By Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq.
The frightful story of young Malala Yousafzai has shocked the world over the last weeks. This 15-year-old Pakistani girl almost lost her life because she spoke out for the right of girls to go to school.
Like many others, I was shaken by this act of senseless violence. No matter where it takes place, such aggression against women is always unacceptable. Being a woman is still, too often, synonymous with inequality and struggles, and such prejudice should always be denounced. Whether they are young or old, educated or not, rich or poor, women from all walks of life are facing unfair obstacles in pursuing simple - yet fundamental- dreams, such as studying.
We should raise our voices to strongly condemn such brutality against the weak and vulnerable. Sadly, the culture of silence often remains and perpetrators repeatedly go unpunished. In the world we live in, denouncing human rights violations remains an act of bravery.
Iraqis, unfortunately, know violence and human rights abuses only too well; their country is emerging from years of conflict which have deeply affected their lives and torn their families apart. But in Iraq, as elsewhere, the fact remains: all too often in wartime, women turn out to be the silent victims of violent crimes and abuses.
War should never be an excuse to perpetrate violence or target the weak and vulnerable. Peace and progress will only be achieved in Iraq if both men and women can live without fear of violence.