Impunity Watch organises a cross-regional workshop on mapping and addressing patterns and root causes of sexual and gender-based (S)GBV violence in Iraq

Gender conceptions are central to rethinking and reforming security in post conflict countries. As such, it is important to expose the impact of conflict on women and men and how they experience or react to violence. Yet simply exposing the incidence and impact of (sexual) and gender-based violence ((S)GBV) is insufficient if the overall objective is to generate positive and transformative change within police and security systems in Iraq. What is equally necessary is an analysis of the systemic and root causes of violence


Despite the fact that, since 2003, local and international groups, as well as journalists, have documented (S)GBV and sexual abuse, these efforts failed to take into account specific patterns of violations, to examine them in context and to identify their root causes within authoritarianism, occupation, displacement, economic deprivation, sectarian wars, and other forms of conflict from which Iraq has suffered. 


Aware of the need for and importance of a more comprehensive and deeper analysis of (S)GBV in Iraq, from 25 to 27 June 2018, Impunity Watch with Iraqi Al Amal Association and PAX, organised a training on mapping of patterns and root causes of (S)GBV in Iraq from 2003 to 2018. The training took place in Beirut. The training, led by human rights and mapping of human rights violations expert, Marion Volkmann, aimed at increasing the understanding and awareness of root causes and patterns of (S)GBV among participants, as well as their capacity to develop, implement, and evaluate effective transformative strategies to carry out applied research on (S)GBV.


The first day of the training commenced with a theoretical overview of mapping, wherein the rationale of mapping and its different methodologies were addressed. Examples of mapping conducted in other countries for different contexts were shared. The second day saw the start of the mapping exercise. The participants were trained to identify documentation of violations, review them, and insert incidents into a spreadsheet to form a database that will be analysed in order to identify the root causes of these violations. The practical training allowed for a start to the mapping of (S)GBV in Iraq since 2003 under the supervision of the expert. The last day of the training was devoted to the root causes of (S)GBV. An initial discussion between the participants led to the identification of some root causes that were noted in a written document and shared between the participants. By the end of the training, the participants had collected 68 documents, 14 of these were read during the training from which 35 incidents were identified and inserted into the database. A comparative example of a mapping that served to draft a report on enforced disappearances in Lebanon was also presented to the participants. In a presentation entitled “Telling the story with data”, Christalla Yakinthou, senior victim participation research and policy advisor for Impunity Watch, and specialist in conflict transformation at the University of Birmingham, presented the methodology and data analysis performed in order to draft the report: “Living with the Shadows of the Past: The Impact of Disappearance on wives of the Missing in Lebanon”. In addition to the work done to produce the report, Dr. Yakinthou shared some lessons learned in relation to the strategic dissemination of the report and how to use it as an advocacy tool afterwards.


The findings and data analysis resulting from the mapping of patterns of (S)GBV will lead to drafting a report highlighting the root causes of (S)GBV and include recommendations to address and redress these violations. The report will be distributed to stakeholders within Iraq’s justice, security, and political spheres.



The training in Beirut also provided the participants with the opportunity to meet Arab women gender justice activists from different nationalities and to have an exchange about their experiences and the challenges they face in different contexts. Indeed, Moroccan human rights activist and previous member of the CNDH (National Council of Human Rights), Naima Ben Wakrim attended the training to present the Moroccan experience of dealing with the past, focusing on gender and the role of civil society in the truth telling process.

The participants also had the opportunity to meet with Lama Karamé, a lawyer from the Legal Agenda, who explained what the organisation’s role was in Lebanon and how they work on strategic litigation and use it to rationalise the debate, especially as per women’s rights. Wadad Halwani, chairperson of the Families of the Disappeared and Abducted Committee, presented her journey as the wife of a disappeared and how she managed to convey strong messages to politicians and governmental institutions in Lebanon, as well as to advocate for the cause of enforced disappearances in a country where militias were often more powerful than the government. She highlighted the challenges she faced as a woman fighting for her rights along with other women touched by the phenomena. Finally, the Iraqis met with Lama Kannout, Syrian feminist activist and researcher. The meeting was very interactive and both the Lama and the participants benefitted considerably from their respective exchanges.