A letter to the United Nations calling for equal rights for women in Iraq and for protection during demonstrations has gotten more than 7,000 signatures here in the Netherlands.
The letter is a plea from Iraqi peace activists Alaa, Yasmin, Rusul and Zahraa. Upon receiving the letter, Alice Walpole, the acting special envoy of the United Nations Mission in Iraq, thanked the Dutch public for adding their signatures to the letter. She hopes to work more closely with the women and PAX to improve peace and security in Iraq.
Protect the demonstrators
Earlier, Walpole promised that the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) would continue to work toward protecting female protesters. UNAMI, among other things, documents the deaths and injuries among the protesters and attempts to hold government agencies accountable for the violence.
Since last fall, Iraqi citizens have been taking to the streets of Baghdad to non-violently protest the desperate living conditions in their country. The demonstrators are demanding an end to corruption, improved basic services and jobs. The government has responded with force. The protesters have been shot at with live ammunition, as well as with water cannons, tear gas and stun grenades. PAX supports courageous peace activists such as Alaa, Yasmin, Rusul and Zahraa in their fight for freedom, equality and security.
Militias responsible for the violence
In response to a question from Yasmin and Alaa about the armed groups responsible for the violence, groups which are controlled by the Iraqi government, Walpole responded that UNAMI urges the Iraqi Prime Minister to stop these groups’ attacks. "Since these militias receive their salaries from the government, it should be possible for the same government to take steps so that they no longer interfere with the demonstrations and the protesters," said Walpole.
"It was special and inspiring to talk to Ms. Walpole," said Yasmin. "She advised us to speak up for ourselves and to connect with other women in Iraq because women across the country are fighting for the same ideals, and together we can achieve a lot."