IRAQ: Women Miss Saddam
By Abdu Rahman and Dahr Jamail*
BAGHDAD, Mar 12, 2010 (IPS) - Under Saddam Hussein, women in government got
a year's maternity leave; that is now cut to six months. Under the Personal
Status Law in force since Jul. 14, 1958, when Iraqis overthrew the
British-installed monarchy, Iraqi women had most of the rights that Western
Now they have Article 2 of the Constitution: "Islam is the official religion
of the state and is a basic source of legislation." Sub-head A says "No law
can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam." Under this
Article the interpretation of women's rights is left to religious leaders –
and many of them are under Iranian influence.
"The U.S. occupation has decided to let go of women's rights," Yanar
Mohammed who campaigns for women's rights in Iraq says. "Political Islamic
groups have taken southern Iraq, are fully in power there, and are using the
financial support of Iran to recruit troops and allies. The financial and
political support from Iran is why the Iraqis in the south accept this, not
because the Iraqi people want Islamic law."
With the new law has come the new lawlessness. Nora Hamaid, 30, a graduate
from Baghdad University, has now given up the career she dreamt of. "I
completed my studies before the invaders arrived because there was good
security and I could freely go to university," Hamaid tells IPS. Now she
says she cannot even move around freely, and worries for her children every
day. "I mean every day, from when they depart to when they return from
school, for fear of abductions."
There is 25 percent representation for women in parliament, but Sabria says
"these women from party lists stand up to defend their party in the
parliament, not for women's rights." For women in Iraq, the invasion is not
The situation for Iraq's women reflects the overall situation: everyone is
affected by lack of security and lack of infrastructure.
"The status of women here is linked to the general situation," Maha Sabria,
professor of political science at Al-Nahrain University in Baghdad tells
IPS. "The violation of women's rights was part of the violation of the
rights of all Iraqis." But, she said, "women bear a double burden under
occupation because we have lost a lot of freedom because of it.
"More men are now under the weight of detention, so now women bear the
entire burden of the family and are obliged to provide full support to the
families and children. At the same time women do not have freedom of
movement because of the deteriorated security conditions and because of
abductions of women and children by criminal gangs."
Women, she says, are also now under pressure to marry young in family hope
that a husband will bring security.
Sabria tells IPS that the abduction of women "did not exist prior to the
occupation. We find that women lost their right to learn and their right to
a free and normal life, so Iraqi women are struggling with oppression and
denial of all their rights, more than ever before."
Yanar Mohammed believes the constitution neither protects women nor ensures
their basic rights. She blames the United States for abdicating its
responsibility to help develop a pluralistic democracy in Iraq.
"The real ruler in Iraq now is the rule of old traditions and tribal,
backward laws," Sabria says. "The biggest problem is that more women in Iraq
are unaware of their rights because of the backwardness and ignorance
prevailing in Iraqi society today."
Many women have fled Iraq because their husband was arbitrarily arrested by
occupation forces or government security personnel, says Sabria.
More than four million Iraqis were estimated to have been displaced through
the occupation, including approximately 2.8 million internally. The rest
live as refugees mainly in neighbouring countries, according to a report by
Elizabeth Ferris, co-director of the Brookings Institution-University of
Bern Project on Internal Displacement.
The report, titled, 'Going Home? Prospects and Pitfalls For Large-Scale
Return Of Iraqis', says most displaced Iraqi women are reluctant to return
home because of continuing uncertainties.
The Washington-based Refugees International (RI) says in a report 'Iraqi
Refugees: Women's Rights and Security Critical to Returns' that "Iraqi women
will resist returning home, even if conditions improve in Iraq, if there is
no focus on securing their rights as women and assuring their personal
security and their families' well-being."
The RI report covered internally displaced women in Iraq's semi-autonomous
northern Kurdish region and female refugees in Syria. "Not one woman
interviewed by RI indicated her intention to return," the report says.
"This tent is more comfortable than a palace in Baghdad; my family is safe
here," a displaced woman in northern Iraq told RI.
The situation continues to be challenging for women within Iraq.
