25 November 2013
Last updated at 00:49
25 November is the International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women. To mark this, photographer Sarah Malian has been working with Christian Aid and a partner agency, Asuda, to document the lives of women affected by domestic violence in northern Iraq.
To the outside world, the largely Kurdish region of northern Iraq is considered to be one of the safest areas in this war-torn country, but for many women it remains a dangerous place. So-called "Honour killings", suicide and self-harming because of domestic violence are everyday realities, especially for those in closed and conservative communities.
In northern Iraq it is sometimes a woman’s father, husband, brother or uncle who will decide if she will study, whether she should work and whom she will marry. Some women have little choice but to accept these decisions. This woman’s abusive husband hacked off her toes.
Hero, 22, was just 18 when she was raped by two men. When her family found out she was pregnant, they tried to kill her. With no hope of reconciliation, she escaped. But owing to a continued threat from her family, she and her son are now confined within the walls of a government-run women’s refuge.
Asuda has helped Hero to fight for the arrest of her rapists and obtain permission to marry and immediately divorce her son’s father so that the boy's identity card will bear his father’s name and society will not judge him. Hero said: “No-one is ever going to say that no-one knows who this child belongs to."
Sana was just 14 when her father lost her older sister to a bet on a game of cards. His devastated wife killed herself, leaving Sana and her two younger sisters behind. When her father remarried, his new wife refused to accept his daughters so he threw boiling water and hot oil over them before shooting them.
Sana, whose two sisters died in the attack, is badly scarred on her face, arms and upper body. She lost her right eye and has recently had reconstructive surgery on her skull to repair the damage caused by a bullet. The only reminders of her family are this picture of her sister and her mother’s scarf.
Asuda's work helped to push through the government’s domestic violence law in 2011, which recognised "honour killing" as murder for the first time. While the agency's work has inspired the government to set up four other refuges, Asuda's own shelter remains the only one accessible without a police referral.