Five weeks ago, I visited Iraq. Of course, I had political talks, in Baghdad and in Erbil. But I also seized the opportunity to meet three remarkable women. It was a meeting that I will never forget.
The three women were from Mosul. During the IS rule of terror, two of them were raped by IS fighters. The third woman was married to a man who later became an IS fighter. They all had children by these men and were eventually able to escape to the safety of an IDP camp.
When they wanted to return to their homes after the liberation of Mosul, they were cast out. Their husbands were dead. Their children were regarded as IS bastards.
They had no choice but to go back to the misery of the camp. “However, we won’t stop fighting,” they told me.
Ladies and gentlemen,
These women share the fate of countless other women who’ve had similar experiences. Day after day.
In Syria, for example, where sexual violence is deliberately used as a weapon of war. That is the horrific reality of almost all conflicts of our age.
When we talk of “Women, Peace and Security,” we are not just referring to abstract scenarios. It’s the lives of human beings that are at stake.
And it raises the question of what we can do.
What can the Security Council do to prevent sexual violence against women in conflicts?
What can we do to help women achieve full political and economic empowerment?
The simple answer is: more!
It is no coincidence that today’s meeting is taking place at the start of our Security Council membership.
Advancing and implementing the 1325 Agenda is one of our top priorities.
The Security Council has many instruments for this. Unfortunately, it does not always make use of them.
We therefore intend to put forward a resolution that strengthens the UN Special Representative’s mandate.
And we intend to support initiatives which document crimes against women. Those responsible must be brought to justice. Because failure to do so leads to a “culture of impunity”.
These and other measures will be the focus of an open debate in the Security Council in April.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The fact that more and more countries in the Middle East and North Africa have adopted National Action Plans is a major step forward.
However, today’s meeting is also intended to press for their implementation.
For that, we rely on close cooperation with you, the representatives of civil society.
Our shared goal must be to ensure that the Security Council considers the role of women in each and every conflict and peacekeeping mission. We want to raise the profile of the recommendations put forward by the Informal Expert Group of the Security Council and ensure that they carry more weight.
We also have to ask ourselves if we can do more at national level.
In Germany in 2014, the Prosecutor General initiated an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity that were committed by the IS in Iraq and Syria. The terrible crimes against Yazidi women are one of the main priorities. Our legal system is cooperating closely with the UN Special Representative in this regard.
What is more, during the last few years, Germany has given refuge to more than 1,100 women and children who were victims of IS crimes in Iraq.
One of these women was the Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad. Many will remember the heartfelt appeal she made here at the United Nations: “I beg you to put humans first.”
The three young women in Iraq said something very similar. Their words left a deep impression on me.
We are currently working with Iraqi partners on projects to make these women’s voices heard. Our aim is to create networks, to empower, and to start a process of reconciliation.
For that, too, we need the support of civil society. So I’m looking forward to many productive exchanges with you – today, during the next two years, and beyond.
On my trip to Iraq, I also saw what our work can achieve. In Baghdad, I visited a co working space which could just as easily have been in New York or Berlin. Young Iraqi women were busy at work, building a future for their country – together with their male colleagues. They spoke to me about democracy, freedom of the media and equal opportunities. That, too, is reality in Iraq.
A reality which gives us hope. Above all, however, it spurs us on. It spurs us on to do more to protect women in conflicts. To strengthen their role in peace processes.
There can be no durable peace without women. Anyone who has understood that, will always see the number 1325 for what it truly is: The code to a better and more peaceful world.
Thank you very much.