Association for Crisis Assistance and Development Co-operation

Assistance for women in distress in Iraq and Iraqi-Kurdistan

Shelters and Protection Centres in Suleymaniah, Arbil, Kirkuk and Mosul

Violence against Women, Abuse and so called "Honour Killings" are still a widespread phenomena in Iraq and Iraqi-Kurdistan. In a country where repression targets the whole population which suffers from severe social and economic problems, violence against women takes various forms. The repression against the population hits women, who are also the victims of violence within the family, where the number of cases of violence is on the increase. It is difficult to know the real extent of domestic violence because it occurs within the family structure. There are very few public debates or figures available on this issue.

Obscurantist and criminal practices such as crimes of honour have been reinforced by a law which consist in granting immunity to a man who kills a female relative for "honour" reasons.

Several laws were passed in favour of women encouraging them to participate in the nation's development and establishing equal rights in the field of education, health, and employment, but they were never enforced or were cancelled, like the majority of the laws passed by other bodies than the CCR. Rape, abuse and torture were practised on a daily base by the Iraqi Security.

But different than in the former Governmental controlled parts of Iraq Women in Iraqi-Kurdistan, which was liberated from the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein in 19991, started to set up organizations and institutions to combat all forms of Violence against Women, to assist Women in Distress and to offer basic services. Now it is intended to spread these activities to the other areas of Iraq, relying on the skills and information of the Women's organizations and professionals in Kurdistan. This is also a part of a mutual Kurdish-Arab-Turkmen Co-operation in order to enforce the democratization process in Iraq and support inter-ethnical understanding.

WADI, a German NGO working in Northern Iraq since 1993 actively supports activities to combat all forms of violence against women, assisted the creation of shelters for Women in Distress and Protection centres for Women, who are endangered of so called Honour Killings.

With the help and support of WADI a first shelter for Women in Distress "Nawa Centre" opened it's doors in Suleymnaiah an January 1999, another "Khanzad Home" followed in 2002 in Arbil. Another protection centre "Asuda" is working in Suleymnaiah since the year 2000. Now the women's organizations, who are responsible for carrying out these projects are planning to expand these activities to the other regions of Northern and Central Iraq, especially the Cities of Kirkuk and Mosul.

Description of the activities:

a) NAWA Centre Suleymaniah

In co-operation with all the active women's organizations of Suleymaniah WADI started in 1997 planning the first ever shelter for women in distress in the whole region. "Women against Violence" in Nazareth assisted WADI in mapping the project. After two years of intense preparation the shelter called "NAWA Centre" opened in 1999.

WADI ran NAWA two years in co-operation with the women's organizations of Suleymaniah. The responsibility then was shifted to the Ministry of Social Affairs. WADI still covers part of the running costs and is participating in the decision making process.

The basic idea of this centre is to help the large number of women who are suffering from serious social or psychological problems. This group includes mostly women who became first homeless and then hopeless due to war and displacement that affected the whole Kurdish society since the infamous Anfal-Campaign in 1988. The project also takes care of street women who often are target of violence committed by men. All women can find protection at NAWA centre. The centre provides food and accommodation as well as psychological treatment, social assistance and legal help. Women can stay in the centre until their problems are solved and their psychological condition is stabilized. The main objective of the centre is to reintegrate the women in the society while keeping their dignity.

Until now more than 600 women were treated at NAWA centre.

Bcause of the success and the not self-evident acceptance of the project in Suleymaniah's community 11 women's organizations from Arbil requested WADI for support to open a similar centre in their city. Last year WADI and NAWA assisted the women's organizations in implementing "Khanzad" centre for women in distress in Arbil.

b) Khanzad Centre for Women in Distress in Arbil

With the assistance and financial help of WADI Khanzad opened its doors in December 2002. Khanzad is mainly follwing the ideas and guidelines of NAWA. Even in the difficult times of crisis and war Khanzad kept working and up to now offers help to all women. More than 50 women already have participated in the centre's programmes. It is widely seen as a great success that Arbil's community, which is known to be more conservative than the one in Suleymaniah, accepted this centre from the start.

NAWA and Khanzad focus on the following programs:

I) Social and health consultancy

Social consultancy is available for all Women. It aims on providing help and support in difficult situations such as family problems, psychological problems from traumatic experiences, personal problems etc..

Medical Assistans are working in both centres to take care about the health of the women. In severe cases doctors are consulted. Often women, who approach the sevices of the centres are in a bad health condition, especially women who livef in the streets for a long period.

II) Psychological consultancy

This project aims on providing women with professional help by a psychologist. Women in crisis situations, suffering under trauma or depression have the opportunity to take part in a long-term therapy.

III) Mediation

The centre provides neutral mediation in cases of conflict between women and their families. The mediators will help the relatives to accept crisis situations and learn to deal with it. After the women have returned to their families, mediation is turned into regular supervision and therapy at home. The mediatiors try to stay continuously in contact with the families of the women who returned from the centres.

