Thank you for having us here.
My name is Yanar Mohammed, and I'm president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. It so happens that I am in Canada right now, which gives me an opportunity to convey to you what happens to the women of Iraq at this point and why there is a need for this part of the world to lend a helping hand.
At this point, what we do in Iraq is try to save women from honour killings. We have opened shelters for women. I don't know whether it's clear on this side of the world, but current laws in Iraq still support the honour killing of women. In the south, in one city only, 133 women were killed in this current year. And these are the official announcements. The real numbers of women killed in Iraq every year are somewhere between 500 to 1,000, all under laws that legalize these killings. They abide by what is called the honour issue.
These women have nowhere to go. In our shelters we are able to take a few, and now we are being pressured by the government. They are trying to make our shelters illegal. These women are leaving Iraq and going to Syria and Jordan. They are part of that population of two million who are starving, humiliated, not being accepted anywhere in the world. There is a population of somewhere between 10,000 and 50,000 women who are forced to sell themselves on a daily basis in order to make ends meet, in order to keep their children alive.
These women need to hear from this country's policies. These women do not deserve this much humiliation from Iraq's policies, which happened because of political issues.
Our organization has gone into the prisons in Iraq, into the prisons for women. What we have found out is that women, while in the detainment centres, are being raped. We have found seven cases of women who were raped by Iraqi police. We raised the issue with the Ministry of Interior and have not heard any answers from them. It has been one year since we raised this issue.
In terms of the trafficking issue, somewhere between 5,000 and 50,000 women have been trafficked to the surrounding countries and are being exploited. Why do I say between 5,000 and 50,000? It depends on the way you identify trafficking. At this moment, the women of Iraq are living in a big prison. They are not being welcomed in many places in the world.
I would also like to mention a few things about youth. If you are a young person, usually a male, trying to move in Baghdad or in another city from one area to the other, you have to have a false ID in your pocket. Otherwise, if you hold the wrong ID, you are detained. You disappear. You do not go back to your parents. If are a Sunni, you do not go back to your parents.
The militia are in control of the checkpoints and also in control of the government. It is very clear over the television now that militia warfare has taken millions of people in Iraq hostage. The youth are being held hostage.
Selwan, for example, applied to become a policeman. He worked there for many months until his conscience could not take any more torture issues. He was seeing Sunnis being tortured in the police centres. Selwan left the police. Now in his area and in the further cities, the Jaysh al-Mahdi is recruiting. This militia, which is recruiting young people, is against the government. Full-scale warfare has taken hold, and Iraqis are being held as refugees in their own cities, in their own houses.
At this moment, because of the time, I would like to speak on behalf of some of the other people in my group.
I would like to mention the issue of the Christians and how they are being sabotaged inside Iraq: the Archbishop who was kidnapped and then killed, the priest who was walking in a funeral procession and was killed by a runaway car, the mass immigration from Basra in the south of Iraq just because the Islamic parties are in control of that city. It's even an exaggeration to call them parties. These are militias who are in control of our cities and they have turned them into a very unfriendly zone for other religions, for the other gender, because women are not really very much supported under their agenda. Other religions are also to be considered in this issue.
I would like to focus here on the acceptance of women being discriminated against in this new era in Iraq. Honour killing articles in the criminal code are still valid, and they still provide the cover-up for the killing of women. Somewhere between 500 and 1,000 women are killed every month.
I would like to tell you this small story. It is a real story that happened two days ago in Sadr City, the same place where the fighting took place two days ago. Nobody mentions the warfare against women.
Zainab was found by herself with a male who is not her husband. She was taken out of the car by the Jaysh al-Mahdi militia. She was stripped naked and forced to walk naked all over the city. She was humiliated just because she is a woman who was found in what was thought of as an immoral situation. They took her back to her house and they told all the family they had to leave the city. Zainab was very lucky she was not killed. This is a big prison for women, for other religions, a big prison for anybody who is not from the sectarian group of the government, which is Islamic Shia.
I usually do not disclose this information. I speak about this as a Muslim Shia, and this should not happen anywhere in the world. But what do I say to these youths, to these women around me, when they ask me about Canada? How it is one of the most developed countries in the world? How it has the highest standards and how they are not accepting immigrants at this point, or they are making it more difficult? What do I say to Eman, who had to live while very exploited as a prostitute, who saw the woman next to her brought back as a bloody body drilled from head to toe by electric drills?
This is the situation when you live like a minority in a country like Iraq at this time. The occupation has brought us very inhumane situations, and unfortunately Canada finds itself in the position where it has to do the cleanup or help people who are unfortunate on the other side of the world. This is the reason I come here to speak, and I'm very fortunate to be able to be in Canada at this point.
Thank you very much for giving us the time. We would like to hear more from you later.