No men will marry Islamic State widows

Houla, a 25-year-old woman has no children. Basically, she can return to her village, where the children of Islamic State militants are not welcome, regardless of their young age. However, as a militant’s widow, she revealed that her presence at home could put her whole family in danger. “If I go home they will be attacked,” she explains.

In result, Houla lived in a tent in one of Iraq’s bleak desert camps. It is where families continue to arrive daily. This is despite the fact that the war officially ended over a month ago (January 2018). A lot of the families now reportedly live in camps like Houla’s where they are shunned by their neighbors and relatives. Some of them are victims as well of Islamic State’s brutal crime.

Officials say forcing IS families to return home would inflame sectarian tensions, which are already deep and oftentimes, deadly. Widows like Houla do not deny their husband’s crimes. They responded as well that in their conservative society, women have little choice and sometimes no choice at all as to who they marry. They also do not have a say in their husband’s decision.

“I told him not to join the militants but he refused me. I knew he would get killed, and we would be left with nothing,” a 23-year-old woman named Hoda revealed. She was also a former neighbor of Houla.

The presence of IS families has created another crack in the complex and multi-ethnic society in the post-Islamic State in Iraq. Meanwhile, families and victims of IS victims of any religion frequently believe the wives and children support IS ideology. Most wives of dead or captured militants deny ever supporting IS, or their extremist views. According to VOA News, Hoda added, “Maybe some men would marry a woman with children. But no one will marry a wife of IS.”

Iraqi Widows in displaced camps

The beginning of a military campaign to retake Iraq’s second-largest city Mosul has seen the Iraqi army pushing westward towards the Tigris River. The northern city has been controlled by Islamic State, also known as ISIS, since June 2014.

The battle between the two sides resulted in a fresh wave of displacement with 2,000 civilians. The escalation of violence escalated on March 24, 2016. “We left everything behind, we have nothing. ISIS took everything,” said Umm Rayyad. A woman who declined to give her real name along with the others, Reuters reported.

“I have only two mattresses for me and my four children. We haven’t washed in a week. This place is too small for so many people,” she said.

Aside from almost one million Iraqis displaced since 2006/7, there are more than 3.3 million people in Iraq that have been displaced since January 2014.  More than half of Iraq’s displaced were women in 2015 and most of their age ranges between 25 and 59 years old.

The situation was unbearable as more than two families have no other option but to share shower and latrine. Their displacement was lacking in living spaces, unfortunately, for a society that customarily separates men and women. Sadly, there is not enough fund to support the cause, banking details will hopefully be available soon. This, of course, presents a huge problem to the people.

According to Rezhna Mohammad, the director for psychological services local charity called SEED, who was interviewed by Reuters, women are not allowed to go to the bathroom after dark. On the other hand, someone has to go watching for them as well even if they go during the daytime.

“In some camps, their movement is very restricted because they’re at greater risk of harassment and rape,” she added. Furthermore, the stigmatization of raped and sexually abused women means that survivors hesitate to openly discuss their experience, and prefer to suffer in silence.

Three Major Challenges Currently Facing Iraqi Widows

The wars in Iraq have resulted in many married men getting killed, leading to a surge in the number of Iraqi widows. The said Iraqi widows are facing many challenges. We venture to look at the three major ones.

The first major challenge currently facing Iraqi widows is that of coming up with means of livelihoods to support themselves and their kids. It is to be understood that the men whom most of these ladies lost where the main breadwinners in their families. These are the sorts of cultures were women tend to be housewives, and when the men exit prematurely, then things can indeed be very difficult.

The second major challenge currently facing Iraqi widows is that of bringing up children on their own, at a difficult time. Here, we have to appreciate that the main thing that women require from men is security (lots of expert articles on websites like PsycCentral and Psychology Today support this). Yet here we have women who have lost their men at a time when they have the greatest need for the security that the men could provide.

The third major challenge currently facing Iraqi widows is that of grieving their lost husbands. It is to be understood that some of these widows are women who were married for decades, to the men who are now dead. Losing a marriage partner you have lived with for so long can be indeed very difficult. Even in the best of circumstances, grieving a life partner can be hard. Yet here we have women who have to deal with that challenge, alongside the other challenges associated with living in a war zone or living in a refugee camp.