5-6 JUNE 2018 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Empowerment of women traumatized by severe sexual violence in Northern Iraq

How a Humanitarian Project from Subnantional Level can make a Difference

Lab debate
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
10:45 to 12:00

In 2015, the Government of Baden-Wüerttemberg (Germany) started a project for survivors of severe sexual violence in Northern Iraq. More than 1100 women and children – mainly Yazidis – were brought to Germany for specialised medical and psychological treatment. The initiative was the starting point for a series of humanitarian projects in Northern Iraq initiated or supported by Baden-Wüerttemberg, including the establishment of the IPP at the University of Dohuk. The project is pioneering the culturally sensitive treatment of trauma resulting from rape and sexual violence in armed conflicts and exemplifies some of the challenges and potential for decentralised cooperation in humanitarian projects.

Key points

  • A German aid initiative for survivors of severe sexual violence in northern Iraq has spurred further humanitarian projects to treat trauma resulting from rape or sexual violence.
  • The European Commission is carrying out several projects that address sexual violence in armed conflict.
  • Other programmes offer legal protection or provide confidential advice for people wanting assistance after a crisis.
  • A pan-European platform has been created to help advance the role of local governments in development policies.


In 2015, the German state government of Baden-Wüerttemberg set up a programme to take in more than 1,100 women and children from northern Iraq. They were mainly Yazidis who were victims of the sex trade and human trafficking. They came to Germany for specialised medical and psychological treatment not available in Iraq.

All were considered for the special quota programme and assessed on the extent to which they were traumatised by their time as hostages and if they could benefit from treatment in Germany. Women with medical emergencies were prioritised and particularly younger women. For those that did not qualify to be treated in Germany, another project set up a trauma therapy centre set up in northern Iraq.

In addition to the Baden-Wüerttemberg initiative, the European Commission is carrying out several projects on how to address sexual violence and how it affects girls, boys and men. ECHO (the Commission’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations) is


ISIS may have been defeated, but the crisis in Iraq is not over. Aid, structural support and protection must continue. One immediate effect of the northern Iraqi crisis of 2014 was the displacement of large numbers of the population, mainly women and children.

Rape may be seen as a crime under the 1949 Geneva Convention, but “war rape” is very rarely prosecuted as a war crime.

Organised by


Heidi Hautala
European Parliament
Angelika Poth-Moegele
Executive Director European Affairs
Council of European Municipalities and Regions
Jan Ilhan Kizilhan
Dean of the Institute of Psychotherapy and Psychotraumatology
University of Duhok
Theresa Schopper
Secretary of State
Staatsministerium Baden-Württemberg
Lamya Haji Bashar
Sakharov Prize
Luftbrücke Irak e.V.