March 16, 2015
The Women Confronting ISIS symposium, held at CUNY Law on March 6, provided an opportunity for people concerned about the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its impact of women to come together and strategize about responses to this human rights crisis.
In the first panel discussion, participants explored the foreshadowing of ISIS abuses in areas where violations of women’s human rights were present and discussed lessons for prevention in other contexts of war and armed conflict. It was moderated by Professor Julie Goldscheid, and featured Syrian human rights lawyer Laila Alodaat, Liesl Gernholtz of Human Rights Watch, Jessica Stern of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and gender and international relations scholar Jacqui True. Khamim Raheem Lateef of Asuda, a women’s rights NGO in Iraqi Kurdistan, joined the others via Skype.
Laila Alodaat makes a point, while the rest of the panelists listen.
Jacqui True, Laila Alodaat, Liesl Gernholtz, Jessica Stern and Julie Goldscheid listen to a question from the audience.
Professor Ramzi Kassem moderated the second discussion which focused on what could be done to enhance protection for women that have been negatively impacted by ISIS. The panel consisted of Sara Ferro Ribeiro of the United Kingdom’s Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative, Yifat Susskind of MADRE and Oula Ramadan of Badael Foundation, a Syrian NGO committed to peace building.
Sara Ferro Ribeiro, Oula Ramadan, Yifat Susskind, Ramzi Kassem
Sara Ferro Ribeiro, Oula Ramadan, Yiffat Susskind
The third panel, which focused on new approaches to prosecution and reintegration, was moderated by Camille Massey (’95) of the Sorensen Center for International Peace and Justice. Madeleine Rees of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), Nawal Yazeji of the Syrian Women’s League and Special Adviser to the International Criminal Court Patricia Viseur-Sellers contributed their perspectives. Duha Izzideen of the Baghdad Women’s Association joined the discussion via Skype.
Nawal Yazeji, Patricia Viseur-Sellers, Madeleine Rees, Camille Massey (’95) listen to Duha Izzideen via Skype.
Nawal Yazeji, Patricia Viseur-Sellers and Madeleine Rees
Nawal Yazeji and Patricia Viseur-Sellers
Additionally, attendees got to hear from former UN Under-Secretary General Radhika Coomaraswamy, Yanar Mohammed of Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), and Charlotte Bunch of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University.
Audience members listen to a video message from Radhika Coomaraswamy
Charlotte Bunch poses a question to the panelists.
Katy Naples Mitchell (’17) asks the panelists a question.
Paula Donovan of AIDS-Free World delivered the closing remarks. She mentioned five issues that were discussed throughout the day: what is happening with ISIS, what is the appeal of ISIS, what can be done to prevent this and other movements like it and what can Westerners and the international community do. The answers to these questions were nuanced and varied, but there were a couple of key points that most people agreed on. ISIS violence was described by Charlotte Bunch as “a distillation and exaggeration of every day gender-based violence.” Many participants reiterated that creating lasting positive change in the region requires supporting Syrian and Iraqi women in their efforts to eradicate gender-based violence and help those that have suffered from it recover from trauma.
This symposium was organized by Professor Lisa Davis (’08) and Ramy Ibrahim (’14) of the International Women’s Human Rights (IWHR) Clinic, along with Camille Massey (’95) who directs the newly launched Sorensen Center for International Peace and Justice. It was made possible in partnership with MADRE, WILPF, OWFI, Nobel Women’s Initiative, The International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict and the NYU Journal of International Law and Politics.