Welcome to “Women Around the World: This Week,” a series that highlights noteworthy news related to women and U.S. foreign policy. This week’s post, covering March 11 to March 17, was compiled by Anne Connell and Becky Allen.
United Nations addresses peacekeeper abuse On Friday, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2272, its first resolution addressing sexual exploitation and abuse perpetrated by some of the 100,000 United Nations (UN) peacekeepers deployed around the world. Allegations of rape and exploitation—including of children—by peacekeepers have undermined the legitimacy of operations in recent years, particularly in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Congo. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched an independent 10-week external panel investigation in 2015 in response to revelations about the UN’s failure to respond to accusations in the CAR, where twenty-two of the sixty-nine cases reported in 2015 took place. Over two dozen new allegations of abuse in missions around the world have surfaced in 2016. With the new resolution, the UN committed to a number of reforms: naming the origin countries of alleged perpetrators (with the intention of pressuring states to pursue allegations); accelerating investigations of blue helmets accused of abuses; and publicizing relevant information on a new website. Upon adoption of the resolution, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power declared that the United Nations “will do better to ensure that the blue helmets that we send as your protectors will not become perpetrators.”
Female suicide bomber in Ankara This week’s deadly attack in Turkey’s capital was carried out by a woman who had trained across the border with Kurdish militant separatists. Turkey’s Interior Ministry identified twenty-four-year-old Seher Çağla Demir as the attacker who killed thirty-seven people and injured more than 125 by car bomb at a bus stop on Sunday. Initial reports suggested that she had trained with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)’s Syrian affiliate, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), beginning in 2013; the off-shoot Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) later claimed responsibility for the attack. Women fighters have played a highly visible role in the PKK and YPG, notably in taking Mount Sinjar from the Islamic State in 2015. TAK’s statement about this week’s attack identified Çağla Demir as the first female suicide bomber in its ranks. TAK joins other extremist groups around the world that increasingly enlist women as suicide attackers: while there were only eight female suicide attackers during the 1980s, data suggest there were well over one hundred between 2000-2010. Research shows that attacks carried out by women are more lethal, due in part to their ability to move in targeted areas or populations without arousing suspicion.
Women and the Islamic State New reports, including footage that two Syrian women secretly filmed in Raqqa, add to the evidence that the self-proclaimed Islamic State brutally oppresses women and exerts strict control over the reproductive health of female captives. More than three dozen escaped Yazidi women described methods of contraception forced upon them, including oral and injectable birth control that were shuttled throughout Islamic State stronghold areas via organized supply chains. One physician at a UN-supported clinic in northern Iraq calculated the rate of pregnancy during enslavement of more than 700 recently freed Yazidis to be just 5 percent—substantially lower than the expected fertility rate of 20 to 25 percent—which researchers attributed to contraception. The aggressive use of birth control by the Islamic State is intended to keep the group’s robust sex trade alive: Human Rights Watch reports that “[Islamic State] forces have abducted thousands of Yazidis since August 2014 and committed organized rape, sexual assault, and other horrific crimes against many Yazidi women and girls.”