Tackling Sexual And Gender-based Violence

“I feel like someone liberated my soul”

Adila, child bride and refugee from Iraq

“I was only 12, playing in the village with my friends, when I was married. I didn’t understand what my in-laws meant when they called me barren. They bullied me and stopped me from seeing anyone, even a doctor. All I knew was that I felt shame, guilt and I was unwanted.”

“After a few years, I asked to see my parents. My husband dropped me at their house and never came back. I was left alone, a burden on my parents, pitied as a ‘woman without a womb.”

“One night, in June 2014, our lives changed forever. ISIS fighters came and murdered our relatives and neighbours, and raped women in front of us. We ran for our lives and sought refuge in Yahyawa, Kirkuk.
“We had no food, shelter or support and slept under the open sky until humanitarian agencies set up a camp and gave us hope. Islamic Relief came and said they could help. They spoke in our own language and listened with understanding. They told me about a safe centre for women and encouraged me to visit.

“At the center they run recreational activities for women and teach new skills, but most of all they are there to listen. I shared my story with one of the case workers who counselled me, told me my rights and helped me get legal support for a divorce.

“After 37 years of suffering in silence, I am free. I feel like someone has liberated my soul.

“I started attending Islamic Relief’s gardening activities and that’s where I found myself. Now I grow vegetables in a little space beside our camp and when I see my garden I feel happy and relaxed. I even contribute to my family’s income by selling vegetables. It’s a small garden, but these plants are my life. They are my children.

“I know this camp has many stories, some worse than mine. We are women who have suffered in silence for too long but Islamic Relief is our voice. Every human being has a right to be safe and free from exploitation. Islamic Relief is helping us claim that right.”

Sexual and gender-based violence is widespread in Iraq, and women and girls who have been forced from their homes are at greater risk. Islamic Relief, with funding from Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and UNFPA, runs 14 women’s centres in Baghdad, Anbar and Kirkuk. We support survivors with counselling and healthcare. We also engage with faith leaders and encourage men and boys to prevent violence against women and girls.