I am pleased to have the opportunity to make a statement on this important issue and I acknowledge the statements of both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. I think everyone has appreciated the bipartisan way in which this parliament has acted.
Earlier this month I made another statement on Iraq in which I referenced some of the atrocities that have been occurring in that country, particularly the atrocities against women. I spoke about the fact that women are being kidnapped and transported to Syria to be sold into marriage. Since I made that statement we have learned a lot more about the horrific and systematic acts of gender-based violence that are being carried out as part of this conflict and being used as a strategy of war.
Last weekend Julia Baird wrote a feature in Fairfax about what she describes as an extensive and barbaric campaign of rape. She spoke about there being three rooms of horror in Mosul prison where 'clusters of women have been kept locked up and raped at will'. The United Nations estimates 1,500 women, teenage girls and boys have been captured by IS and some sold into slavery for as little as a reported $25, but numbers vary. The director of the human rights office in Iraq says that as many as 2,500 women were captured in north-eastern Iraq alone, almost half of whom were converted by force and then married.
The Daily Beast reports that some women entrapped in Mosul's Badush prison gave birth to newborns who were immediately snatched from them, others were bizarrely dolled up by local beauticians before being introduced to brand new husbands, and teenagers were being forced to marry strangers. IS has launched a blatant recruitment drive via social media to lure young and vulnerable women to leave their homes to wed violent terrorists. Baird reports:
Army chief Lieutenant-General David Morrison … is "disgusted" by the reports of sustained sexual violence. The ADF has already begun training its forces to be prepared to confront the aftermath of rape in wars —
the aftermath of these absolute atrocities.
I welcome the fact that, as well as the $5 million that the Australian government has donated for humanitarian assistance to Iraq, an additional $2 million is being donated specifically to support the hundreds of thousands of women and girls affected by violence in Iraq. The money will provide reproductive health care, including obstetric services for about 250,000 pregnant women in the region.
I would also like to take this opportunity to remind my colleagues that, when it comes to conflict, we have the responsibility not only to protect women by preventing gender-based violence but also to ensure that women are involved in peace building at the highest level at every step of the way. These responsibilities are outlined in the United Nations Security Council resolution 1325, which addresses the impact of war on women and women's contributions to preventing conflict and promoting sustainable peace.
I was incredibly proud to be part of the government in 2012 when Australia adopted our own National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, establishing a framework for a coordinated whole-of-government approach to implementing UNSCR 1325. The experiences of men and woman in war are different. In these differences, women offer a vital perspective in the analysis of conflict as well as providing strategies towards peace building that focus on creating ties across opposing factions and increasing the inclusiveness, transparency and sustainability of peace processes. The intrinsic role of women in peace and security is often unrecognised or is an afterthought. I have spoken to women in Afghanistan who said that they have had to fight to be at the table when it comes to establishing and rebuilding peace in their country. In their words, they have had to fight to ensure that women are around the table, not on the menu.
Anwarul Chowdhury, former president of the UN Security Council, said:
… there has been an impression of women as helpless victims of wars and conflicts. Women’s role in fostering peace in their communities and beyond has often been overlooked.
Women have shown time and again that they bring a qualitative improvement in structuring peace and in the post-conflict architecture. Chowdhury, a leading force in UNSCR 1325, says:
The main question is not to make war safe for women, but to structure the peace in a way that there is no recurrence of war and conflict. That is why women need to be at the peace tables, involved in the decision-making and in peace-keeping teams. They need to be there particularly as civilians, to make a real difference in transitioning from the cult of war to the culture of peace.
We should not forget that, when women are marginalised and ignored, there is little chance for the world to get sustainable peace in the real sense. I believe it is critical, as we embark on this mission to defeat IS, that we must be conscious of the need to involve the women of Iraq and Syria, the women who have been the victims of IS's barbarity, in the process at every step of the way.
In the time I have left, I would like to focus on what is going on not in Iraq and Syria but right here in Australia. Specifically, I would like to reiterate that right now it is more important than ever that we are united and inclusive as a society, as Australians. As the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow minister for citizenship and multiculturalism said today in an open letter to the Islamic community:
Labor stands shoulder to shoulder with Australia's Islamic community and, now more than ever, we are committed to tolerance, social cohesion, mutual respect and multiculturalism.
Labor will continue to work with you to stop misinformation, bigotry and prejudice directed at the Australian Islamic community.
Regrettably, some in our community, including a very few elected representatives, have made comments which have the potential to damage community harmony and inflame tensions. Labor strongly opposes these ill-informed and dangerous views and we will continue to speak out against them.
We know that the twisted ideology of ISIL bears no relation to a faith of peace, love and tolerance which is followed by millions around the world—and we will continue to make this point.
ISIL has no right to use the name of Islam.
The Islamic community here in Canberra is an incredibly important part of my electorate. I am very much looking forward to attending the Canberra Islamic Centre's open day next month on 25 October. I encourage any members who are in Canberra on that day to come along. This open day is a chance to say thank you to the Canberra community for the support it has shown the Islamic centre this year.
Earlier this year—and I have spoken about it in the chamber before—the Canberra Islamic Centre was the victim of a terrible act of vandalism. Vandals broke into the centre and damaged and destroyed absolutely everything they could get their hands on. Sadly, this was not the first time the centre had been the victim of a vandal attack. The response from the Canberra community was astounding. Canberrans from all faiths, from all backgrounds and of all ages banded together to help clean up the centre. In fact, on the weekend after the attack, there were more volunteers at the centre to help with the clean-up than they could fit into the actual building. It was quite extraordinary seeing all these members of the Canberra community out there, with their buckets, mops and brooms, rolling up their sleeves and getting in there with the elbow grease to clean up the centre but also to send a very, very strong message that Canberra has zero tolerance for this kind of malicious vandalism. This is the kind of community spirit that we must foster again, right now. We must be united, we must show tolerance and we must show respect.
In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to indicate my very strong support for the brave men and women of the Australian Defence Force who have been or will be deployed to the Middle East. They go with the strong support of this parliament. We support them. We are proud of them. We appreciate their very great sacrifice and that of their loved ones at home.