I fought back... and survived | 27 juli 2020 | by PAX


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 Lama from Basra

Before I got married, I used to live with my parents, my sister and my two brothers. Although my father was a mathematics teacher, he would not let me or my sister pursue our education. He always favored my brothers and encouraged them to pursue their education even though they hated studying. For my father, marriage was the only way to preserve our dignity.

I married a man who worked at one of the oil companies, and has a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He gave a good impression: an open-minded man who I agreed to marry, thinking he might fulfill my ambitions and support me in achieving the goals I yearned for.

Two months after our marriage, my husband started insulting and beating me up. I accepted his repeated insults and violence for the sake of preserving my marriage. It got worse over time, until one night he came home reeking of alcohol as usual. He wanted to force me into having sex with him, so he followed me to my bedroom, grabbed my head and beat me harshly. He tore up my clothes, spat in my face, and raped me violently. Whenever I tried to push him away, he would bite my hands like a dog, slap me in the face and mouth, and choke me to prevent me from screaming so as not to wake any of the family members sleeping in the neighboring rooms.

After the abuse, I ran away to my family’s house, asking for their support in filing for a divorce, but my father refused because of the customs and traditions of our society. For them, a divorced woman has questionable morals and honor. This forces many women subjected to domestic violence and raped by their husband to remain silent.

I am still married and I am still being beaten and raped by my husband. I want to be a hero. Perhaps I am indeed a hero. But not all heroes get to have happy endings.

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