Run by the United Nations and other international humanitarian agencies, the Debaga refugee camp in Northern Iraq houses nearly 35,000 Iraqi refugees, displaced by ISIS-controlled towns and villages.
CNN’s Moni Basu takes a look at the Iraqi women fleeing ISIS. “Most have fled their homes in recent days and are able to portray a fresh picture of life under ISIS in places that are severed from the outside world — without television, phones or the internet,” says the journalist. “Things had been getting worse for women in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion, the rise of sectarian strife and fundamentalist Islam. But in the summer of 2014 came the biggest blow when ISIS enforced its extreme ideology in northern Iraq. Choose that ideology or face the wrath of ISIS: Those were the only options. The women began wearing gloves and socks with their black abayas and niqabs and could show only their eyes in public. Even then, they were barred from looking at any man other than their husbands.”
“They are not Muslims,” says a 26 year-old refugee named Iman of the ISIS fighters. “Islam does not say those things. But they lashed us, beat our husbands if we did not comply. So we did.”
Balakrishnan oversees female health programs at the refugee camp and says women displaced by war are at serious risk of being cut off from essential medical services and life-saving emergency obstetric care. Concerns are great due to the nation’s high fertility rate –of every 200,000 Iraqis women who arrive at refugee camps, 8,000 are likely to be pregnant women.