Girls and women hold sides reading ''Rescue the enslaved women from ISIS' and 'Islam protects the rights women' during a demonstration to denounce abuse by ISIS members in Basra in southern Iraq in 2014. Photo: Haidar Mohammed Ali | AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - A United Nations advocate for survivors of sexual violence has urged Iraqis from all backgrounds to accept women who have suffered at the hands of ISIS and to shun stigmatization and provide support for survivors and their children.
“I urge all relevant stakeholders to ensure the return of women and girls from Daesh captivity in safety and dignity; to welcome them back into their communities; to support them in healing and reintegrating back into the community and to address all their human rights protection needs, in particular those of children born to survivors of rape,” Pramila Patten, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General (SRSG) on Sexual Violence in Conflict (SVC), stated in a report published Tuesday
Patten also commended the efforts of religious leaders who have issued fatwas and public statements to protect survivors of sexual violence and encouraged the acceptance of their children.
Patten also stated that her office will be following up on their support of the Iraqi government as well as the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in implementing the Joint Communiqué on Prevention and Response to Conflict-Related Sexual Violence which was signed in September 2016.
“The support envisioned under the agreement will include the documentation and collection of evidence of such crimes; strengthening the Iraqi legal framework to be able to better address sexual violence; and putting in place modalities for victim compensation,” read a press release from the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq.
The process of bringing ISIS to justice particularly in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region has become a test for local and international officials.
“When survivors have the chance to tell their stories, to observe the sentencing of offenders, and to benefit from solidarity and support, it can counteract isolation and self-blame. It tells the community that what happened was not the victim’s fault,” said Jan Kubis, the special representative of the UN Secretary-General of Iraq.
Around 6,000 Yezidis were taken by ISIS from the Shingal Region when ISIS came in 2014. Around half still remain in ISIS captivity. Many of the girls and women who have returned or been rescued tell stories of forced marriage and sex with multiple men.
“He kept telling me this is ibadah,” The New York Times quoted a 15-year-old Yezidi girl saying after escaping captivity in, using a term meaning worship.
In a report by the UN Secretary-General in April, it stated the exact number of sexual abuse or rape victims in the ISIS conflict is hard to quantify.
"Obtaining data on such crimes is complicated by ongoing military operations and social factors such as fear of stigmatization," it stated.
Rudaw has reported on Kurdish authorities in Kirkuk investigating former ISIS "wives" who reported being raped by the extremists.