Women break the silence in Iraq
19 Mar 2021 |

Women break the silence in Iraq

Violence against women is a taboo in Iraq. But now the women are striking back through paintings as part of a project at Mission East's community center in Sinjar.

"In our culture women are expected to remain silent when it comes to violence, no matter the violence is a domestic violence, rape or assault from a stranger, silence cannot heal wounds and address the problem.”

The quote comes from one of the vulnerable women who attends one of the community centers in Sinjar run by Mission East. She has participated in "Breaking the Silence", part of UN’s International 16 Days of Activism campaign aimed at Gender-Based Violence. The result is more than 20 expressive works of art which depict the various kinds of gender-based violence and their negative consequences.

The project is just one of several activities that aim to relieve the local women mentally, so that they can improve their mental well-being in an everyday life that is characterized by stress and trauma. Many of the women are still haunted by trauma following the extreme violence they experienced during ISIS 'bloody attack on Sinjar in 2014.

The shadow pandemic

On top of this trauma, you can add the fear of domestic violence which is a big problem in Iraq. WHO estimates that 35 % of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lives – and there are indications that the problem has grown during the corona pandemic.

New data from the UN and reports from front line workers have shown that all past violence against women and girls, especially domestic violence, has intensified during the pandemic. The UN calls it the "shadow pandemic."

A big need for help

There is a big need for Mission East’s staff, who are available with practical help and guidance for those women who have been or still are victims of domestic violence. At the centers Mission East is addressing protection concerns of the communities through provision of gender-based violence case management services, psychosocial support and legal assistance. Mission East also makes continuous efforts to sensitize communities and raise awareness on gender-based violence.

The offerings range from physical and mental training, therapeutic conversations, drawing and painting to music lessons. In addition, women have the opportunity to acquire basic arithmetic and reading skills, business management and vocational trainings so they are better equipped to act independently both inside and outside the home.

This painting expresses the different forms of violence that happen to a woman

This painting expresses the different forms of violence that happen to a woman. In Shno’s painting, the earring represents forced marriages and marriages with minors. The face of the portrait shows that she is not happy and she imagines herself as a dove to have peace and freedom.

Ameera’s painting expresses the difficult phase when ISIS attacked

Ameera’s painting expresses the difficult phase when ISIS attacked. She says: "The middle part of the painting describes the blood and brutality we faced from ISIS - the way they killed and slaughtered us."

Violence against women and girls

"Violence against women and girls is a global epidemic that destroys life and society and impedes development," says Jihan, who painted this painting.