Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, good evening,
I would like to thank Ms. Duzen Tekkal and her organisation HAWAR, for their determination to document and denounce the atrocities committed by Daesh against the Iraqi Yazidi community, and for helping to make this event possible. I would also like to extend my appreciation to the Governments of Germany and Iraq for co-hosting this important event, to our moderator, Ms. Janine Di Giovanni, and to all of our esteemed panellists.
Ladies and gentlemen, screening tonight’s documentary, “Hawar, a cry for help”, provides us with an opportunity to show the world that the United Nations stands in solidarity with every victim of Daesh’s crimes and every survivor of sexual violence.
Today, the defeat of Daesh in its most important strongholds, thanks to the battle waged by Iraq and members of the anti-ISIL coalition, has brought a rare moment of hope to a troubled region. Yet, for too many survivors of sexual violence, war is not over when it’s over. The consequences of these crimes are profound and enduring. They live on in untreated trauma, nightmares, social stigma, and children born of rape.
The manifestations of stigma, which follow in the wake of rape, are multiple, intersecting, and often lethal. Shame and victim-blame can lead to depression, suicide, untreated infections, unsafe abortions, maternal mortality, forced marriage, and so-called “honor crimes”. It can lead to public hostility, humiliation, rejection, and even revictimization.
The stigma can be compounded by having children born of rape. As a result, such children are often abandoned and left in a legal limbo: without their father’s name or presence, they may be denied birth certificates and identity papers, which can cause them to become stateless. This can deprive them of education, healthcare, and other essential services. Socioeconomic reintegration will be critical to avoid a “lost generation”.
All political, religious and traditional leaders must use their influence to redirect this stigma and send a clear signal that the only shame of rape is in committing, commanding or condoning it. There can be no durable peace or reconciliation, so long as the divisive and debilitating force of stigma persists.
The sexual violence perpetrated by Daesh has been systematic, institutionalized and integral to its ideology and operations. Daesh has used sexual violence as a tactic of war and terror to advance its core strategic objectives, such as recruiting fighters through the promise of wives and sex slaves, and raising funds through the sale of women and girls, including in open slave bazaars according to fixed price-lists, like livestock at a farmers’ market. They have also issued so-called “Fatwas” codifying sexual slavery and attempting to justify it through Holy Scriptures.
The message that resounds most loudly and clearly from my interactions with women and girls who have escaped Daesh captivity, including members of the Yazidi community, is that the perpetrators must be held accountable. The recently-adopted Security Council resolution, to establish an investigative team, is promising. Investigation is critical to ensure that evidence is duly collected and not lost to the passage of time. However, this is not enough. Nor is it enough to defeat Daesh on the battlefield alone. We must also win the battle of ideas, which includes building civic trust and confidence in the Rule of Law. In this regard, the visible and consistent prosecution of sexual violence as a self-standing crime, is vital for precedent-setting, deterrence and, ultimately, prevention.
Justice and support to the survivors must infuse all our reconstruction efforts in Iraq in the wake of Daesh. Reconstruction does not only mean rebuilding infrastructure, but fundamentally rebuilding trust, within and between, communities. To this end, my Office, on behalf of the entire United Nations system, has signed a Joint Communiqué with the Government of Iraq to comprehensively address conflict-related sexual violence.
The strength and resilience of the survivors, some of whom are depicted in the documentary you will see tonight, should serve as an inspiration and a clarion call to action. This is our sacred duty of care to survivors, including women like Najlaa, who will join us on the panel. She is a remarkable and courageous woman who I had the privilege of meeting earlier this year – her tenacity inspires me to sustain the fight for justice with equal determination.
Tonight’s event also allows us to highlight Germany’s Special Quota Project for Women and Children affected by Daesh’s atrocities. This Project provides a lifeline for Yazidis fleeing violence committed by Daesh, including sexual violence, by allowing over 1000 women and children to relocate to the State of Baden-Wurttemberg in Germany. This is a pioneering program, and I believe that history will remember the generosity and humanity the people of Baden-Wurttemberg have shown in protecting and assisting a persecuted community. I am also pleased that Germany is continuing to support reconstruction in Iraq, to ensure that all survivors of Daesh can live in dignity and peace.
Following this example, let us spare no effort to help heal the physical, psychological and social scars inflicted by Daesh, and to replace horror with hope.