Iraqi women activists to create common narrative of SGBV in Iraq
Impunity Watch with its partner the Iraqi Al-Amal Association organised a five-day workshop in Beirut from 29 March 2019 to 2 April 2019 entitled: “Engendering Justice in Iraq.” Fifteen Iraqi women activists were trained on new techniques for interviewing, collecting testimonies, and storytelling for survivors of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV). Ultimately, the participants will contribute to producing a common narrative of SGBV in Iraq, which will serve as an evidence base for a wide range of stakeholders working on transformative strategies to address impunity for SGBV in the country.
This training is part of a broader project entitled “Engendering the transition to Peace and Security in Iraq.” in which Impunity Watch, PAX, and Al-Amal are working with Iraqi civil society activists and academics on mapping the root causes and identifying the patterns of SGBV in Iraq. The trained participants will apply their acquired skills to interview SGBV survivors and help them tell their stories. This is the first phase of involving SGBV survivors in the transitional justice process. Most importantly, women survivors will more meaningfully participate in justice processes.
“The training helped me restructure my ideas. I
now have a clear and comprehensive vision on how
to consolidate the different [SGBV survivors’]
narratives,” said Wouroud a participant from the
The training was designed to improve the
participants understanding of transitional justice
and gender with a special focus on truth-seeking
processes. It helped enhance their interviewing,
storytelling, and data and testimony collection
Fadya, a participant from the Basra Governorate,
stressed that she has become more thoughtful of
other people’s suffering and is determined to
defend them, speak on their behalf and convey their experiences in order to improve their real situation. “We have acquired the skill of storytelling and we are more capable of telling human stories and thus becoming leaders in our societies,” she added.
More importantly, the training provided a platform for sharing best practices and lessons learned from comparative experiences from Tunisia where the Truth and Dignity Commission succeeded in incorporating the gender component in truth-seeking processes. The training also showcased best practices and lessons from Morocco with respect to gender justice and truth-telling. Participants worked on developing a work plan and timeline for the collection of stories. Throughout this phase, Impunity Watch and Iraqi Al-Amal Association will be working closely with the trained activists conducting the interviews and providing them with the necessary support as they will be dealing with traumatising stories. Once the interviews are completed, we will produce multimedia products and illustrated books depicting the survivors’ stories. These will be widely disseminated through an advocacy campaign. In addition, the training merged between sharing personal experiences and role-playing exercises, paving the way for significant interaction between the Iraqi women who came from different governorates.
Noting the usefulness of the training in teaching her storytelling techniques in her work with SGBV victims and survivors in Iraq, another participant Basma, stressed that she has learned from her peers’ experiences. “It is true that we are all from Iraq, but there has not been any previous interaction amongst us. It was the first time I meet people from the Basra Governorate and their experiences are completely different from ours,” she explained.
Since 2003, Accountability efforts in Iraq have left very little space for survivors to voice their demands and participate in its proceedings s. This top-down approach left very little space for civic engagement and the participation of victims in any transitional justice process. Despite their intense suffering and their subjection to SGBV violations throughout the years of political instability, Iraqi women have often been excluded from post-conflict efforts dealing with past human rights violations. None of the government-led initiatives focused on women or shed light on the types of human rights abuses they were subjected to. Their ordeal remained invisible to the public, which impeded the emergence of a common narrative on the long history of abuse and violence against women.