Winning (and losing) in Iraq

10 women beheaded in Iraq (Photo courtesy of Atlas Shrugs)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq | Four gunshots through the kitchen window. Two to the leg, one to the stomach, one to the head. The woman, who will remain unnamed for her safety, survived the attack, but she is still in hiding.

“For seven years, it was a secret place for housing women,” said Kazhal Ali, the administrator of Asuda, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) in northeastern Iraq that runs shelters for abused women, including the one who was attacked.

“Now it is discovered,” Ms. Ali said, “and we changed the shelter to another place.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS SHARIAH LAW: A woman sifting through trash at a garbage dump in Baghdad’s Shi’ite stronghold of Sadr City wears a head scarf and veil. Women in Iraq are under more pressure to conform to Islamic traditions that strictly limit their rights and opportunities.

The wounded woman’s brother, husband and two brothers-in-law have since been arrested – by police officers who only recently began investigating and charging those accused of attacking women.

The Kurdistan Regional Government’s Interior Ministry has given officials the authority to ensure that cases of violence against women are processed.

But the male-dominant culture remains in Iraq, even in the semiautonomous northern Kurdish region and even though Iraqis no longer face the brutality of Saddam Hussein‘s government.

Life after Saddam has proved a mixed blessing for many women, who face religious extremism in a nation once considered among the Middle East’s most progressive for women’s rights.

“Throughout the country, women reported increasing pressure to wear veils, including within government ministries,” according to the U.S. State Department’s latest report on human rights in Iraq.

“Women were targeted for undertaking normal activities, such as driving a car, and wearing trousers, in an effort to force them to remain at home, wear veils and adhere to a conservative interpretation of Islam,” the report says.

Yanar Mohammed, president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, said: “The current constitution has taken away … laws that used to give us some sort of level of protection.”


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