I fought back... and survived | 24 juni 2020 | by PAX0
I fought back... and survived
Many women and girls in Iraq face various forms of sexual and gender-based violence, which are worsened as a result of armed conflicts and political instability. PAX partners Al-Amal Association and the Al-Firdaws Society have been gathering stories from women and girls who dare to speak out, stories about fighting back against sexual and gender based violence. We are publishing some of these stories in this blog series. These stories are shocking, and are difficult to read.
The stories have been gathered and are being retold as part of an effort to break the 'culture of silence' around violence against women and lessen the stigma of being a victim. And, of course, to try to improve the government's and the security sector's response to such violence. The Dutch NGO Impunity Watch is also involved in this project.
Names and some details have been fabricated to protect the identities of the people involved.
I am Mays from Mosul
My father forced me to marry a married man because he could no longer provide for me. Soon enough, my husband’s other wife started to fight with me, and her daughters would also beat me and invade my privacy.
As for my husband, he was obedient to his first wife, and only cared about having sex with me. They treated me like a house servant. I told my husband that I needed love and affection, but he answered that it was my duty to satisfy his needs and make him happy. After a while, our relationship became strained, and he started hitting me for no reason. Whenever I asked my father for help, he refused, telling me I should take responsibility for my decisions and follow the customs of our society. After that, I stopped complaining to my parents. My life with my husband was full of pain and humiliation. He didn’t change the way he treated me; in fact, it got even worse. When the security situation worsened because of ISIS, we tried to escape from Mosul to Kirkuk Governorate. There were clashes along the way and my husband was killed, and I was forced to carry on the journey with his first wife and our children.
Finally, we reached a camp in Kirkuk Governorate. My husband’s first wife started to spread rumors, saying that I caused his death. Although my parents had rented a house near the camp, they refused to take me in with my children who fell ill from the cold, because their house was too small. I had no choice but to return to the camp and bear the insults and mistreatment of my husband’s first wife.
One night, when I was sleeping with my kids in our tent, I suddenly felt two men with hidden faces attacking me. They threatened me to keep me quiet. The first man raped me while the other guarded the tent, and then he raped me too. I wanted to seek help, but I feared the men could kill my children, so I remained silent. I even asked my husband’s wife to sleep with us in the same tent for extra safety but she refused. One week later, the two men came back and brutally raped me again. What do I do now? If I remain silent, they will come back another time. If my parents knew, they would kill me!
I lived in fear and confusion. Soon after, I found out that I was pregnant. Who can I ask for help? Shall I end my life?
After thinking it over, I asked the social worker in the camp for help, but there was not much that she could do. I was so terrified that I deliberately fell over, and bled heavily. I went back to the social worker who referred me to the Iraqi Al-Amal Association to help me confirm if I was still pregnant. I had had a miscarriage. Soon, my health deteriorated and the bleeding grew even heavier. My doctor told me to take my medications regularly, and to eat well in order to make up for the blood I lost.
The Iraqi Al-Amal Association helped me buy medicine and brought me back to the camp in secret. Until now, I still live in fear, and I can’t sleep a wink, fearing the two men will return.
But I try to remain strong for my kids, and I am also looking for a job to support us so we can leave the camp as soon as possible.