Founded in 1992, WADI is an Iraqi-German association that launches and supports various programs focused on empowering women in the Middle East. The organization works to fight for women’s human, political, social, and educational rights, and equality. One of their most renowned campaigns is targeting Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the Kurdistan area, where local authorities are responding positively, slowly initiating the first laws in the region prohibiting FGM.
What distinguishes and strengthens WADI’s credibility as an aid organization, and this particular campaign, is a Northern Iraqi staff comprised of local individuals, including survivors who know and understand the complexity of the situation and the conditions of the region.
Ever since the breakout of the Arab Spring and its repercussions, WADI members have had their work cut out for them while attempting to extend a helping hand to all those affected by the civil war in Syria, and to the minorities who are suffering tremendously from terrorist group violence, such as that perpetuated by ISIS.
The brutality within the ISIS community has resulted in the unfortunate re-establishment of the slave trade. When ISIS fighters take over a village, they systematically collect and execute nearly all of the men. Women are generally allowed to live, but face a fate that may be worse than death. Many horror stories have been documented about the women of the Yazidi minority group, a Kurdish ethno-religious community with a large part of its population located in Iraq and Syria. The news agency, NBC, recently reported on a series of stories of women who managed to escape their ISIS captors, bringing back horrific tales of continuous sexual and physical abuse.
WADI officials have stated that over 650 girls have escaped from ISIS and are now seeking refuge in Northern Iraq. Officials are also predicting that the number of escaped girls will continue to increase, and will soon reach the thousands. With the growing influx of escaped women and girls, the organization and its aid workers are finding themselves in a race to absorb these wounded victims, and are working quickly, but efficiently, to rehabilitate them back into society.
Chemen Rasheed, a WADI aid worker since the early 2000s, has worked on several cases and programs targeting violence against women. She is now dedicating all of her efforts towards helping victimized Yazidi women and girls get back on their feet. Her role is primarily in the supervision of a new center, near the refugee area, where female victims take their first steps in dealing with the trauma they have experienced at the hands of ISIS. Rasheed has grown close to these girls, some of whom have come to call her ‘Mama,’ while awaiting the return of their real mothers who remain captives of ISIS.