[JURIST] Islamic State (IS) [BBC backgrounder] fighters are arbitrarily detaining, ill-treating, torturing and forcibly marrying Sunni Arab women and girls in areas under their control in Iraq, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [press release] on Monday. Although gender-based violence has been common under IS rule, these are the first cases of such violence being perpetrated upon Sunni Arab women. HRW researchers interviewed six women who had escaped from IS control and are now being treated for psychological trauma in Kirkuk. One of the women explained that she was forced to marry her cousin, an IS fighter. Another described being raped daily in front of her children while being held in a large abandoned house. Experts explained the difficulty in assessing the prevalence of gender-based violence among women who have fled IS rule as they generally remain silent to avoid stigmatization. In a statement, HRW Deputy Middle East Director Lama Fakih [official profile] said that she hopes “the international community and local authorities will do all they can to give this group of victims the support they need.”
Iraqi civilians continue to be victimized by the forces fighting in Iraq. The UN reported last month that 19,266 Iraqi civilian casualties occurred in 2016 alone [JURIST report], with 6,878 killed and 12,388 wounded. Since 2014 IS has reportedly launched [JURIST report] over 19 chemical attacks against Mosul. In November UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called for immediate action [JURIST report] for IS victims to ensure that their rights are being upheld in Iraq. That month, Amnesty International (AI) accused [JURIST report] Iraqi police forces of torturing and unlawfully killing villagers near Mosul during last year’s offensive in the city. In October AI accused Iraqi government forces of human rights abuses [JURIST report], citing them as possible revenge killings. In September the UN reported that two-thirds of those injured or killed the prior month were civilians [JURIST report].