In Iraq, a New Tool Helps Forensic Doctors Document Sexual Violence and Torture   

During its 2014 offensive, ISIS waged horrific violence in Iraq. ISIS targeted religious minorities, including the Yazidis, who suffered brutal attacks on their communities. Thousands of Yazidi men, women, and children were killed, forced into flight, or abducted, raped, and enslaved. Today, ten years later, most survivors are still waiting for justice.   Recognizing the […]

June 18, 2024
Sexual Violence, Torture

Evidence for Impact, Advocacy for Justice

“If any of you worry about the issues that are going on in the world as you listen to the news every day and you feel somewhat powerless because the problems, the fractures, are too large and too many, I think you and I can take comfort that PHR is playing its part everywhere in […]

April 16, 2024
Asylum, Attacks on Health Care, Death Investigations, Excessive Force, Mass Atrocities, Reproductive Justice, Sexual Violence, Torture

Latest COVID-19 Surge Pushes More Iraqis to Get Vaccinated, But Hesitancy Still Remains

As COVID-19 continues to ravage low- and middle-income countries, Iraq struggles to manage the pandemic within its borders. It continues to have one of the lowest vaccination rates in the Middle East: to date, only about one million people have been fully vaccinated, representing less than two percent of a population of approximately 40 million. […]

August 12, 2021

Challenges Faced by the Iraqi Health Sector in Responding to COVID-19

One year after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, Iraq’s health sector remains unable to adequately respond to the crisis. Iraq has struggled to deal with the COVID-19 emergency since the first case appeared in the country in late February 2020.[1] Weakened by more than three decades of conflict, international sanctions, corruption, […]

April 6, 2021

Celebrating Women in Health and Human Rights

March is Women’s History Month: 31 days to celebrate the contributions of women throughout the ages. Unfortunately, the stories of too many influential women have been lost to time. In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8 and Women’s History Month, PHR is profiling extraordinary women who have made an impact in the movement […]

March 8, 2021

New Iraqi Law Is Important First Step for Survivors of ISIS Violence: PHR

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) welcomes the Iraqi Parliament’s adoption of the Yazidi Women Survivors’ Law and considers it a significant step towards recognition of the crimes committed by ISIS and the establishment of reparation programs for those who were subjected to sexual violence and slavery by ISIS. The law, passed on March 1, 2021, […]

March 5, 2021
Mass Atrocities, Sexual Violence

Voices from the COVID-19 Pandemic: “If one case is found in the camps, thousands could be infected, and it will be difficult to contain the spread of the virus.”

In August 2014, ISIS invaded the Yazidi villages of Sinjar in northern Iraq, killing, abducting, and “disappearing” thousands of Yazidi women, men, and children. Dr. Nagham Hasan, a Yazidi activist and gynecologist, has dedicated her life to the Yazidi cause and visits survivors of sexual enslavement and torture at the hands of ISIS in the […]

June 8, 2020

In Iraq, Those Infected with Coronavirus Face Shame and Stigmatization

Like many others in the world, Iraqis are facing unprecedented quarantine measures to control the spread of the coronavirus. In a country still recovering from decades of war, sanctions, and extremism, experts fear that Iraq would be unable to adequately respond if there is a widespread outbreak of COVID-19. Moreover, Iraqis who have been stricken […]

April 23, 2020

A Looming Threat to Iraq’s Most Vulnerable Population

The COVID-19 virus has left its mark on all aspects of life, paralyzing entire countries, closing borders, and pushing the global economy to the brink of collapse. At a time when it is spreading across continents and exposing the weaknesses of health systems in the richest and most advanced countries, it is important to realize […]

April 17, 2020

PHR honors Iraqi Dr. Nagham Hasan

PHR salutes Dr. Hasan for her extraordinary work treating and supporting survivors of sexual slavery and genocide perpetrated by ISIS against Iraq’s Yazidi minority.

September 6, 2018
Sexual Violence

Capacity Development in Iraq

PHR has been investigating human rights violations in Iraq for three decades, including the repression of the country’s Kurdish minority by the government of Saddam Hussein and the serious medical consequences of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. PHR’s current work in Iraq is focused on training and preparing medical and non-medical professionals to investigate and prosecute […]

August 5, 2018
Mass Atrocities, Sexual Violence, Torture

Capacity Development

PHR builds capacity on topics including crime scene documentation and photography, evidence collection, exhumation of graves and forensic anthropology/archeology and pathology, and the use of various forensic specialties. The purpose of training is both to develop forensic capabilities and awareness, and to address the long-term sustainability of forensic investigations at an international level.

