• Rafal Abdulateef | Senior Public Information Assistant

As the world marks 12 February as the International Day of the Prevention of Violent Extremism (PVE), Iraq stands at a pivotal moment in its own battle against violent extremism. The newly launched Iraqi Women in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism Working Group invites a female perspective on addressing the root causes of violent extremism.

The Women’s Working Group reaffirms that women’s inclusion and representation in decision-making processes is essential. Understanding the different roles and experiences of men, women, boys and girls is vital, but often overlooked when designing PVE efforts. Established by the Office of the National Security Advisory in their capacity as chair of the National PVE Committee, the working group is comprised of diverse representatives from national and sub-national government units and academics.

Dr. Wejdan noted the importance of the role of women in society in addressing violent extremism. Photo: © IOM 2024/A Qusay

At the launch of the Working Group in late January, Dr. Wijdan Azim Abdul Hussein, a member of the team from Al-Mustansiriya University, emphasized the pivotal role of women in this endeavor. She stated, "Today's workshop is a founding workshop for this team, and it is proposed that the team be made up of a group of active Iraqi women at the national academic level, at the local community level, at the level of international organizations and humanitarian organizations."

The Women’s Working Group officially launched at a convening in Baghdad from 21-23 January, 2024. © IOM 2024/A Qusay

Engineer Shahla Al-Bayati, Vice-Chairman of the Committee for Preventing Violent Extremism in Salah al-Din Governorate, shared her personal motivation, saying, "My entry into the field of protecting women from all kinds of negative phenomena [resulted from when] we were under siege for three months by [Daesh]. I decided that we would have women leaders who could help and educate women."

Shahla Al-Bayati, Director of Women’s Affairs in the Salah al-Din Governorate Office, is also Vice-Chairwoman of the Committee for Preventing Violent Extremism, breaking barriers and shattering stereotypes. © IOM 2024/A Qusay

The group's strategies focus on creating safe and inclusive spaces for women to engage in discussions and initiatives to prevent violent extremism and advance Iraqi women’s participation in the National PVE strategy. Al-Bayati highlighted the importance of tailoring approaches to different segments of society, stating, "In the beginning, we must identify each segment we work with individually, such as the segment of housewives, with whom we work individually with special programs, academies in particular, and young women in another."

The overarching goal of the Women’s Working Group is to empower Iraqi women to take a leading role in preventing violent extremism. "The basic issue is to emphasize the role of women in the analysis of women’s significant role in confronting, combating, and basically preventing violent extremism in societies,” said Dr. Wijdan Azim Abdul Hussein.

Al-Bayati added, "We must make these women leaders who can help a group of other women, so that the work can be sustainable, and our work will continue to combat violent extremism in the long term."

Noor Al-Naser is a Senior Preventing Violent Extremism Programme Officer for at the International Organization for Migration; she is actively managing PVE technical partners and the rehabilitation pillar of IOM’s work with returnees from northeast Syria.

The International Organization for Migration in Iraq is helping Iraq navigate the complexities of preventing extremism by spearheading working groups such as this one, in close coordination with the Office of the National Security Advisory. "Cooperation with the GoI is very important and a positive thing in our work,” said Noor Al-Naser, a Senior Preventing Violent Extremism Programme Officer at IOM, “and if it were not for the cooperation with the governmental and non-governmental bodies...we would not have achieved what we have achieved so far."

Since 2020, IOM has worked in partnership with the Government of Iraq and community members to develop programmes and strategies to address the root causes of violent extremism. IOM applies a whole-of -society approach that includes national and sub-national government units as well as civil society and community members. Successful PVE efforts  must diversify interventions, prioritize local research, and emphasize the roles of various actors in enhancing community resilience.

Iraq's Women’s Working Group embodies resilience, determination, and collaboration in the face of violent extremism. With their unwavering commitment and diverse perspectives, these women are not just agents of change but the architects of a brighter, more peaceful future for Iraq.

Thanks to the Government of Canada for supporting the launch of the PVE National Women’s Working Group.

SDG 5 - Gender Equality
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities