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Women, children linked to ISIL 'sexually exploited, denied aid' at Iraq camps

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Women, children linked to ISIL 'sexually exploited, denied aid' at Iraq camps

Women, children linked to ISIL 'sexually exploited, denied aid' at Iraq camps
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Amnesty International
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Women and children perceived to have links to ISIL are being targeted in Iraqi internally displaced person (IDP) camps by security forces, members of camp administrations and local authorities, according to an Amnesty International report published Wednesday.

They are experiencing sexual violence, denied aid, food and water, and having their papers taken away so that they can no longer return home, it said.

'Their future is in question'

Author of the report, Iraq researcher Nicolette Waldman, told Euronews the circumstances leading to many women and children to be branded an "ISIL family" were often "very tenuous".

"It can require as little as having the same name as someone affiliated with the group, being from a certain area that was an ISIL stronghold, a certain tribe, or having a family member believed to be connected to ISIL, also known as ISIS, even if they worked in a menial role, like as a cook," she said.

For the same reasons many men were arbitrarily arrested and forcibly disappeared while fleeing ISIL-held areas in and around Mosul, which has lead to thousands of female-headed families being left to fend for themselves in the camps.

Amnesty International
Zahra, a 33-year-old mother of six, stands outside a tent used for cooking inside in Salamiya camp for internally displaced people where she and her family have lived for 7 months.Amnesty International

According to Waldman, thousands of families have been affected in this way, "their future is in question," she said.

'Camps are incubators for terror'

Many women that are being targeted in this way feel a deep sense of injustice, as they are being persecuted for something a distant relative might have done.

They feel that their mistreatment is going to cause the next cycle of violence and, Waldman says, lead to "ISIS 2.0".

Amnesty International
Noor, 52, walks with her grandchildren towards their tent in Namrud camp for internally displaced persons. Two of her sons worked inside an ISIS hospital, and one of her daughters was married to an ISIS militant.Amnesty International

One woman told her that she felt like she had been "caught in a spider's web" after being refused treatment for her son, who had suffered injuries to his eyes in a landmine, once medics had learned of a connection with an ISIL fighter and not being able to leave the camp due to her documents being confiscated.

'No better than ISIS'

"The number one thing that could be done tomorrow to help with social violence, sexual exploitation and rape would be to keep armed men outside the camps as they were the main perpetrators in reports and take advantage of their positions of authority," according to Waldman.

She feels this is ultimately the responsibility of the Iraqi authorities: "They must send a clear and public message to all perpetrators that these offences won't be tolerated."

This was also the sentiment for many in the camps that Amnesty International visited. One woman told Waldman: "The Iraqi authorities need to turn a new page or they are no better than ISIS."

'We call upon the EU'

The EU is a major contributor to humanitarian aid and in 2018 there is likely to be a "drying up" of the international funding for Iraq, according to Waldman.

This is leading to consolidation and closure of camps and those families that can't return home will become more vulnerable.

"We call upon the EU to keep their levels of funding and invest in programs that help women earn a living and reintegrate," she concluded.