I fought back... and survived | 4 augustus 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 Sana from Baghdad

My family, my friends and I used to have a happy life. We traveled together and lived freely.



My life turned into hell once I took the bonds of marriage. They were bonds with no escape.

We had three daughters, which made my life even more bitter, as I didn’t give birth to the boy the family wished for.

My husband served in the military, and it was easy for him to hit me and humiliate me. I endured his cruelty with my daughters for 11 years, as I was afraid of confronting him. He used to beat me violently and brutally until I passed out. He would pull me by my hair, without mercy. He even forced me to do inappropriate things during sex, threatening to divorce me if I did not obey.

In addition to his frequent infidelities, we lived in poverty, so I would turn to my family for financial support. When I shared my suffering with my family, and told them I wanted a divorce, they were unfair to me and biased towards him because of our social customs and traditions. They refused the idea of a divorce, because a divorced woman is despised and marginalized. There was no point in sharing my concerns with them. I endured the insults and humiliation of my mother-in-law in order in order not to damage the family’s reputation. I didn’t want my family to break down.

I didn’t have the courage to file a complaint against my husband. In my society, it would be a shameful and indecent matter. I am a prisoner of this awful reality. I have no choice but to yield to my destined tragedies and sufferings!

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