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Interviews Available: Iraqi Activist to Testify at the UN on ISIS, Sexual Violence and Shelter for Women


Contact: Kat Noel, MADRE Media Coordinator, 1-212-627-0444,

Interviews Available: Iraqi Activist to Testify at the UN on ISIS, Sexual Violence and Shelter for Women

Operator of “Underground Railroad” for Survivors of Abuse to Speak Out on Iraqi Government’s Undermining Efforts to Protect Women

Wednesday, October 7, 2015 (New York, NY) – Yanar Mohammed, women’s rights activist and operator of an underground network of women’s shelters in Iraq, will address the United Nations Security Council next week where she will call for the Council’s commitment to develop and implement policies to promote gender equality. She will also highlight the failure of the Iraqi government to provide adequate protection for survivors of violence while it prohibits local non-governmental groups’ efforts to provide refuge.

This month, the UN marks 15 years since passing the Security Council’s Resolution 1325, mandating the participation of women in peace building. Policymakers and advocates are meeting in New York to evaluate progress on the global agenda on women, peace and security.

Ms. Mohammed founded and directs the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), which provides shelter and urgent services to women escaping violence and advocates for human rights for all.OWFI is supported by the international human rights organization MADRE, which has a long history of engagement on the issue of wartime sexual assault.

During the Security Council debate on October 13, she will speak directly to world leaders about the violence that has seized Iraq, Syria and much of the region, including the rise of ISIS. She will also spotlight specific impacts on women and girls, like the systematic use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.

In addition, Ms. Mohammed will call attention to the implications of a policy regarding shelters. Authorities in Iraq have prohibited local non-governmental organizations from running shelters (outside of Kurdistan). Yet, the need for such shelters has exploded with the ISIS invasion, as women and girls flee persecution and the threat of sexual enslavement.

“This is a critical time,” Ms. Mohammed said. “Our safe houses provide security for women escaping the worst violence, from honor killings to ISIS enslavement, and we are constantly under threat from raids and harassment from government and local militias. Rather than force women at risk into the shadows, we need policies that empower and support them.”

Yanar Mohammed and Julienne Lusenge, President of Female Solidarity for Integrated Peace and Development (SOFEPADI) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, were invited to testify on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security.

Available for interview:

  • ​​​​Yanar Mohammed, President of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in​ ​Iraq (OWFI) works to shelter women escaping extremist violence and to confront violations of women’s human rights. (English or Arabic)
  • Yifat Susskind, Executive Director of MADRE, partnered with OWFI, works with women’s human rights activists from Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East, creating programs to address violence against women, economic development, armed conflict, climate change and more. (English)
  • Lisa Davis, MADRE Human Rights Advocacy Director and Clinical Professor of Law for the International Women's Human Rights Clinic at CUNY School of Law. (English)​

Additional resources available, click here.