Yanar Mohammed founded the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) in 2003. Since 2004 when it opened its first shelters in Iraq, OWFI has provided refuge for women escaping honour killings, sex trafficking, domestic abuse and ISIS captivity.
In 2014, OWFI expanded its protective capacities outside of individual shelters and brought together more than 40 civil society organisations to form the Network of Anti-Trafficking of Iraqi Women. The Network has allowed Yanar and OWFI to champion Iraqi women’s causes at the international level. Yanar hopes to increasingly involve the international community in the fight for women’s freedom and to bring the perpetrators of gross abuses against women in Iraq before the International Criminal Court.
For her efforts in working for gender equality, Yanar received the 2016 Rafto Prize, an annual award that commemorates outstanding work in advancing human rights and democracy. Click here to hear Yanar talking about the benefits of her receiving this award when she came to Oak offices earlier this year. Click here to find out more about the Rafto prize and why Yanar was chosen.
As we write in November 2016, a military assault is underway to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city from ISIS control. No one knows how long the fighting will last, but in the meantime the battle is creating a humanitarian crisis. Whole families are forced to flee – adding to the 3.3 million Iraqis already displaced from their homes by violence over the last two years.
As Yanar describes here, the women and girls of Mosul face additional danger. Many have suffered abuse carried out by ISIS fighters, yet further abuse awaits some of these women and girls when the perpetrators have fled the city.
Whether they suffered abuse by ISIS fighters, or are simply suspected of having been abused, some women and girls are at serious risk of "honour" killings by their own families or tribes. It is especially hard to protect them in the chaos of warfare and its aftermath.
OWFI is preparing to act as quickly as possible once ISIS is driven out of the city of Mosul to reach and protect these women. OWFI aims to build shelters, potentially saving dozens of women from further abuse and even murder.
We congratulate Yanar on her achievements.