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Last updated: June 2022

This subsection refers to women who are considered to work in the public sphere in Iraq and KRI, such as a position as a candidate in elections, a position in healthcare, in NGOs, in media, in the transportation sector or in entertainment. This section also refers to women acting in the public sphere such as on social media.

COI summary

[Targeting 2019, 3.5.7; Actors of protection, 3.2, 3.4, 3.6]

The Council of Representatives allocates 25 % of the seats to women, whereas KRG’s regional legislative assembly allocates 30 % of the seats to women.

Over 2 000 female candidates ran in the 2018 election. During the campaign for the parliamentary elections, posters of female candidates were vandalised and photographs allegedly showing candidates wearing revealing clothing were posted online. Some women candidates withdrew due to threats and intimidation. Women candidates gained 84 seats in the 2018 parliament following the national elections.

Sources report that the targeting of well-known women in Iraq has increased significantly. In August – September 2018, a number of prominent women were murdered in Iraq. One victim was a former beauty queen popular on social media (killed in Baghdad), another victim was a women’s rights activist (killed in Basrah). Two other victims worked in beauty parlours. For many people in Iraq the only acceptable jobs for women are in certain home-related sectors or government departments. Women and girls who work in shops, cafes, entertainment, nursing or the transportation sector (taxi/truck drivers) are frowned upon.

Women’s public activity may lead to harassment, particularly online through social media. Harassment can be aggressive in cases of women activists, by online defamation, vulgar distortion of hashtags and messages calling for their rape or assassination. Women faced restrictions on taking part in protests, because their families were afraid of being negatively painted. Disparagement may include claims that activists were committing ‘immoral acts’ such as drug abuse, homosexual acts or premarital sex. Sexual defamation may leave – especially women and girls – vulnerable to ‘honour killings’. Similar harassment has been reported for female politicians and candidates.

For the situation and treatment of individuals’ activity on social media, see also ‘c. Persons displaying westernised behaviour’ in 2.13 Individuals perceived to transgress moral codes.

Risk analysis

The acts to which women acting in the public sphere could be exposed are of such severe nature that they would amount to persecution (e.g. violence and killings).

Not all women acting in the public sphere would face the level of risk required to establish a well-founded fear of persecution. The individual assessment of whether there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to face persecution should take into account risk-impacting circumstances, such as: area of origin, conservative environment, visibility of the applicant (e.g. nature of the work, public statements perceived negatively by the actor of persecution), perception of traditional gender roles by the family or network, etc.

Nexus to a reason for persecution

Available information indicates that persecution of this profile may be for reasons of (imputed) political opinion and/or for reasons of religion. Additionally, persecution of women who work in jobs perceived as not acceptable based on traditional gender roles may be for reasons of membership of a particular social group due to a common background (past professional experience) and their distinct identity in the surrounding society.

See also the profile 2.13 Individuals perceived to transgress moral codes.