Countering Iraq's Anti-Shelter Policy in the Islamic State Era
Columbia Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 70, No. 2, Spring/Summer (2017)
8 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2018
Date Written: 2017
Moments of catastrophe that destroy communities often provide opportunities to rebuild them to be more resilient to preexisting harms. The challenge lies in spotting and seizing those opportunities. With the re-takeover of Mosul and other cities formerly controlled by the Islamic State, the rapidly growing demand for shelter in Iraq continues unabated. Yet the dearth of supportive services in many affected communities continues. One obstacle is an Iraqi policy that effectively forbids local organizations from providing shelter. The potential solution lies in international allies partnering with local organizations in a new way: by supporting their policy initiatives. In Iraq, local activists know that changing the anti-shelter policy in a time of massive humanitarian crisis would broaden the safety net for women fleeing all forms of violence while also helping to dismantle long-term structural violence. This is the paradox of crisis. One local organization, the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), is stepping up to meet the needs of survivors of gender-based violence by providing much-needed shelter, albeit clandestinely. Together with international partners, OWFI is challenging Iraq’s anti-shelter policy and creating the conditions for structural change.
Keywords: Iraq, women, shelter, domestic violence, honor killings, human rights law, international law, gender, conflict, international criminal law,
JEL Classification: K33, K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation