By Svend Løbner 20 Jun 2022 |

Mission East in war-torn Iraq: Security above all

It takes time to heal wounds and restore trust in people after war. That is why Mission East's civic centers in Iraq are so important. Because here, victims of violence and rape can get help and regain a sense of normality, says head of programmes, Sana Basim.

War always affects civilians. Women and children are particularly vulnerable. When values ​​disintegrate, the outrage in society increases and it takes a long time to restore peace and order in post conflict and protracted crises.

This is also the case in Iraq after decades of wars and unrest and the terror of ISIS in recent years.

Therefore, security is a high priority for Mission East in Iraq. Women and children who have been beaten, raped and tortured need help immediately. And there is a need to prevent something similar from happening again. Entire communities must be able to return to as normal an everyday life as possible.

Irak Sinjar Mission Øst

People need to feel safe

But what does Mission East do in order to increase security for vulnerable groups in Iraq? We asked head of programmes Sana Basim:

"You can line my house with gold, but it does not help if I do not feel safe," a mukhtar from Sinjar mentioned. A mukhtar  is a local leader.

- This puts things in perspective. We hand out food, provide water, teach people a livelihood, etc. That's fine. But the most basic thing is to create security so that people feel safe and can live their lives with dignity and respect.

How do you do that?

- We work with both prevention and emergency care. We seek to equip the local community to detect and report abuses, but also to prevent these from happening. We involve families, educators, school teachers, health professionals, religious and ethnic leaders, police and municipal staff in a discussion on how society can ensure basic human rights for women and girls in particular.

Trust comes first

Mission East operates two civic centers in Iraq - one in Sinjar and one in Kirkuk - where people who have suffered abuse can come and talk about their experiences and receive psychological first aid.

What if a woman comes to one of your centers? What if she has just been raped and her clothes are torn to pieces and smeared with blood. What does Mission East do?

- Our first task is to build trust and if she is coming directly to us, it already means that she trusts our staff and services. In such cases, the immediate response is to seek clinical help for management of rape to avoid any unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, any genital injury and to provide psychological help through confidential referral mechanisms.

Following immediate support, Mission East services are available to record her case, help her to identify the support system within the community, developing a safety plan, reviewing it frequently, providing individual counseling and recreational activities to enable her to cope with the trauma. 

Involve religious leaders

But if the woman is a victim of violence from her husband - how do you get the man to stop the abuse?

- We cannot confront the perpetrator directly. It will only make the situation worse for that poor woman. First, we register her case and ask her preferences, if she wants Mission East team to visit her, contact her by telephone or if she will come to our centers where various women and children related activities are ongoing. And then we have to go to the people who have the man's trust already and, for example, involve local religious leaders. Here, too, the relationship is based on trust. And most have great respect for religious leaders.

Here again, Sana Basim touches on the importance of prevention:

- It is all about leading a society back to normality, where there is good peace and order, where people show consideration for each other and even reach out with care. It's a long process. Getting a war-torn country back on its feet is not just about winning a war, it's about winning the peace - in the broadest sense. People need to find their way back to a normal everyday life where the wounds of the past are slowly healed and trusting relationships are re-established.

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