In Sisterhood We Stand
Against all odds and against all attacks
In spite of the explosions that continue to shake Baghdad every night, I will continue to write this message to the end, and will not stop the flow of words even if the attacks come closer to my neighborhood or to my door. None of these attacks can break the bond of sisterhood which empowered and kept us on our feet all these years against all odds.
It was a most miserable day when the streets of our cities were trampled upon by tens of thousands of soldiers who called themselves “liberators” in 2003. From thereon, every single neighborhood in Baghdad was bombed, and every family lost a loved one. Some of us could not take it anymore, and looked for escape “over the waters” to a destiny which is unknown to be in Europe or under the dark waters. To Add insult to injury, those of us who stayed in Iraq were forced into veil and miserable clothing which is meant to punish all womankind, making us stay inside our homes, cooking and cleaning for men who were told by “religious leaders” that they need to control the “beast” that lives inside the heads and bodies of women, a beast which will only destroy all societies.
Our sisters in North Western and Western Iraq yet envy us for the security and well-being that we have in the capital, as they witnessed oppression and violation which surpassed the experiences of Jews in Nazi camps, and any other psychological warfare of the modern age. I recall two of them as I wrote their stories in the past year.
Siham was unable to escape the ISIS controlled town of Hawija and cross to the other side because the Kurdish checkpoint did not approve of her Arabic language and thought of her as a terrorist. She was broken while walking back to her town through the ISIS checkpoint, where they decided that she is a traitor who needs to be placed in the fighters’ “entertainment” house. Before the day was over, twenty seven ISIS fighters repeatedly raped Siham. The rapes continued for many days. Siham’s story is similar to thousands of women in Western Iraq, and is not considered news in Iraq, or in the international media, as everybody is busy celebrating the military victories against ISIS.
Sahira continued to be tormented and did not want to talk to me in the few times that I met her in our shelter for Yazidi women in Dohuk. Although her fourteen-year-old sister who accompanied her escape from ISIS quarters is safe and with her, she has developed a speech impediment and will always look the other way when spoken to in Arabic – the language of her ISIS captors. I continue to try to make life easier for both of them, but the fact that all their family continues to be enslaved by ISIS leaves them tormented in ways that are hard to imagine.
I am not sure if Siham is still alive, as she continues to live in the ISIS controlled town of Hawija, but I will be heading tomorrow to a bordering village Rubaidha to see if I can help out a few of the sisters who walked all night on foot in order to escape ISIS.
After I hold hands with sisters of Siham and Sahira, and remind them how strong they are and how life can be better one day, I will have to come back home later at night and be reminded that I am strong enough to support other women, and that life for me and all women of Iraq will be good some day. And for that reason, I always value and remember that my sisters in the women’s movement were there for me and for OWFI. I also remember how our sisters held our back in times of extreme shock, and weakness.
I know for sure that neither OWFI or I personally could not have continued the struggle without our sisters’ support, approaching us, holding our hands and empowering us in every way possible.
It was in this sisterhood that we were able to stand all these years against all odds which resulted from the heinous and inhumane invasion of Iraq and criminal manipulation of its political scene.
We send out our solidarity to the OBR and the V-Day and wish them the best of achievements in their struggle onwards.
Long live Freedom and Equality
Long live Women’s Solidarity
1 in 3 women across the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. That’s ONE BILLION WOMEN AND GIRLS. Every February, we rise – in hundreds of countries across the world – to show our local communities and the world what one billion looks like and shine a light on the rampant impunity and injustice that survivors most often face. We rise through dance to express joy and community and celebrate the fact that we have not been defeated by this violence. We rise to show we are determined to create a new kind of consciousness – one where violence will be resisted until it is unthinkable.
This year we are Rising In Solidarity Against the Exploitation of Women. We are initiating a new series, “RISING SOLIDARITY” where we will be sharing stories of extraordinary activists from around the world about their experiences with true solidarity, harnessing a deeper understanding of why it is critical in the fight against systems of oppression and exploitation. Providing both regional and global context for what it means to stand in solidarity with each other.