War won’t liberate the women of Iraq

From Yanar Mohammed, a glimpse of how badly gender relations in Iraq have deteriorated since the war began:

Iraqi society was shocked with an unprecedented issue of a woman stepping forward, voluntarily, and explaining that she was sexually assaulted by Iraqi security forces. Instead of pursuing an investigation into this assault allegation, or empowering the victim with moral support, opposing Islamist-sectarian factions competed to exploit the matter politically, preparing the ground for bloody sectarian conflict. They symbolized Sabrine’s rape as an assault against the whole "Sunni religious group."

Meanwhile, the heads of Shia Islamist political parties — who are the top officials in the American-approved government — immediately scorned and disbelieved the victim, instead rewarding the accused rapists. Moreover, Iraqi government heads indulged in raising moral suspicions about the victim’s reputation.

This entire matter has revealed a misogynist tendency in Iraq as most spokesmen started to scorn and discredit the victim, wishing that no woman should ever dare to speak out the details of her sexual humiliation. Worse yet, a few of these male-chauvinist reporters declared that they preferred that she end her life or live a lifetime of pain and misery without even thinking of punishment for her rapists.


Raping Iraqi women by the police force is not an unbelievable or a new matter. Our non-sectarian, non-religious organization, the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) has documented six confirmed cases where Iraqi police raped women — inside and outside detainment centers. The youngest of these raped females is 14 year old. OWFI activists have raised reports of these cases to the officials in the Ministry of Interior (who are responsible for security and criminal law enforcement) and the presidency of ministries. To this date, these men who have been given power, privilege, weapons, and uniforms by the Americans, have given us no answer.

Emphasis added.

This is what Operation Iraqi Liberation–er, “Freedom”–was about, gentlefolks. They “liberated” Iraq from Saddam and pretended to give it democracy, only to deliver half of its population back into the Dark Ages of religiously-excused sexism. And ALL of its populace into an intolerable sectarian civil war in which women are the inevitable pawns, as women have always been when there’s a war on.

Yanar Mohammed continues:

Rapes take place daily, under the chaotic situations resulting from the occupation. The occupation authorities handed over the power to unscrupulous men who have no respect for women’s rights and dignity. On the contrary, the appointed puppets have promoted sectarian hatred, and encouraged tribal barbarism where women of other clans are "sexual hostages" to be exploited, while the women of their own clan are "valuables to be protected". In either case, these forces will always regard women as property of the clan and a tool of political vengeance, but never as individuals, worthy of respect.

Remind me again: What was the war about? Oh yeah, “freedom”, which isn’t free–and if female and living in Iraq, is now afraid to leave the house without a head-to-toe disguise. How long, I wonder, before the “liberated” women of Iraq, in a desperate bid for freedom from assault, join their Afghan sisters under the burqa–or more poignantly, in drag?

Who protects Iraqi women in these barbaric situations? And who will guarantee their dignity, their privacy, and right to a decent future? Women of Iraq can not live secure under the occupation and the government of ethnic and sectarian division which has no respect for human rights or women’s rights. The only hope lies in the people of Iraq to strive to create a political alternative which liberates us all from the repression of the religious, sectarian, and ethnic parties. Our alternative vision for freedom and equality is the only path to guarantee an end to gender inequality and all kinds of social discrimination in Iraq.

Or to put it another way: War won’t liberate the women of Iraq. War is a facilitator of rape; rape, in its turn, is an age-old weapon of war. And until there is peace (which won’t happen until all foreign invaders, mercenaries and profiteers leave the country), there will be no resources with which the people of Iraq can build the progressive paradigm of which Yanar Mohammed writes.

(See also these two passionate, powerful entries on Baghdad Burning about this, here and here.)

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