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UN Human Rights Chief Urges Iraqi Government to help Victims of Islamic State (ISIS) Sex Abuse

As of July 2, the United Nations reports more than 3,500 women and girls and nearly 3,000 men and boys from the Yazidi community have been abducted. It says thousands more remain unaccounted for

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UN Human Rights chief urges Iraqi government to help victims of Islamic state sex abuse
FILE - Yazidi sisters, who escaped from captivity by Islamic State (IS) militants, sit in a tent at Sharya refugee camp on the outskirts of Duhok province, Iraq, July 3, 2015. VOA
  • United Nations Human Rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein is urging the Iraqi government to provide help to women who have been sexually abused by IS fighters
  • A report by the U.N. Human Rights office describes horrific forms of sexual violence inflicted upon women and girls by IS fighters
  • Data From the Yazidi community indicate widespread sexual violence by IS

Geneva, August 24, 2017: United Nations Human Rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein is urging the Iraqi government to provide help to thousands of women and girls who have been raped and sexually abused by Islamic State fighters.

A report by the U.N. Human Rights office and U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq describes the horrific forms of sexual violence inflicted by Islamic State fighters upon women and girls, particularly those from the Yazidi and other minority communities.

Human Rights spokeswoman Liz Throssell says violations committed by IS, (also known as ISIL) include rape and sexual assault, forced displacement, abduction, slavery, and forced religious conversion.

“U.N. High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has said that the physical, mental, and emotional injuries inflicted by ISIL are almost beyond comprehension and that if victims are to rebuild their lives, and those of their children, they need both justice and redress,” she said.

Throssell tells VOA it is not possible to know exactly how many women and girls have been subjected to this abuse. But, she says data from the Yazidi community indicate widespread sexual violence by IS, running into the thousands.

As of July 2, the United Nations reports more than 3,500 women and girls and nearly 3,000 men and boys from the Yazidi community have been abducted. It says thousands more remain unaccounted for.

ALSO READ: Boko Haram, Islamic State use sexual violence as a tactic of war, says a UN report

Throssell says some of the victims have recounted painful stories to colleagues on the ground.

“There is an awful lot of psychological trauma and that is why in the report, the emphasis is put both on material support — helping women rebuild their lives, find work, have money, in order to be able to buy food. But, also that they need counseling, psycho-social support,” she said.

The report finds the Iraqi government and Kurdistan Regional Government have taken some positive steps to meet the needs of those sexually abused by IS. But, it adds the criminal justice system is largely failing to ensure protection for the victims. (VOA)

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UN Records Grave Violations Against 12,000 School Children in 2018

One of the more troubling trends emerging in the 2018 report is the growing targeting of schools and hospitals from Yemen and Syria to Afghanistan and South Sudan

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FILE - Children play outside a community center at an internally displaced person's camp, in the capital Juba, South Sudan, April 2, 2019. VOA

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday he was “appalled” that more than 12,000 children were killed or maimed last year in some 20 countries at war or in a state of conflict.

The unprecedented level of violence against boys and girls was recorded in the U.N.’s annual report naming and shaming countries and armed groups that perpetrate such violence. In all, the U.N. recorded 24,000 grave violations against children in 2018, including killing, maiming, sexual violence, abductions, recruitment and attacking schools and hospitals.

Worst offender

“But without a doubt, the one situation that really comes to my mind is the worst one — the one we have to do our utmost to reverse — is Somalia,” said Virginia Gamba, U.N. special representative for children in armed conflict, whose office prepares the often-controversial report.

She told reporters that the number of violations across all categories there is very high, providing a worrying picture. She said there is also a lack of engagement with the United Nations to improve protections for children, and she said she hopes to visit Somalia in the next two months to see if there is any possibility to open a dialogue.

Both the Somali National Army and the terrorist group al-Shabab, as well as the Ahlu-Sunna Wal-Jama’a (ASWJ), were included in the report’s annex of perpetrators.

violations, conflict, children
FILE – The clothes of a victim lie in the wreckage of a bus carrying civilians, many of them school children, at the site of a deadly Saudi-led coalition airstrike, Saada, Yemen, Aug. 12, 2018. VOA

Targeting hospitals and schools

One of the more troubling trends emerging in the 2018 report is the growing targeting of schools and hospitals from Yemen and Syria to Afghanistan and South Sudan.

“Here you can actually see the tactics of war, and we are seeing more and more armed groups on purpose destroying schools — and particularly those that engage in girls’ education,” Gamba said. “If you are destroying schools, you are destroying choices.”

She noted that on a recent visit to Mali, she spoke with youth who told her of having no education or vocational opportunities, which means they will have few job prospects. “It seems to me that there is every intention of armed groups to destroy the possibility of giving an alternative to children outside of war usage,” she said.

Treading lightly with Saudi Arabia

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has rejected its listing for its role in the Yemen war, which has led to the report’s annex being separated into two lists — one for grave violators and another for parties that are perpetrating violations but have put in place measures aimed at improving the safety of children.

Saudi Arabia is not listed by name in the 2018 report but rather as the “Coalition to Support Legitimacy in Yemen.” It is not among the most grave violators, despite the report citing numerous airstrikes that killed or maimed 685 children last year. The coalition, which has engaged with the U.N. on the issue, is among those parties that have put in place measures to protect children. The Houthi rebels who they are fighting are on the most serious offenders list.

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FILE – Medical workers help a child, who was injured in a mortar shell attack, at Medina hospital during Somali Independence day ceremony in Mogadishu, Somalia, July, 1, 2018. VOA

“It’s baffling that the secretary-general’s ‘not-so-bad’ list gives credit to parties that are increasing, not reducing, their violations against children,” said Human Rights Watch children’s rights advocacy director, Jo Becker, in a statement. “Guterres should return to a single list based solely on evidence of violations on the ground.”

Israel vs. Palestinians

Israel was not listed, despite the U.N. verifying the deaths of 57 Palestinian children — 56 were attributable to Israeli forces and one to an Israeli settler — the highest figures since 2014. The report also found that nearly 3,000 Palestinian children were injured during the Great March of Return in March and April of last year, when there were daily protests at the security fence separating the Gaza Strip from Israel.

Gamba said the secretary-general ultimately decides who is listed, and that he has directed her office to further examine the killings and maimings of children in the Palestinian territories and to report back to him by the end of December. She is also to look into the recruitment of children by Palestinian militants.

ALSO READ: Dengue Outbreak Breaks Record in Bangladesh, Hospitals Struggle to Find Space for Patients

The special representative also noted that she has repeatedly sought to engage with both the Israeli and Palestinian authorities and has been unsuccessful, and hoped that the secretary-general’s new directive would enable her access.

“My office was not born to name and shame and attribute, and that’s it,” Gamba said of the controversies her annual blacklist generates. “The job is to raise awareness on the plight of children and to try to prevent the violations and better protect children.” (VOA)