The United Nations reports that as part of the campaign of violence being waged by the self-styled Islamic State, terrorists have kidnapped thousands of women and young girls, handing them over to “fighters as reward or sold as sex slaves.”
On Monday, a top British official and two Iraqi frontline service providers will join U.S government officials, United Nations personnel, NGOs and University of Virginia faculty members for “Responding to ISIS Violence against Women and Girls,” a daylong conference designed to deliver results at its conclusion. The invitation-only event will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Newcomb Hall Ballroom.
The conference aims to raise awareness of ISIS’ brutal and persistent violations against women and girls in Iraq and Syria and to develop practical tools for providing victims with immediate and effective assistance, said Stewart Gamage, program director at U.Va.’s Morven, which is organizing the conference with AMAR, the Presidential Precinct and U.Va.’s Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center.
One of Britain’s best-known politicians and an expert on Iraq, Baroness Emma Nicholson of Winterbourne, will speak at the event. Nicholson is a frequent visitor to Iraq and has been active there for the last 23 years. In addition to carrying out her political duties in Britain’s House of Lords, she chairs AMAR U.S., a Washington, D.C.-based humanitarian charity. She founded the AMAR Foundation in 1991 to support underserved populations in the Middle East.
Nicholson recently returned from her latest trip to oversee AMAR’s work on the ground in the refugee camps of the Kurdistan region in the north of Iraq. Two women from AMAR’s senior Iraqi emergency humanitarian team will accompany her to U.Va.: Behar Ali, AMAR’s top representative in the Kurdistan region; and Dr. Bayan Kader Rasul, a physician with more than 32 years’ experience who specializes in women’s health.
Ali met a young woman earlier this month who had been raped by many ISIS fighters.
“She was 23 years old and in very bad health. She was terrified she was pregnant. We offer what help we can, both physically and psychologically, to these poor girls. There are so many of these stories,” said Ali, herself a refugee from the village of Halabja, where 5,000 people died in 1988 after a poison gas attack by Saddam Hussein’s forces.
On Monday, following morning panel discussions that will provide an overview of the situation and the U.S government’s response to date, working groups will address several aspects of the crisis, including the legal response and potential health, psycho-social and economic support for the victims. Resolutions for action by the conference participants will be delivered at the conclusion of the conference.