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Militants Sweep Towards Baghdad: Women’s Rights Groups Mobilize

June 16, 2014

In the past 72 hours, militants have seized control of cities across northern Iraq, including Mosul, the country’s second largest city. Led by the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the insurgents’ rapid advance is raising fears of an all-out civil war as they move south towards Baghdad. The approach of this armed offensive is escalating sectarian tensions and the threat of violence even in areas beyond insurgents’ control.

The International Women’s Human Rights (IWHR) Clinic at CUNY Law School and MADRE, an International women’s human rights organization are mobilizing an emergency response with the Iraqi women’s rights organization located in Baghdad, the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) to protect people at severe risk as the threat of sectarian violence grows.

Students in the IWHR Clinic at CUNY Law School have been working with OWFI and MADRE to promote the rights, protection and physical security of marginalized and at-risk Iraqis and to prevent these groups from experiencing violence and protect those who are threatened. Clinical Law Professor Lisa Davis said, “Thousands of Iraqis are at risk of violence, especially women and those perceived to be contrary to traditional mores.” Yanar Mohammed, President of OWFI said, “Armed militias are everywhere in the streets of Baghdad.” She reported that, in some neighborhoods, sectarian tensions are already so high that people are afraid to leave their homes even to buy food. Yifat Susskind, MADRE Executive Director added, “In a climate of rising sectarian violence, those championing secularism and human rights are particular targets.”

OWFI has identified an urgent need to relocate their members, located in neighborhoods with deep sectarian divisions. OWFI staff and supporters are also at risk because of their vocal support for secularism and women’s rights. IWHR Clinic, MADRE and OWFI are partnering to provide emergency relocation, food and shelter to marginalized Iraqis. In particular, the organizations are working to relocate those at risk into a neighboring city less marked by sectarian division.

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Related Categories: HRGJ, IWHR

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