Sophie makes surprise trip to Iraq to champion survivors of sexual violence

The Duchess of Edinburgh is received by the President of Iraq, Baghdad (PA)
The Duchess of Edinburgh is received by the President of Iraq, Baghdad (PA)

The Duchess of Edinburgh has made a surprise visit to Iraq as part of her work championing the survivors of conflict-related sexual violence.

Sophie has spent two days in the capital Baghdad, where she heard about the challenges facing Iraqi women and girls, and the ongoing work to protect and promote their rights, Buckingham Palace announced.

The previously unannounced trip, which was kept secret for security reasons, was made at the request of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, in support of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda (WPS), the Palace said.

The Foreign Office advises against all travel to the majority of provinces in Iraq, amid the threat of violent protests in and around the International Zone in Baghdad.

The Duchess of Edinburgh visits a girls' school in Baghdad
The Duchess of Edinburgh visiting a girls’ school in Baghdad (Buckingham Palace/PA)

Sophie visited a high school for girls, and spoke to students and teachers about education for young women in the country, and their hopes for the future.

The Duchess of Edinburgh
Sophie at a family planning centre in Baghdad (Buckingham Palace/PA)

She also visited a family planning centre to hear about work being carried out to support the reproductive health and wellbeing of Iraqi women, and met female business leaders to discuss the importance of women’s economic empowerment.

She delivered a message of greeting from the King to the Iraqi president, Abdul Latif Rashid, and the First Lady after meeting them in Baghdad.

Duchess of Edinburgh visit to Iraq
The duchess at the girls’ school (Buckingham Palace/PA)

Charles, as the Prince of Wales, travelled to country in 2004 when he visited military personnel in Basra during the Iraq War.

In 2006, Prince Philip, the late Duke of Edinburgh, made a surprise trip to see British troops in Basra when he was 85.