August 5, 2018
Mass Atrocities


Our work in Iraq is centered on building up the country’s ability to investigate crimes of torture, including sexual violence. Our focus is support to investigations of international crimes committed by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in northern Iraq, particularly against the long-persecuted Yazidi people, who suffered a brutal 2014 attack by ISIS […]

August 5, 2018

Yazidis: The Endless Tragedy

ISIS has been defeated and the organizational structure of its so-called Islamic State has collapsed, liberating almost all its occupied territories. However, the tragedy for the people of the religious Yazidi minority continues. More than 3,000 Yazidis, mostly women and children, remain in ISIS captivity, while most of the Yazidi population still lives in Internally […]

August 3, 2018

Reconciliation and Justice in Northern Iraq

Yazidi refugees celebrate news of the liberation of their homeland of Sinjar from ISIS in 2015. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) I still remember it vividly. Just over three years ago, in August 2014, I woke up to the news that ISIS – also known as the Islamic State – had launched unprecedented, orchestrated attacks […]

September 26, 2017

Iraq Must Seek Justice

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein called on Iraq to ratify the Rome Statute, or to allow the International Criminal Court (ICC) to exert jurisdiction over the situation in Iraq, following the release of a UN report that detailed horrific crimes within its territory. The report detailed “staggering” human rights violations […]

October 10, 2014

Let’s Talk About Sexual Violence

When studying in Jordan last fall, I was stunned by the silence around sexual violence experienced by women in Syrian refugee camps. In Arab communities, where social stigma and family honor carry huge weight, consequences of sexual violence extend far beyond scarring psychological trauma to fear of alienation and even honor killing. Already traumatized by […]

October 2, 2014
Mass Atrocities, Sexual Violence

What Did President Obama Leave Out of His Speech on the Islamic State?

In two weeks, President Obama will chair a session of the UN Security Council. This timing is especially relevant given his recent speech on the self-declared Islamic State (IS), also called ISIS or ISIL, and the actions that the United States will take against the group. He pledged to use the UN session as a […]

September 12, 2014
Mass Atrocities, Persecution of Health Workers

Attacking Health Care: A Common Denominator in Conflict

Last week, Human Rights Watch reported that the Iraqi government repeatedly targeted and attacked Fallujah General Hospital in Anbar province. Fallujah is a pivotal city in Sunni-majority Anbar province, which has long accused the Shia-dominated central government of persecution. In January 2014, political tensions that had been simmering for over a year escalated into outright […]

June 3, 2014
Persecution of Health Workers

Iraq: Medical Consequences of Interrogation Techniques

US government officials continue to classify certain acts as permissible under the Geneva Conventions; in response to this, PHR has issued the following guiding principles to clarify the US government’s legal obligations with regard to interrogations, to help ensure that interrogators prevent and account for acts of torture and/or ill treatment of detainees, and to […]

May 1, 2004

Health and Human Rights Consequences of War in Iraq

PHR has concluded that preparing for extraordinary use of military force to be deployed in a manner that will likely risk huge damage to infrastructure and civilian life, without due consideration for the consequences to the highly vulnerable population of Iraq, as the US did, is intolerable. PHR joins in the call issued by other […]

February 14, 2003
Attacks on Health Care

Unquiet Graves

In December 1991, Middle East Watch and Physicians for Human Rights sent a delegation to northern Iraq to observe and assist in the exhumation, identification, and determination of probable cause and manner of death of individuals interred in mass and single, unmarked graves. Between December 23 and December 29, our delgation travelled from Zakho, the […]

March 1, 1992
Mass Atrocities

Winds of Death

In the late 1980’s Iraq’s army attacked Kurdish villages with poison gas. PHR documented the injuries and deaths of Kurdish civilians from these attacks, finding that Iraqi aircraft used bombs containing mustard gas and other lethal chemical agents.

January 1, 1989
Chemical Weapons, Weapons

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