Relief International Clarifies Media Outlets’ Reports on Recent Iraq Widows Study


Sept. 22, 2011 (Los Angeles, Calif.) – A study on the status of Widows in Iraq by Relief International was shared with the Iraqi Parliament on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011. Portions of the study were reported by the Associated Press on Sept. 18, 2011. The information available on the wire was misinterpreted by some other outlets.

The AP wire stated that: “A study released Sunday by a global humanitarian aid organization concluded that three out of every five widows in Iraq lost their husbands in the years of violence that followed the 2003 invasion. The study by Los Angeles-based Relief International found that about 10 percent of the estimated 15 million women who live in Iraq are widows. Among them, 59 percent have lost their husbands during the U.S.-led war.” Some media reports erroneously equated the period within which women were widowed to a "causal" factor. Therefore many iterations of the newswire misrepresent the Relief International study stating that the study reports that 59 percent of the incidents were caused by the U.S.-led war.

In November 2010, Relief International surveyed a sample of 1,850 widows in seven governorates of Iraq. Based on the survey responses, the report found that 59 percent of widows had been widowed in the last ten years or roughly the same period as the U.S.-led war to the present. The survey also found that the leading causes of widowhood were “disease” (52 percent), “traffic accidents” (18 percent) and “criminal activity” (i.e. murder, 12 percent). Nine percent of the cases were due to insurgent “bombing” that led to the husband’s death and another nine percent were identified as caused by “war.” The survey report does not distinguish between cases of war related to the conflict in the past 10 years compared to the Iraq-Iran and Iraq-Kuwait wars in previous years. Based on actual disaggregation of data from the survey Relief International estimates that only four percent of the population of widows in Iraq is causally and directly related to the “war” effort in the last 10 years.

The report on Widows in Iraq, which was presented to the Iraqi Parliament but has not yet been published, estimates the number of widows in Iraq to be about 1,593,457, or 9.81 percent of the 16.24 million women of Iraq’s population. Relief International’s report highlights the dire circumstances of this significant yet invisible sector of Iraqi population, as well as the lack of adequate support they receive from their society and from the international community. More importantly, the report provides 15 concrete and actionable recommendations that urge all actors to engage in steps to address the needs of widows in Iraq. Among the 15 point recommendations are: establishment of a Ministry of Women’s Affairs; ensuring access of widows to retirement and pension funds of their deceased husbands; and facilitation of access to education for the children of widowed families (in particular, the education of girls).

For further questions, comments, or to learn more about Relief International, please contact Communications Officer Brittany Kuhn at or at 323-677-2762.