10 PM
The regime is often described is smart or shrwed but they're not, even dumber are the nationalists who are against the regime but happily applaud...
Family says execution of Kurdish prisoner in Iran is imminent
| yesterday at 10:57 | (1)

Elsewhere on Rudaw

Parties eager for skilled politicians in next Kurdistan parliament 2 hours ago |

Parties eager for skilled politicians in next Kurdistan parliament

"If we want to have a strong government, our MPs more
Stacks of cash change hands at Erbil’s currency exchange market 5 hours ago |

Stacks of cash change hands at Erbil’s currency exchange market

Security is surprisingly lax more
Alcohol sales, consumption banned in Saladin province 5 hours ago |

Alcohol sales, consumption banned in Saladin province

Residents have compared the ban to the strict more
0.157 seconds