‘Lost all hope’; On Women Prisoners & Violence in Iraqi-Kurdistan

Our teams continue to grow and expand Wadi’s ‘No to Violence’ campaign in 2018. By engaging parents, and children in conversation directly, and through media, our teams are working hard to end violence against children in schools and the home. You can follow our campaign on Facebook.

This interview is part of an ongoing series where Wadi staff members, share their experiences, opinions and daily realities. We hope that by sharing their stories, we can be transparent about the day to day of our activities, and amplify our staff’s voices.

These women have lost all hope in life, in their families, in the food they eat and the things they see.

Shokh Mohammed interviews Wadi Erbil Team members Kurdistan Rasul (social worker) and Payam Ahmed (lawyer), about their work and experiences. As of August 2018, Wadi Team in Erbil had carried out 55 ‘Legal and Social Awareness Seminars’ where 757 women benefitted. They also provided individual legal and social counseling to 18 women’s cases currently imprisoned in Erbil.

8-9-2017, children attending the seminar

Children attending a seminar about their rights as part of our ‘No to Violence’ campaign

Through the ‘No to Violence’ campaign, you have been working with children, what do children say about being beaten?

KR: They don’t like being beaten. I really wish we could sit down with children and talk about violence without triggering them. It is very normal for them to be beaten, the children are not aware that they have any rights or any value. The parents are not even aware.

You haven’t started working in the schools in Erbil yet, but have you heard of any cases of violence in the schools?

KR: There are cases, yes. But children in the city, know they should not be beaten. But in the villages that is not the case. In the cities, children tell their parents if they face violence. I think it’s safe to say in the city, schools have reduced corporal punishment, what has increased is emotional and mental abuse.

One inmate once told me that she was being transported to Sulaymaniyah to visit her kids, in the orphanage. I saw her again the other day, she told me “I did not recognize my children, they recognized me”.  I cried for hours. What could happen to a mother that she forgets her children…?

Through your work, you have visited the prisons in Erbil, how was the situation there, and the conditions of the inmates?

KR: I worked in the prisons, for three years, outside of my work with Wadi. I have seen many women, sentenced for joining ISIS. One had a life sentence. These women have lost all hope in life, in their families, in the food they eat and the things they see. Many in prison have learnt to smoke, learnt to be aggressive and hateful.

In prison, there is no rehabilitation, mental and verbal and physical violence is recurrent. The staff in the prison need intensive, thorough, training on how to work with inmates.

PA: The women are in a bad mental state, they have a bad social status, their families cut ties with them. They have no allowances, no clothes, sometimes the women share their clothes.

What I noticed that many women who get caught for prostitution, they have children, these children grow up in the prison, where they get exposed to adult things and see everything around them.

You mentioned children in prison, do these children have access to any health or education services?

KR: There is nothing for them as far as we know. What they see and learn is from the other inmates, shouting, screaming and cursing ….

Wadi is currently looking to expand our program working with women prisoners and their children,  if you would like to support this project please donate here