An ethnically and religiously diverse group of women activists from Iraq’s Nineveh Plains have launched a new magazine on Sunday, International Women’s Day, set to shine a light on women’s rights issues in the region that endured some of the worst suffering under the Islamic State Group.
Iraq’s northern Nineveh governorate was the site of some of the extremist group’s worst atrocities, as well as the fiercest fighting to uproot the so-called “caliphate”.
The incredibly diverse province is home to Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds, as well as the Mandaean, Shabak and Yazidi ethnoreligious communities.
In the Nineveh Plains region of the province located to the north and east of Mosul, activists have banded together to create a new publication that aims to give a voice to the women who were silenced under IS, Al-Monitor reported.
“They [IS] taught people that no one can see a woman without a cover,” Rasha Wahab, one of the magazine’s founders, told Al-Monitor. “Through this magazine, people can see it is normal for women to not cover.”
The magazine, named Women of Nineveh, was the idea of the Peace and Freedom Organisation (PFO), an Iraqi NGO that works to ease improve ties between the different ethnic and religious groups of northern Iraq. It is also supported by Dutch NGO Pax.
Wahab, a former journalist who works as PFO’s gender advisor, ran a training session for the magazine in the Kurdistan regional capital Erbil in February alongside veteran journalist Rezgar Suleiman.
Activists and journalists from across the region’s different sects – including Yazidis, Christians, Shabaks, Shias and Sunnis – attended and wrote articles for the magazine’s first edition, published on Sunday for International Women’s Day.
They aim to print the magazine monthly and have volunteers distribute it throughout the region, Suleiman told Al-Monitor.
“We have no independent media in Iraq, especially in Ninevah,” Wahab explained.
“Women in villages can’t talk about their problems… Some are uneducated, or can’t read or write. Most are poor. Many are unaware of their legal rights.”
Wahab, originally from the governorate’s capital Mosul but now living in Dohuk, hopes that illiterate women’s children will read the magazine to them.
One of the project’s major goals is to dispel disinformation, rumours and tensions about the region’s various religious sects which have proliferated post-IS.
For example, some of Ninevah’s Christians accuse Shabaks of taking their homes, while other believe incorrect sterotypes about the Yezidis, such as the believe that they worship the devil. Nearly all of the Ninevah Plains’ Christian population fled after IS took over the area.
An article in the magazine’s first edition, titled “How a Sunni imam helped Christian and Shiite families remaining in Qaraqosh”, includes an interview with Imam Abd al-Hakim Qasim by a Shabak woman.
Qasim told the story of how he helped the few Christian and Shia families that stayed behind in Qaraqosh after IS took over by bringing them food and water. The imam also took belongings and money from the homes of families who fled and sent them to them.
Marwa Hussein, a Shabak activist from the Assyrian-majority town of Bartella, told Al-Monitor that she hopes the magazine will give a voice to the women of her community.
“There are Shabak women in the Mosul area who left [to get away from IS]… I want to give a voice to them with my stories,” she said.
The magazine’s first issue also examines other social issues, such as the effects of video games on children and the novel coronavirus, which has caused the deaths of four people in Iraq.