IV) Short and long term shelter

Women in a severe psychological crisis, women with serious family problems and women fearing violence like rape or abuse are provided with shelter. Khanzad Home offers space for up to 20 women. Women can stay as long as needed, up to one year. But usaully the duration is shorter, in average one or two months. WFP is providing the shelters with food.

V) Workshops

The centre gives women opportunities to participate in different workshops. The workshops are supervised by the centre's social workers and psychologists and linked to the therapeutic program. All profits from selling products are distributed among the women who participated in the workshops.

VI) Training Courses

The main objective of the training courses is to provide women with basic education. Sewing, pottery and barber courses were given to empower women to start their own business after leaving the centres.

VII) Telephone Hotline

The centres also offer ambulant consultancy for women. For this purpose the centre runs a telephone hotline, where women can call anonymously night and day.

VIII) Follow-Up Programmes

Women who have left the centre in order to return to their families or husbands can take part in Follow-Up programmes. Both Khanzad and NAWA centres assist women in improving their personal situation after the treatment.

IX) Legal Aid

Many women, who approach the service of the centres need legal aid to divorce themselves from their husbands, who mistreated them. Female Advocats assist the centre. The centres closely cooperate with the Local Authorities and the Police and try to raise the Awarness of the Police towards Honor Killings and Violence against Women.

X) Awarness

Both centres are engaged in an Awarness program to fight violence against women through different local media like newspapers and TV. Also public lectures are held and there is a close cooperation with Rewan Women Information Centre in Suleymaniah. Memebers of Nawa and Khanzad participate in conferences and siniliar activities to share their knowledge with other women.

It is also intended to influence the Legislation Process and to empower the role of women.

c) Asuda Centre for Combating Violence against Women


Asuda Organization is a non-affiliated non-governmental organization (NGO), believes in the principles of human rights and gender equality, struggles for the eradication of physical and psychological violence against women.

In 2000 Asuda opened the first Protection Centre for Women, who are endangered by so called "Honour Killings". The term describes the tribal habit, ratified by an Iraqi legislation in late 1980ies, that women, who are suspected to have had sexual intercourse before being married, raped women or couples, who got married and got children without the family's acceptance, may be killed because they have destroyed the so called family honour, which is only restitutable by killing.


Up to 12 women could be accommodated in the centre, which is a hidden place inside the city of Suleymaniah. These women are endangered to be killed by family members. If they are not protected and hidden their chance to survive is low.

Usually these women are deeply traumatized and need psychological therapy and other stabilization. Also medical treatment, workshops and other services are offered in the centre. Since the women have to stay for a long duration Asuda offers them a "Home" including education, leisure and daily live activities. The women shall feel at home and at the same time feel responsible for the place by participating in daily duties as cleaning the place and cooking for each other.

It is not always possible to solve the death-threatening through mediation with the family. If the mediation between the girl and the family fails, the women are sent to far away villages and places in other regions of Kurdistan, where they are not known. Since honour-killings, although they are forming a traditional habit, are condemned by large parts of the Iraqi-Kurdish population, the women find protection and a new home in those villages.

Aim of the Project

Centres like NAWA, Kanzad and Asuda as well as the planned centres in Kirkuk and Mossul are of major importance within the Iraqi society. They are the practical implementation of the struggle for human- and women's rights and form the foundation for any action in this field. The shelters make the problem of violence against women visible, and enable the women to address the obvious problem and demands to responsible people within the government, administration and political parties. The shelters act as a meeting point, where women of different political and social backgrounds meet and develop further strategies to strengthen the role of women within the society. The centre facilitates the spread of information, the networking of women and thus leads to a direct empowerment of women within the society.

The implementation of a network of women's organization in Suleymania, Arbil, Kirkuk and Mosul, which is based on the activities of the centres in each town, is facilitating a social infrastructure for women, which is covering the whole region of northern Iraq. Northern Iraq - because of ist ten year experience in self-administration - shall serve as a model, according to which similar centre could work also in the other regions of Iraq. It is a main objective to support the cooperation between Arabs, Kurd, Turkmens and other ethnical groups, since this cooperation as a vital supposition for a future Iraq and the implementation of similar projects in other regions.

Reflecting their experiences the women's organizations in Suleymaniah and Arbil decided to establish a "Network for the Empowerment of Iraqi Women", which is designed to build up an infrastructure for women in Kirkuk, Mossul, Bagdad and Southern Iraq. It's aim is to link the democratization process in Iraq after the fall of the Baath Dictaatorship with the empowerment of Women. The slogan "No Democracy without Women" was adapted for this Network. In Arbil Khanzad Home as a common project of eleven Women's organizations intends to play the same role to develop projects and programs in Mosul.

WADI is part of of all this networks, assisted in their creation and is elected to represent the network abroad at international organizations, local authorities inside Iraq, Donors and NGOs.

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