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HRW: Daesh rapes and tortures Sunni Arab women

Image of women and their children in Iraq [file photo]
Image of women and their children in Iraq [file photo]

Fighters from Daesh are arbitrarily detaining, ill-treating, torturing, and forcibly marrying Sunni Arab women and girls in areas under their control in Iraq, Human Rights Watch said today.

The watchdog documented cases of arbitrary detentions, beatings, forced marriages and rape by the terrorists on women who have fled Hawijah, which is still under Daesh control

HRW and others have extensively documented similar abuses by Daesh fighters against Yezidi women, but the plight of Sunni Arab women under Daesh receives little attention from the global press and politicians alike.

Read: ‘Daesh allowed me to rape 200 women in Iraq’

“Little is known about sexual abuse against Sunni Arab women living under ISIS [Daesh] rule,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “We hope that the international community and local authorities will do all they can to give this group of victims the support they need.”

The report is based on interviews of women who said they had been detained by Daesh in 2016, for periods between three days and a month. One woman described how a Daesh fighter, who was her cousin, forced her to marry him and then raped her. Another woman said that Daesh fighters destroyed her home as punishment after her husband escaped the group and tried to forcibly marry her.

Human Rights Watch also reported the accounts of a mother of three whose attempt to escape was foiled by Daesh fighters along with a large group of other families. The woman said that over the next month, one fighter raped her every day in front of her children. She suspected that many of the other women held with her were also being raped.

Read: Daesh linked group expands foothold in southern Syria

Experts from four international organisations, including two medical organisations, working with survivors of sexual assault in northern Iraq told HRW of the difficulty in assessing the prevalence of Daesh gender-based violence against women. They said that victims and their families remain silent to avoid stigmatisation and harm to the woman or girl’s reputation.

Women try to hide the incident from their own families out of fear they will be stigmatised or punished by their relatives or community. Babies born of rape or forced marriage may also face stigma, she said

Several local and international organisations are providing support to victims of gender-based violence. However, not enough is being done to tackle the stigma around sexual violence.

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