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Invisible Women in Iraq

5 September 2014

On Monday 1 September, the Human Rights Council held a special session on the human rights situation in Iraq. At the end of this session, a resolution was adopted by consensus: it condemns the human rights violations and abuses resulting from the terrorist acts committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and associated groups. According to this resolution, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will very soon dispatch a mission to Iraq in order to investigate violations and abuses of international human rights law committed by terrorist groups in Iraq.

WILPF regrets that this resolution does not include any gender perspective. The terminology regards women exclusively as victims and not as actors and peace builders.

The major concerns during the session were violations of international humanitarian law and human rights, such as a rising number of internally displaced people and overall killings. Member States such as Argentina, Croatia, Bangladesh, the Netherlands (among others) raised their concern for sexual violence, rape, child marriage and forced conversions. The risk of a plausible ethnic genocide was addressed by the Council, as well as by several Member States.

The importance of women’s participation

Women should be equally included in the decision-making and peace process, as required by the United Nations Security Council resolution 1325. The impact of violence on women is not getting the needed attention. Peace processes that do not take women into account have proven to be unsustainable. Recent peace-making cases can account for it: Bosnia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, and more recently Syria.

Addressing women and their efforts in this scenario will not only enable them to positively influence the situation, but will also make a transition to peace more feasible and sustainable.

Fighting for visibility

Iraqi women continue to actively engage in various efforts. They seek to deter the heinous consequences conflict has on them, their families, their communities and their country.

The Iraqi Women Network is one of our partners in Iraq within the framework of our MENA1325 project. We have jointly submitted a statement to the Human Rights Council for this special session. It endorses 90 women’s organisations and groups and gives a general outlook on the abuses that women have been enduring in Iraq, especially since the beginning of ISIL’s attacks against the population.

WILPF also submitted a statement, in collaboration with MADRE and the Organisation for Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), to urge Member States to consider the particular impact of the current situation on women, and to point out the issues of gender-based violence and discrimination, honour killings, and forced, under aged, and temporary marriages.

WILPF brings you closer

The High Commissioner will present a report on its findings at the 28th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2015, as well as an oral update at the upcoming session in September. WILPF will closely follow the decisions that will be made on this matter by the Human Rights Council and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and we will keep you updated through our blog or WILPF’s Human Rights Programme’s newsletter.

What is your government’s position on this matter? What do you think about it? Now is the time to act!

Remember you can follow the Human Rights Council’s sessions live.


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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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