"I am an employee, and everyday go to my work place, and the biggest
challenge for me and all the suffering Iraqis is the roads are closed and
you feel you are a person without rights, without respect," a 35-year-old
government employee, who asked to be referred to as Iman, told IPS.
"To what extent has this improved my security," she asked. "We have better
salaries now, but how can women live with no security? How can we enjoy our
rights if there is no safe place to go, for rest and recreation and living?"
(*Abdu, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr
Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who reports extensively on
Big Anti-War Protest March & Rally in Hollywood!
U.S. Out of Afghanistan & Iraq Now!
SATURDAY, MARCH 20th, Noon
Gather at Hollywood & Vine
Regional Protest Coordinated with
National March on Washington
Bring the Troops Home Now!
End Colonial Occupation from Iraq to Palestine, Afghanistan, Haiti
Money for Healthcare, Jobs & Education!
March 20th is the Seventh Anniversary of the Criminal War of Aggression
against Iraq, launched by Bush & Cheney and now continued by Obama,
Biden & the Government of the United States.
One Million or More Iraqis Have Died!
People from all over the country are organizing to converge on Washington,
D.C., to demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. and
NATO forces from Afghanistan and Iraq. On Saturday, March 20, 2010, there
will be a mass National March & Rally in D.C. with joint actions in Los
Angeles and San Francisco. We will march together to say "No Colonial-type
Wars and Occupations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine!" We will march
together to say "Reparations for the people of Haiti!" Instead of war and
occupation, we will demand funds so that every person can have a job, free
and universal health care, decent schools, and affordable housing.
March 20 is the seventh anniversary of the criminal war of aggression
launched by Bush and Cheney against Iraq. One million or more Iraqis have
died. Tens of thousands of U.S. troops have lost their lives or been maimed,
and continue to suffer a whole host of enduring problems from this terrible
This is the time for united action. The slogans on banners may differ, but
all those who carry them should be marching shoulder to shoulder.
Download March 20 flyers and posters:
The initiators and endorsers of the March 20 National March on Washington
the ANSWER Coalition; Muslim American Society Freedom; National
Council of Arab Americans; Cynthia McKinney; Malik Rahim, co-founder of
Common Ground Collective; Ramsey Clark; Cindy Sheehan; Medea Benjamin,
co-founder of CODEPINK; Deborah Sweet, Director, World Can't Wait;
Mike Ferner, President, Veterans for Peace; Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to
Return Coalition; Heidi Boghosian, Executive Director, National Lawyers
Guild; Ron Kovic, author of "Born on the 4th of July"; Juan Jose Gutierrez,
Director, Latino Movement USA; Col. Ann Wright (ret.); March Forward!;
Partnership for Civil Justice; Palestinian American Women Association;
Alliance for a Just and Lasting Peace in the Philippines; Alliance for
Global Justice; Claudia de la Cruz, Pastor, Iglesia San Romero de Las
Americas-UCC; Phil Portluck, Social Justice Ministry, Covenant Baptist
Church, D.C.; Blase & Theresa Bonpane, Office of the Americas; Coalition for
Peace and Democracy in Honduras; Comite Pro-Democracia en Mexico;
Frente Unido de los Pueblos Americanos; Free Palestine Alliance;
GABRIELA Network; Justice for Filipino American Veterans; KmB Youth;
Students Fight Back; Jim Lafferty, Executive Director, National Lawyers
Guild - LA Chapter; LEF Foundation; National Coalition to Free the Angola 3;
Community Futures Collective; Advocates for Indigenous California Language
Survival; Companeros del Barrio; for Full and Unconditional Amnesty; Michael
Berg; Action Center for Justice - Charlotte, NC; Bay Area United Against
Casa las Américas; Community Organizing Center, Columbus, Ohio; CT-SAW
(Connecticut Students Against the War); Delaware Valley Veterans for
America; Hawai'i Solidarity Committee; Malcolm X Center for
Self-Determination; Texans for Peace; Addicted To War, and many more.
For more information contact:
Act Now to Stop War and End Racism
137 N. Virgil Avenue, #201
Los Angeles, CA 90004