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.
- 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 assessing what forms of sexual violence exist in conflict and disaster situations, looking at what medical and psychosocial services should be offered. I
ECHO has also developed protection guidelines for gender-based violence and a tool to assess which proposals to aid sexual violence victims in war situations should receive funding.
It is also important to create a specific European Union project addressing vulnerable groups whose access to legal protection is limited; many displaced people have lost their legal documents. Centres should also be set up where women can get advice confidentially. The Internationally Displaced Persons (IDP) call centre has been invaluable in this regard.
The Baden-Wüerttemberg project shows that aid must not just be seen as something national governments or NGOs should provide. The Council of European Municipalities and Regions has set up PLATFORMA – a pan-European platform of
30 local governments to share experience and knowledge and advocate the role of local governments in development policies.
In 2015, this group representing local and regional international action was involved in 91 projects in 16 countries and had a EUR 4.6 million budget.
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.