The Rafto Prize for 2016 is awarded to the human rights campaigner and leader of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), Yanar Mohammed (55), for her work on behalf of women and minorities in war-torn Iraq.
A great deal of abuse is inflicted on women and minorities in many conflicts around the world today. Sexual violence is often part of battle plans, and Iraq is just one of many places where women’s rights are sacrificed for political and military objectives.
Mohammed works on three fronts to secure the rights of vulnerable groups. She works with local organisations throughout Iraq to teach classes on human rights, and as a journalist she spreads the word about rights and democracy. She lobbies for human rights in Iraq and internationally, building networks and alliances in the struggle against violence, human trafficking and sex slavery. And Mohammed and the OWFI provide protection for victims of abuse committed by militia groups and others.
By awarding Yanar Mohammed the Rafto Prize for 2016, the Rafto Foundation wishes to highlight the serious human rights violations occurring in Iraq, the lack of legal protection that affects women and vulnerable groups in particular, and the crucial importance of providing protection to human rights defenders.
Human rights violations are committed by many different parties. IS is one group that has come in for attention, but rights violations are also committed by the Iraqi authorities and groups supported by the international community. Human rights and women’s rights cannot be set aside in conflict; they must be protected. Responsibility for securing basic human rights and enabling organisations to provide assistance to victims of violations lies with the Iraqi authorities.
We call on Norway and the international community to raise human rights issues, and especially issues of women’s rights, in their exchanges with the Iraqi government. These issues must also be taken into consideration when deciding which groups are to receive military support and training, and such groups must be required to respect human rights. In this work, Norway must seek the advice of Iraqi women’s organisations. Women must never again be sacrificed in the pursuit of military victory in the short term.
The Rafto Foundation for Human Rights, Bergen, Norway