Skip to main content

Last updated: January 2021

COI summary

[Targeting 2019, 3.5.6, 3.8.4, 3.8.5; Actors of protection, 4.1,, 8.2, 9.1]

According to a May 2018 report of the UN Secretary-General which examines findings of 2017, killing and maiming remained the most prevalent violations against children witnessed in Iraq. Of the total number of verified cases of killing and maiming, 424 were attributed to ISIL, 109 to ISF and the international counter-ISIL coalition, 34 to Peshmerga and 150 to unknown parties to the conflict.

Sexual enslavement of children by ISIL and sexual exploitation and abuse of children were prevalent, according to the UN’s 2015 report. Being a victim of rape or kidnapping can be a cause for honour crimes. Authorities often treat sexually exploited children as criminals instead of victims.

Children were reportedly subjected to arbitrary arrests, torture and cruel punishment by police in detention and there were reports of children being held in pre-trial detention for long periods, in particular in case of perceived affiliation to ISIL. Children in detention were subjected to poor conditions, overcrowding, physical and sexual abuse. See also 2.1 Persons (perceived to be) affiliated with ISIL.

UNAMI writes that in Iraq due to the ‘honour’ mitigation, fighting crime against women and children ‘remains problematic’. Police in Iraq lacked sufficient capacity to respond to violence against women and children via its 16 family protection units. According to the UN Human Rights Council, the police’s family protection units are understaffed and ‘remain inaccessible to most victims’ of domestic violence.

Legal protections for children and women against domestic violence in Iraq and KRI were described as ‘insufficient’ by the UN, which has also noted that the existing legal and policy frameworks in Iraq for criminal justice ‘largely fail’ to protect women and children who have been subjected to sexual violence. Violence in the family was underreported due to shame, fear of family or community reprisals, or of harassment and abuse from police and security forces. Information on sexual violence remains difficult to obtain as a result of stigma against the victims and fear of reprisals.

See also 2.16.1 Violence against women and girls: overview.

Risk analysis

Some acts of violence to which children could be exposed to (e.g. arbitrary arrest or torture in relation to children associated with ISIL, sexual assault, rape, honour violence) would amount to persecution. In case of other forms of violence, the assessment should take into account the severity and repetitiveness of the violence.

Not all children would face the level of risk required to establish a well-founded fear of persecution in relation to violence. 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: gender (boys and girls may face different risks), perceived affiliation with ISIL (see 2.1 Persons (perceived to be) affiliated with ISIL), age, perception of traditional gender roles in the family, poor socio-economic situation of the child and the family, etc.

Nexus to a reason for persecution

The individual circumstances of the child need to be taken into account to determine whether a nexus to a reason for persecution can be substantiated. For example, persecution of this profile may be for reasons of (imputed) political opinion (e.g. in case of perceived link to armed groups), religion (e.g. when persecution is by extremist groups), and/or membership of a particular social group (e.g. honour violence against children victims of sexual abuse may be due to their common background which cannot be changed (past experience of sexual abuse) and distinct identity in Iraq, in relation to stigmatisation by society).