Emelia Frennmark

About Emelia Frennmark

Field representative Iraq, The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation's office in Erbil.

Women’s human rights defenders meet to unite at times of crises and conflict in Iraq

The fall of Mosul occurred the day before a meeting of women’s rights defenders from Iraqi civil society and authorities in a hotel in the outskirts of Erbil. The participants were based in Bagdad, Kirkuk and various parts of the Kurdistan Region. They are part of a network of Iraqi women’s rights defenders and government officials who have participated in Kvinna till Kvinna-organized training courses on women, peace and security and UN Security Council resolution 1325, a landmark document that stresses the role of women in conflict prevention and resolution.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the recent adoption of a national action plan by the governments in Baghdad and Erbil for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325. The action plan aims at, amongst other things, increasing participation of women in decision-making and abolishing or amending legislation that is discriminatory. It is the result of several years of sustained advocacy by Iraqi women’s rights activist. The national action plan was drawn up together with governmental stakeholders, and it is seen as a landmark for women’s rights in the Middle East and North Africa region. However, having the plan agreed on and signed is just the beginning – to fully implement the plan over the next five year remains and is a big challenge for the ministries and authorities in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region as well as for their civil society partners.

However, the news of the fall of Mosul and the response by the federal government cast a dark shadow over the meeting. Many of the participants were worried about their loved ones, friends and colleagues. Some of them also feared the response of the Iraqi government to what happened, and what over-reactions would mean for all those organizations and individuals who work for peace and security across the country:

- The last speech from the prime minister is about mobilizing the people and the tribes to stand by the army, it’s about militarization, said Hasan Hadi, from the Iraqi Al-Amal Association. This will lead to destruction. Civil society and peace building can be ruined in just a few days, so now we are battling.

- We are very afraid of the future of the civil society, he continued. If there is a state of emergency, it will affect the civil society: we will not be able to meet or to gather, and there will also be effects on the media.

Participants stressed that is important to keep on pushing for a bigger role for women in conflict prevention and resolution, and the crucial role of civil society. Liza Hido from the Baghdad Women Association, one of the architects behind the national action plan and guest speaker at the meeting, called for increased collaboration:

- We need to cooperate and understand each other, we should be united as civil society says Liza Hido.

Meeting on Women, Peace and Security in Erbil 11 June

Some of the meeting participants discussing Women, Peace and Security, Erbil 11 June

Two sisters murdered after stay at shelter in Suleimania

The bodies of two sisters aged 16 and 18 years were found in a pond in late February. The sisters had previously stayed at the government shelter in Suleimania. After a legal decision the sisters were returned to their family only to be found murdered some time thereafter.

Lanja Abdulla, chairwoman of Warvin foundation for women issues, one of Kvinna till Kvinna partner organisations, reports about another young girl who was killed earlier this year after she had been in the shelter in Erbil.

Lanja Abdulla and other women activists are outraged and demand the government to protect the women and girls from being killed by their family members. The state shelters in Kurdistan are failing to protect women and girls at risk of gender-based violence.

Read about Kvinna till Kvinna’s recent visit to the shelter in Suleimania, where the two sisters were staying before they were murdered.

Media reports about the case:

No future? – The struggle to support women survivors of violence in Iraqi Kurdistan

A beautiful spring day in Iraqi Kurdistan, Runak Faraj, chairwoman of Women’s Media and Education Centre (WMEC), one of Kvinna till Kvinna’s partner organizations in Iraq, accompany me and my colleagues Bayan and Hadeel to the new government shelter in Suleimania.

View over Suleimania

View over Suleimania

In 2011, Iraqi Kurdistan adopted a domestic violence law that prohibits all forms of gender-based violence. According to the law, the Kurdistan Regional Government is responsible for to “provide shelter to the victims of domestic violence”. There is one government shelter in each governorate in Iraqi Kurdistan, three in total. The shelter in Suleimania has recently been moved to new premises at a secret location.

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Syrian refugee women in Domiz camp struggling for their rights in Iraqi Kurdistan

A very early Sunday morning just before Christmas, I left Erbil by car with Abdulrahman Ali from Warvin foundation for women issues, one of Kvinna till Kvinna’s partner organizations in Iraq. We were heading to Domiz refugee camp to meet with the Syrian refugee women who Warvin have trained and worked with during the year to hear about their situation and activism.

While it had been below zero in Erbil, we did not see the snow until we reached the mountains near Dohuk. Before continuing to Domiz camp, we had breakfast and got warmed up in at a café surrounded by the beautiful snowy mountains.

Later in the morning, we arrived in Domiz camp. It was very cold and muddy. Warvin’s local staff in Dohuk showed us the camp. Domiz camp, which was the first refugee camp set up in April 2012 in Iraqi Kurdistan to host Syrian refugees, is located about 20 km from the city of Dohuk and about 60 km from the Syrian border. Domiz refugee camp is the biggest refugee camp for Syrian refugees in Iraq with a population of around 60,000 people. About 250,000 Syrian refugees are now living in exile in Iraq.

One of the main crossroads in Domiz camp

One of the main crossroads in Domiz camp

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Amez working for change in Iraqi Kurdistan

One day late in October, I travelled to Halabja with my colleague Bayan to visit the Amez Center, one of the partner organizations of Kvinna till Kvinna. Halabja is a war ridden town, on the border to Iran, about 270 km from Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan region of Iraq (KRI). Even though there now is peace in Halabja and the living situation generally has improved, women and girls are still struggling for their basic rights and freedoms. The Amez Center, founded in 2005, offers a safe space for women and girls to meet and take part in trainings, cultural events, seminars and other activities. The overarching aim of Amez is to empower women and ensuring women’s human rights. In the past few months, Amez has grown and more women are asking to take part in Amez’s activities, both in the town of Halabja and in the nearby villages.

When we first arrived at the Amez Center, we were invited to watch a drama lesson with a group of young girls.

Girls meet for drama lessons in the Amez Center every week.

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