In Al-Rusafa prison in Baghdad, hundreds of ISIS women and children believe they are living in harsh conditions after they were sentenced to prison for belonging to the terrorist organization.
In an attempt to draw attention to their suffering, about 400 women have been on hunger strike for more than two weeks, demanding their release or return to their countries of origin.
According to several media reports, the female prisoners include foreign nationals from Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Syria, France, Germany and the United States.
The Iraqi authorities accused them of joining ISIS and participating in its crimes, and they were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 15 years to life, and in some cases to death.
The prisoners complain that their trials were unfair and non-transparent, and that their legal rights were not respected.
A Russian woman said that her trial lasted only 10 minutes, that her confessions were written in Arabic, which she is not fluent in, and that she was accused of carrying weapons in Mosul, which she denies.
Female prisoners suffer from despicable conditions inside the prison, as they are forced to live in crowded and unsanitary cells and are subjected to beatings and humiliation by prison guards, according to the BBC.
In addition, female prisoners are denied contact with their families, lawyers, or humanitarian organizations. In light of these circumstances, a group of female prisoners decided to go on a general hunger strike.
Danger of ISIS women’s strike
For his part, Iraqi political analyst Mansour al-Shafei said that the hunger strike by ISIS women at Al-Rusafa prison represents a threat to security and stability in the region, as it reflects a state of despair and anger among these women, who may resort to acts of violence or suicide, or even be a source of inspiration or motivation for remnant ISIS elements or sympathizers.
Shafei stressed in a special statement to the Reference that the hunger strike indicates the failure of the Iraqi authorities and the international community to deal with the file of ISIS families or to find urgent and humane solutions, whether by returning them to their countries of origin, presenting them to transparent and impartial trials, or rehabilitating and reintegrating them into society.
The strike confirms the need to confront extremism and terrorism through dialogue, education and development, not through oppression and revenge, he added, stressing that a woman who was a victim or perpetrator of ISIS needs psychological, social and legal care so that she can overcome her painful past and build a better future for herself and her children.
“I do not deny that some of these women may pose a threat to security, especially if they are involved in violent or terrorist operations, or if they still believe in the ideology of ISIS, but this ruling cannot be generalized to all detained women, as some of them may be victims of deception, coercion, or the harsh conditions in which they lived,” Shafei said, adding, “Therefore, the case of each woman must be assessed individually, the law applied fairly and transparently, and the opportunity for repentance and reform given to those who wish to do so. I believe that this is the best way to ensure security, justice and peace.”