Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, visits Iraq to support survivors of sexual violence

British royal meets President Rashid and Prime Minister Al Sudani

The Duchess of Edinburgh speaks at the American University of Iraq in Baghdad on Tuesday. Photo: British Embassy in Baghdad
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Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, made a surprise visit to Iraq on Tuesday to speak on behalf of survivors of sexual violence in conflict.

The British royal met President Abdul Latif Rashid, Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani and other prominent political and civil society figures.

The two-day trip, which had been kept secret for security reasons, was made at the request of the UK Foreign Office to support its women, peace and security agenda, Buckingham Palace said.

British ambassador to Iraq Mark Bryson-Richardson told The National the visit highlighted Iraq-UK ties.

“This is the first visit to Baghdad by a member of the British royal family,” he added. “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.

“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.”

Mr Al Sudani's office tweeted that the meeting had focused on strengthening bilateral ties and the fight against terrorism.

The duchess visited a girls' high school and spoke to pupils and teachers about education for young women in the country and their hopes for the future.

She met prominent Iraqi women in business, where she learnt about the challenges they face and the importance of women’s economic empowerment for the country’s prosperity.

The duchess also visited a family planning centre, where she saw UK-funded work being carried out to support the health and well-being of Iraqi women.

She met Iraqi women from many walks of life, including civil society activists.

She is married to the Duke of Edinburgh, the brother of King Charles.

The duchess's work focuses on supporting women and gender equality in the workplace and other areas of society, in the UK and overseas.

Updated: May 23, 2023, 2:18 PM