I fought back... and survived | 13 juli 2020 | by PAX

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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 Hala from Kirkuk

I was raised at my grandmother’s house where I grew up, lacking a mother’s tenderness and a father’s advice. My father was an alcoholic. I never loved him. He used to come home at night and beat my mother, who tolerated his behavior and insults because she married him out of love. She loved him so much that she started beating me too. She didn’t believe me when I told her that our relationship was not a father-daughter relationship, as he used to touch me, kiss me and abuse me.

The person supposedly responsible for my protection was my rapist. My father.

Time passed, and my father started to visit me constantly and touch me inappropriately. The idea of being alone with him terrified me. His perverted behaviors led my mental health to deteriorate and pushed me to neglect my studies, despite my outstanding academic performance and passion for education.

One day, my mother asked me to go to the family house to help with household chores and prepare food for my father so she could stay with my brother at the hospital, where he was suffering from thalassemia. When my father returned the next morning to drive me home, I asked him if we could bring my grandmother with us, but he refused. That day, he brought alcohol home with him from work. He started drinking and coming close to me. I tried to break free, but to no avail. He undressed me and raped me in cold blood. I could not stop him. He raped me four times in two days. When I saw him going to the bathroom, I ran away and filed a complaint at the police station.

I was referred to the hospital for a medical checkup, but my father denied the allegations and was released due to lack of evidence until the results of the medical tests were out. He tried to tamper with the medical results and bribe me, but without success. Even when my mother did not believe me and testified in his favor, he was sentenced to life imprisonment, and I was transferred to a shelter because my life was under threat.

Two years later, my father was released after bribing powerful people. He was looking for me and wanted to kill me. During that time, I lived in terror, panic and anxiety. But fate did not just sit back and watch. One day, my mother caught him trying to rape my little 7-year-old sister, so she rushed to report him. He was put in prison, and I went back to live with my mother.

It is true that I am a survivor, but I lost my trust in people and I became harsher. Will I ever go back to being who I was?

Although he is now in jail, I can still see him in my head.

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