Iraqi journalists have been held a number of conferences and workshops in recent months to discuss the current state of their profession. This time, they headed to the city of Basra (south of Iraq) for a seminar focusing on women journalists and human rights defenders. Their united voices called for authorities to create laws that protect them, ensuring that adequate safety measures are put in place so that the work they do can be done safely The seminar was held by the Iraqi Women’s Journalist Forum in collaboration with the Al-Firdaws organization .

Many participated in the seminar, which was directed by Nada Talip, project coordinator for the Shahrazad campaign. A number of established journalists and activists from Basra were there, including the others from Basra who had participated in other Shahrazad workshops, as well as representatives from Basra’s Governorate Council. Nada Talip gave a brief explanation about the work done by the Shahrazad centre, highlighting the kinds of services it provides for the women journalist and human right defenders, such as workshops and legal consultation. Next the vice president head of Al-Firdaws organization, Sanaa Yunis, also from Basra, and Nibra Almamury, head of Iraqi Women’s Journalist Forum, presented working papers about the realty faced by women journalists and human right defenders.

In the discussion that followed the presentation of the working papers, participants spoke more generally about how women face various difficulties relating to both their work and their social lives, including: discrimination, cultural and social oppression, and constraints on their freedoms. Questions arose as to how women might take on these difficulties by drawing on their civil and political rights, and ensuring their active role in the society even despite the threats and harassment that they face, and the weak laws that are supposed to protect them.

Almamury and Yunis gave concrete examples of women working in journalism and human rights, explaining how these women have made big sacrifices for the sake of freedom of expression and the protection of basic human rights, especially after the occupation of Mosul by Daash. They also stressed the need for the Iraqi government to work actively on the protection of women by creating strong laws to protect them.

The seminar was supported by the Shahrazad project (which works to protect women human rights defenders), and was in collaboration with the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI), the Italian organization Un Ponte Per… (UPP). It was funded by the human rights program of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Iraq and the Swiss Foundation Assistance International.