Desperate Iraqi Women
(guest post by Taylor Marsh)
When President Bush started touting the constitutional rights of women in Iraq long ago, all I could do was laugh at the prospect. When have women ever benefited from preemptive war? But what has happened to Iraqi women over the months and years of U.S. occupation in Iraq is nothing short of spine tingling. What has happened to their families is just the beginning.
Honor killings began last year. The rights of women started disappearing as well, with Bush’s propaganda of constitutional freedoms a joke. Most of the educated and independent Iraqi women didn’t buy it.
Islamic law is slowly but surely becoming law. Fatwas are handed down against women who drive. If a woman walks on the street without a man she could be attacked or kidnapped, or simply humiliated in public.
After the Iran-Iraq war, there were so many widows that Saddam Hussein changed the laws so that all property and money could go to the women. In what is becoming Islamic Iraq, which is spreading throughout the country, women no longer have those rights. As for educated women, their hope of being part of building a new Iraq is a fantasy.
Oh, but what about the women now in politics, you ask? How do I say this…. window dressing and that’s it. Women in Iraq are worse than powerless. They are now at the mercy of the empowered Iraqi Islamists.
The women of Basra have disappeared. Three years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, women’s secular freedoms – once the envy of women across the Middle East – have been snatched away because militant Islam is rising across the country.
Across Iraq, a bloody and relentless oppression of women has taken hold. Many women had their heads shaved for refusing to wear a scarf or have been stoned in the street for wearing make-up. Others have been kidnapped and murdered for crimes that are being labelled simply as "inappropriate behaviour". The insurrection against the fragile and barely functioning state has left the country prey to extremists whose notion of freedom does not extend to women.
In the British-occupied south, where Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army retains a stranglehold, women insist the situation is at its worst. Here they are forced to live behind closed doors only to emerge, concealed behind scarves, hidden behind husbands and fathers. Even wearing a pair of trousers is considered an act of defiance, punishable by death.
One Basra woman, known only as Dr Kefaya, was working in the women and children’s hospital unit at the city university when she started receiving threats from extremists. She defied them. Then, one day a man walked into the building and murdered her. …
Optimists say the very fact that 25 per cent of Iraq’s Provincial Council is composed of women proves women have been empowered since the invasion. But the people of Basra say it is a smokescreen. Any woman who becomes a part of the system, they say, is incapable of engineering any change for the better. Posters around the city promoting the constitution graphically illustrate that view. The faces of the women candidates have been blacked out, the accompanying slogan, "No women in politics," a stark reminder of the opposition they face.