A summary of recommendations of the paper prepared by Shahrazad activists, on the protection of Women Human Rights Defenders in Iraq.
In 2017, Iraq weathered trying social and security conditions that left their traces on efforts to secure the freedoms and security of citizens in general, and this goes in particular for Women and Men Human Rights Defenders. Shahrazad team arranged five focus groups in cooperation with Iraqi Women Journalists Forum to discuss protecting Women Human Rights Defenders in Iraq of all backgrounds. These focus groups produced a policy paper entitled “Guarantee Me a Safe Environment, I Will Protect Your Rights and Secure Your Freedoms”, which also includes some recommendations that can effectively contribute to improve the work situation of Human Rights Defenders in Iraq in general and the situation of Women Human Rights Defenders in particular. These talking points have been designed so that each takes on a specific subset of issues, as follows:
A. Strengthening the Rule of Law and Guaranteeing Security for Everyone: Decisive Measures to Improve Protection of Men and Women Human Rights Defenders
It is important to emphasize that Men and Women Human Rights Defenders in Iraq are citizens of this country and are no different from their peers, only having chosen to take on additional responsibilities associated with adopting causes tied to the respect of human rights worldwide so that Iraq can be at the forefront of democratic nations safeguarding human rights. Therefore, the first step in protecting them is to strengthen the rule of law, the separation of powers, and looking after the democratic system in Iraq. The organization and accreditation of security agencies ought to be in accordance with measures that respect human rights as an essential step in respecting the rule of law. This will lead the state and its institutions to exercise a monopoly over weapons and the use of force, and for law to be the bedrock on which that monopoly rests. Guaranteeing security and the rule of law are the first necessary condition for guaranteeing a democratic society in which Men and Women Human Rights Defenders can carry out their duties for the public good.
B. Raising Awareness of Women Human Rights Defenders and Explaining their Important Role in Protecting Human Rights for All
1. We call on the Iraqi government to announce its commitment to the universal declaration of human rights, to foster awareness of it in concert with concerned parties, because of its significance and in recognition of the role played by Women and Men Defenders of Human Rights in protecting and strengthening human rights for everyone.
2. We call on the legislative authority to adopt the concept and terminology of Women and Men Defenders of Human Rights and to insist on inserting them into legislation connected with rights, freedoms, and human rights in general, in accordance with the measures and principles found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We also call on them to prepare necessary amendments to related laws and laws that still ignore the protection of human rights defenders and their working conditions.
3. We call on the judicial branch of government to adopt the concept and terminology of Women and Men Human Rights Defenders, and to insist on overseeing that in judicial decision making, as it pertains to Women and Men Human Rights Defenders of all backgrounds and whenever their activism is to raise human rights awareness or monitoring or writing reports.
4. We call on the UN High Commission for Human Rights to guarantee the protection of human rights defenders in all of their activities and to adopt its protection into the Universal Declaration and the measures that it stipulates.
5. We call on the UN High Commission for Human Rights to issue a special bulletin on Women Human Rights Defenders in Iraq so that Iraq may be recognized as a pioneer in this area in the Arab world and in the region.
C. Monitoring and Documenting Injustices Committed against Women Human Rights Defenders
This paper calls on the UN High Commission for Human Rights and human rights committees in the Iraqi government as well as Parliament and NGOs to work cooperatively on achieving the following:
1. Guaranteeing that Iraq communicate to the Universal Periodic Review’s Department for Men and Women Human Rights Defenders in Iraq the injustices committed against them and communicate recommendations that these groups see as necessary for improving working conditions and addressing recurrent risks.
2. Incorporating the concepts of protecting Women Human Rights Defenders into reports, decisions, recommendations, and other documents related to human rights in general and women’s rights in particular.
3. Creating a network for periodic review of human rights violations or the risks that defenders of human rights face in general and especially Women Human Rights Defenders and sharing reports as appropriate.
D. Role of the Media in Improving Protections for Women Human Rights Defenders
The media are capable of playing an important role in improving the treatment of women in media and moving away from sanctioning abasement of women and treating women’s issues as trivial. They are also capable of improving the work conditions of Women Human Rights Defenders in Iraq. As for Women Human Rights Defenders in particular, this paper recommends the following steps:
1. Urging Iraqi media networks to adopt a program of conferences on the state of women in general and Women Human Rights Defenders in Iraq in which media and civil society organizations can participate in producing an Iraqi Compact that would develop media discourse on improving working conditions for Women Human Rights Defenders in Iraq.
2. Participating in raising awareness of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights within Iraqi media institutions, and through them the Iraqi public, highlighting success stories of Women Human Rights Defenders in Iraq through even-handed broadcast programs.
E. Role of the International Community in Supporting Women Human Rights Defenders, Especially the European Union and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI)
1. Publicizing support for WHRDs in Iraq and mentioning them in country-level and international reports, especially in dialogues with the Iraqi government as well as emphasizing their rights to work and freedom of movement in accordance with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
2. Calling the Special Rapporteur for human rights defenders to visit Iraq and arrange meetings with Iraqi Women Human Rights Defenders from all Iraqi governorates, including Kurdistan.
3. It is necessary to provide long-term support for special programs for Women Human Rights Defenders in Iraq, which can be grouped as following:
a. Programs for protection, empowerment, and building the capacity to reach out to young Iraqi women in particular with programs for organizing defender activities.
b. Special aid programs including legal aid (such as the Shahrazad legal clinic) and programs for protection on the Internet (such as the Shahrazad digital clinic).
c. Emergency programs for improving and putting into place security measures for Women Defenders who are in grave danger.
4. It is necessary to organize and supervise dialogue meetings on the regional level between Women Human Rights Defenders so that they can share experiences and develop strategies and action plans for protecting Women Human Rights Defenders in the MENA region.
Translated from the Arabic by Andrew Alger
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