Iraq’s Women Ten Years Later


Iraq’s Women Ten Years Later

llustration:Judy Green
March 20, 2013 marks the ten-year anniversary of the U.S. led invasion of Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Little has improved in the life of ordinary Iraqis despite the government rhetoric that it is better than it was under Saddam.  The Iraqi government itself is rife with corruption, and the seeds of sectarian violence sown by the American administration have become increasingly inflamed in recent months with the mass protests in Sunni provinces such as Anbar and Diyala.  They oppose the Shia –led government of Noori Al-Maliki and accuse them of sidelining the Iraqi Sunnis.
While the brunt of the violence in Iraq has somewhat settled, major attacks are still being perpetrated, as a reminder of the fragile security apparatus in the Iraq.  On Tuesday 19th March 2013, CNN reported on attacks across the capital that took the lives of over fifty people. There are daily attacks as reported by Iraqi media, but largely ignored by western sources.
Women’s rights were touted as one of the reasons to enter Iraq, yet that quickly was forgotten when the American appointed Iraqi Governing Council sought to overthrow Iraq’s progressive personal status law. While there were protests from women and men across Iraq and this move was rejected, various articles in the new constitution now undermine the true equality of women, leaving them subject to religious interpretation rather than the civil law code.
Women suffered greatly within weeks of the coalition forces entering the country as human rights organisations were reporting on the kidnapping and rape of women and girls and SCEME later released a comprehensive report on the sex trafficking of women and girls to neighboring countries.  Crimes against women were, and continue to be committed with utter impunity, thanks in part to the corruption of the government and lack of the enforcement of the rule of law.
While women’s rights were deteriorating under Saddam with the wars in Iran and the invasion of Kuwait (leading to the first Gulf War), and further worsened by the sanctions put in place by the United Nations, they have not improved much in the new Iraq.  
Women were in Tahrir Square in Cairo when the Mubarak regime was brought down over two years ago.  Today they remain, despite reports of attacks of horrific acts of sexual violence against them, they are continuing to stand their ground in protest of the Muslim Brotherhood.  In Iraq’s Sunni provinces where some are saying could bring forth an “Arab Spring” in Iraq, women are nowhere to be found.  It is a worrying sight indeed when half of society has disappeared.  
What will become of Iraq and the women of Iraq in the next ten years? We can only hope that women continue the fight for their rights and the rights of their daughters, for this is a dangerous and trying path the nation on. 
By Tamara Albanna

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