Iraq: Femicides Expose Extreme Violence Against Prostituted Women
Sunday, July 20, 2014 6:25 PM

Iraqi militants killed at least 20 women in the Eastern neighborhood of Zayounah in Baghdad on July 12.  The perpetrators remain unknown. However, local residents identified the women as prostitutes, a population that has been targeted for extrajudicial killings by militants in the past. Six men in the same building were also killed. According to Agence France-Presse, the killers left a warning on the door reading:  “This is the fate of any prostitution.” 

Sex trafficking has intensified in Iraq, exacerbated by a large influx of refugees and displaced persons who are highly susceptible to sexual exploitation.  Prostituted women in Iraq face some of the bleakest conditions in the world, due to extreme economic hardships, “perpetual warfare, regime change and the threat of summary executions.”  According to the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, approximately 4,000 Iraqi women have disappeared since the 2003 US invasion, many “believed to have been trafficked”.  The same NGO also estimates “another 50,000 Iraqi women and girls were then forced into Syria’s sex trade.”  Many of these women are widows, or whose husbands are imprisoned, and who believe they have no other choice but prostitution in order to survive and provide for their families. In a general atmosphere of lawlessness, many girls are kidnapped and forced into organized prostitution rings by criminal gangs. 

Residents of the Zayounah neighborhood claim that killings of prostituted women occur frequently and without any response from the authorities. Following Prime Minster Maliki’s rise to power, extremism has increasingly influenced policy-making, resulting in state ordered mass killings of prostitutes in different areas of Baghdad by the Ministry of the Interior.  The U.S. State department report for Iraq in 2003 documented the beheading of 200 women throughout the country by Iraqi militants “under the auspices of fighting prostitution.”

Compiled from:  McCoy, Terrence, The slaughter of dozens of alleged Iraqi prostitutes and the dark world they inhabited, The Washington Post (July 15, 2014); Rubin, Alissa J., Iraqi Militants Kill 26 in Raid on Baghdad Building, The New York Times (July 12, 2014)