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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Women suspected of ISIS links subjected to abuses in northern Iraq: Amnesty

Witnesses detailed sexual attacks in eight camps in areas liberated by Baghdad's forces

This photo released by Amnesty International shows 33-year-old mother of six, Zahra, outside a tent used for cooking inside in Salamiya camp for internally displaced people where she and her family have lived for 7 months. Claire Thomas / AP
This photo released by Amnesty International shows 33-year-old mother of six, Zahra, outside a tent used for cooking inside in Salamiya camp for internally displaced people where she and her family have lived for 7 months. Claire Thomas / AP

Iraqi women suspected of ties to ISIS are being subjected to acts of sexual violence in more than half a dozen northern Iraqi refugee camps, Amnesty International said in a new report released on Tuesday.

Based on 92 interviews with women from eight camps in the districts of Salaheddin and Nineveh, the rights group detailed brutal accounts of rape and sexual assault against women.

"Women were being coerced and pressured into entering sexual relationships in exchange for desperately needed cash, humanitarian aid and protection from other men," the report said.

It said many of the families interviewed had male relatives who had either been killed or arrested as they fled the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in the 10-month coalition offensive to liberate the city from ISIS.

As well as the sexual violence, local Iraqi and tribal officials were denying the women and their children access to humanitarian aid because of their suspected links to militants. Those who have arrived back to their homes have encountered evictions, looting, threats and abuse, the report said. Others have had their power cut off, or even their homes destroyed.

“Women and children with perceived ties to ISIS are being punished for crimes they did not commit,” Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty’s Middle East research director, wrote in the report. “This humiliating collective punishment risks laying the foundation for future violence.”

Iraqi forces, backed by the air power and advisers of the US-led coalition, ousted ISIS from Mosul in July 2017 after a protracted nine-month offensive. The extremist group held the city for three years after its leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi had declared the creation of a caliphate straddling Iraq and Syria.

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Since the fall of Mosul, eyewitnesses and humanitarian organisations have documented widespread abuses by the Iraqi forces. In one case, a US-trained Iraqi military unit, the 16th Division, was accused of the summary executions of several dozen men in Mosul’s Old City as the battle for Mosul neared its end.

In November 2017, the United Nations said that at least 2,521 civilians had been killed in the battle for Mosul. ISIS executed at least 741 people, the report said, and 74 of their mass graves were discovered in or around the city.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi has pledged to bring perpetrators to justice where there is evidence of violations.

The rights group called on his administration in Baghdad to act to end the mistreatment of those who are not yet proven to have ISIS ties.

“To put an end to the poisonous cycle of marginalisation and communal violence that has plagued Iraq for decades, the Iraqi government and international community must commit to upholding the rights of all Iraqis without discrimination,” Ms Maalouf wrote.

“Without this, there can be no national reconciliation or lasting peace.”