Association for Crisis Assistance and Development Co-operation

Women's Literacy and Training Courses in Hawraman Area

In March 2003, the coalition force's massive missile strikes ended the nearly two year rule of the militant Islamist group "Ansar al-Islam" (Partisans of Islam) in the Hawraman area, a mountainous corner of northeastern Iraq near the Town of Halabja. The Halabja area suffered extremely in the past twenty years. Iit was one of the focal points of the so-called Anfal Campaign, which was conducted by the Iraqi Government in 1988 against its own Kurdish population. In Halabja the Iraqi Army used Poison Gas. 5000 people were immediately killed. After The Kurdish areas freed themselves from the rule of Saddam Hussein's heinous dictatorship in 1991, the area soon became a stronghold of local Islamic parties.
"Ansar al-Islam" consisted of an estimated 1000 fighters who imposed a brutal ultra-orthodox Islamic ideology on the local inhabitants, introducing severe punishments for everyone who failed to comply with their medieval and often haphazard rules. Inhabitants reported arbitrary arrests, torture and also killings of civilians. Most of the inhabitants could escape shortly before the beginning of the war. After the liberation of the area they returned back rebuilding their often destroyed homes.

In April, the German NGO WADI, who conducted projects in the area since 1993, started supporting mobile teams consisting of female medical assistants and social workers in the Hawraman area, providing basic health services and conducting awareness courses specially for women as well as visiting women in distress. Under the Islamist rule, women were suffering heavily from discrimination, oppression and violence. Women had to wear a veil under the 'abaya. They were barred from education, employment and every social life outside the families. Sometimes they even were prohibited to leave their homes. Still many women in this area are afraid Ansar fighters might come back and take revenge.

As a result of the mobile team's experiences, WADI decided to start literacy and training courses for women in the two central villages Byara and Tawela where Ansar had their bases. With funding from USAID/OTI, WADI finally could open literacy, sewing, barber and cosmetics courses in August. The classes take place in local school buildings. Some rooms had to be reconstructed. They were provided with electricity and equipped with sewing machines, stationary, books, barber shop facilities, etc. The literacy teachers are all from the area, the teachers of the training courses come from the Governorate's capital Suleymaniyah.

More than 300 women applied for the classes, but only 180 could participate in the first run. The women are from all villages in the Hawraman area, sometimes travelling more than 30 miles in order to attend the classes. The literacy and training courses for women are the first social projects in this area after the liberation.

In 2007, WADI started to offer vocational and literacy courses in the former collective town of Smut (Garmyan area) where many widows and women-led families found a new home and where the need is accordingly vast.

WADI - Association for Crisis Assistance and Development Co-operation
Headquarter: Herborner Str. 62, 60439 Frankfurt/ M, Germany
Tel ++49-69-57002440, Fax: 57002444, Email:

WADI Branches in Iraq:
Sulaimanyah: Tel: 00964-770-1588173
Arbil Office: Tel: 061 -7600305
Homepage: www.wadinet.de