Last week, The Duchess of Edinburgh made a secret visit to Iraq where she visited Baghdad. Sophie’s visit was at the request of the Foreign Office in support of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda – a cause she has championed since 2019.
During the visit, Sophie heard about the challenges that continue to be faced by Iraqi women and girls, and the ongoing work to protect and promote their rights.
Highlights of Sophie’s trip include attending a session during the CSSF Women’s Voices First Conference, where she delivered an address relating to the Women, Peace and Security Agenda.
The Duchess also met with local Women’s Rights organisations and those supported by the programmes during the conference.
She said: ‘As Iraqi women, you know what the most pressing priorities are in your communities and, therefore, how to evoke sustainable change. This is why the UK co-designed and founded the ‘Women’s Voices First’ project’.
The Duchess of Edinburgh visited a local school for girls, where she spoke to students and teachers about women’s education and their hopes for the future. She also took part in activities alongside the school’s new and active student parliament and innovating leadership team.
HRH The Duchess of Edinburgh met HE President of Iraq @LJRashid & the First Lady. We discussed the strong ties between🇮🇶🇬🇧 , Iraq’s National Action Plan on #womenpeacesecurity, sharing expertise on tackling #CRSV, and on-going holistic support and justice for survivors. pic.twitter.com/ap8Vd0evOr
— Mark Bryson-Richardson (@mbrysonr) May 23, 2023
Whilst in Baghdad, the Duchess was received by the President of Iraq, Abdul Latif Rashid and the First Lady, being received additionally by Prime Minister Mohammad Shia Al Sudani.
During these meetings, emphasis was placed on the need to develop the culture of respecting human rights, especially those of women and children. They also touched upon and agreed on the fact that there is a need to enhance access for education to women and children in Iraq.
On HRH’s second day in Iraq, Sophie visited a family planning centre, where she saw first-hand the work being carried out to support the reproductive health and wellbeing of Iraqi women.
The British ambassador to Iraq, Mark Bryson-Richardson, said ‘this is the first visit to Baghdad by a member of the British Royal Family. The fact that this visit has come so soon after the coronation of His Majesty King Charles III shows the importance and strength of the UK and Iraq’s modern partnership.’
HRH The Duchess of Edinburgh visited Baghdad this week, the first Royal visit to Iraq in many years. We were delighted to introduce her to inspiring Iraqi women and see first-hand the added value women can bring to the development of Iraqi society when fully empowered. pic.twitter.com/t1qMkSjycN
— UK in Iraq 🇬🇧🇮🇶 (@UKinIraq) May 24, 2023
He added: ‘The Duchess of Edinburgh is a passionate advocate for women’s equality and a champion of the women, peace and security agenda and the UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict initiative. Achieving greater equality for women and ensuring their rights are protected are vital to Iraq’s future prosperity and stability.’
Other members of the Royal Family have visited Iraq before, but no Royal has visited Baghdad until now.
Following engagements in the city earlier in the week, The King’s sister-in-law then travelled to Erbil, engaging with civil society organisations working to address the devastating impact of conflict related sexual violence (CRSV) and to promote the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in peace processes.
The Duchess of Edinburgh was received by the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Masrour Barzani. He reiterated his government’s commitment to supporting gender equality and tackling violence against women. They also discussed the relationship between between Erbil and the UK and thanked the Royal for the UK’s support for the Kurdistan Region in the fight against terrorism.
HRH The Duchess of Edinburgh had a productive meeting with KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani discussing the importance of progress on #WomenPeaceSecurity, combatting sexual violence and supporting survivors and children born of CRSV #ForSurvivorsWithSurvivors pic.twitter.com/NMTvZpDPS4
— Mark Bryson-Richardson (@mbrysonr) May 26, 2023
Sophie also visited the Erbil Citadel, a UNESCO-designated world heritage site, hearing from activists & NGOs about their efforts to implement the women, peace and security agenda, by including women peacebuilders and to encourage the participation of women in political topics.
At Qadia Camp in Duhok, The Duchess of Edinburgh spent time with Yazidi survivors of conflict related sexual violence, who spoke about the difficulties and the stigma they face. The camp is home to over 13,000 Internally Displaced Persons. The royal visitor saw how the UN Organisation for Migration provides survivors and other IDPs with skills they can use to support their families and to secure future employment.