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‘We just keep silent’: Gender-based violence amongst Syrian refugees in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq


Erbil, 27 April 2014 - UNWomen today launched a report on gender based violence amongst Syrian refugees in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The study found increased levels of intimate partner violence; high levels of sexual harassment by employers and by taxi drivers; and significant numbers of reports of sexual commercial transactions inside and outside camps. Almost all men reported feeling afraid for the safety of their wives and daughters.

“We Just Keep Silent” is what Syrian women do after they have been violently attacked or harassed or pushed to do some sexually related act against their will”, disclosed UNWomen representative, Frances Guy at the launch ceremony. She also stated that “they complain that often there is no one to speak to, no one who can take action”, underlining that “low numbers of reported cases of gender based violence does not mean that the issue is not significant”.

Thanking the Kurdistan Regional Government on its strong commitment to improve the welfare of Syrian refugees throughout the Region, as well as all international and national NGOs for their hard work in supporting Syrian refugees, Guy called, on behalf of UNWomen, for yet more to be done to prevent Syrian women and girls from being exploited, and to create livelihood opportunities inside and outside the camps. She also stressed that more needs to be done to ensure that those who are committing violence against women are held accountable for their acts. “Let us be clear, exploiting vulnerable women and girls for sexual purposes is a crime and should be addressed as such”, she concluded. Background: The report is based on a survey of men and women living inside and outside the camps, carried out between August and December 2013. There have been many positive developments since the beginning of the survey. Health care has been extended into the camps and the regional government is now actively working with the United Nations to provide more durable shelter in many camps. UNWomen acknowledges the tremendous support given by the Kurdistan Regional Government in helping Syrian refugees, and allowing them access to public services, as well as the support given by UN agencies including UNHCR, UNFPA, WHO, UNICEF and by a wide range of international and national NGOs.

Kurdish Report (Download)

For more information, please contact: Frances Guy, Representative UN Women Iraq Mobile 00964 7901929401