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The Underground Railroad for Iraqi Women


US intervention in Iraq has triggered a cascade of destruction that is still unfolding. Communities have been turned into warzones, and US policies empowered extremists who have targeted women, religious and ethnic minorities and LGBTIQ people with discrimination and violence. 

The extremist group ISIS emerged from this chaos, and after its 2014 invasion of northern Iraq, its fighters raped, kidnapped women into sexual slavery, and executed women who insisted on exercising their basic rights.

MADRE mobilizes in Iraq to protect and partner with women and families on the frontlines of these crises, and to demand accountability and rights-based US policies.

Iraqi Mother and Child


MADRE's local partner is the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI). Together with you, we provide humanitarian aid, shelter and safe passage, including to women survivors of ISIS sexual slavery.

Partner for Social Change
  • We run an underground railroad, an escape network, that saves women in danger. Through a community of local activists, MADRE and OWFI are able to sustain viable safe passage for women and girls fleeing violence and ISIS control.
  • We provide humanitarian aid and shelter. MADRE and OWFI run a women's safe-house and support network for women threatened with sexual slavery and extremist violence. This provides food, care and shelter to women in danger. And we have launched a new rape crisis center in northern Iraq for survivors to receive counseling and shelter. Some are the sole surviving members of their families: the center serves as a new home for them to restart their lives. Many of these young women have never attended school, and are learning to read and write for the first time. They are also receiving job training, learning marketable skills to reduce the risk of forced marriage.
Advocate for Human Rights
  • We call on the international community to confront violations of women's rights by ISIS and other extremists. We are also demanding changes to Iraqi policies that threaten women and girls, including a ban on shelters run by local women's groups.
  • We’re amplifying progressive Iraqis' voices. MADRE supports OWFI's radio station and newspaper in their call for human rights for women, ethnic and religious minorities, and LGBTIQ Iraqis.





In the brutal landscape of Iraq’s conflict, vulnerable Iraqis have a place to turn.

Activists like our partners at OWFI are there. This is their country, and they know the lay of the land. When others can’t or won’t help, these women have the knowledge to navigate every obstacle and get aid where it’s needed. We must ensure that people escaping the violence of war have all necessary aid. The best way to do that is to support these local activists.

Yifat Susskind, MADRE Executive Director

  • Threatened women find escape, protection from rape, and friends to lean on.
  • Women who seek refuge in OWFI's shelters receive human rights education and rebuild their lives as empowered activists.
  • Governments create policies that protect women, and empowered citizens demand rights for women, ethnic and religious minorities and LGBTIQ Iraqis.
Jannat Peace Farm


The Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) is a truly pioneering national women’s organization dedicated to rebuilding Iraq on the basis of secular democracy and human rights for all. 


Together with our partners, we help women to heal from abuse and become powerful advocates for every woman’s right to a life free of violence. We build clinics and counseling centers. We equip women with tools to prevent sexual assault in war and disaster. And every day, we affirm that gender violence doesn’t have to be a fact of life.

How You Can Help