With Isam Rashid
BAGHDAD - The unrest in the wake of Iraq's failure to form a new government
is making life particularly difficult for women.
"There is chaos in Iraq now, and there is danger everywhere," 27-year-old
Nora Ahmed told IPS. The situation has gone "from bad to worse, and only
when the occupation ends, women in Iraq will be in a better situation,"
said Fatima al-Naddaf.
The women seemed to speak for many others.
Militias and criminals alike have been accused of targeting women in the absence
of the authority of a central government.
Fatima al-Naddaf from Women's Will, an advocacy organization in Baghdad, works
to highlight the difficulties faced by women in Iraq. "Before, Iraq was
under sanctions, but at least it was a free country, not occupied," she
told IPS. "Iraq is bleeding now from the occupation."
Women's Will has been working on women's issues and also on detention of men.
Mass detentions of Iraqi men are endangering women and their children, she says.
Women's Will is working particularly on the issue of women detained in Abu
Ghraib and elsewhere. The Iraqi government and the occupation have repeatedly
shown a disregard for due process and adequate evidence before making detentions.
"The most dangerous issue facing the Iraqi women is that some of them
are being arrested under occupation," said al-Naddaf. "Until now there
are still many Iraqi women in the Abu Ghraib jail."
Women are looking to the closure of Abu Ghraib jail and continued steps toward
solidifying an Iraqi government as a step to establishing security for women.
International Women's Day passed unnoticed in Iraq this year, but Baghdad resident
Jinan Jabbar believes she will be able to celebrate it in the future. "Women
in Iraq want the occupation forces to go back home," she said. "They
want to make a new and strong government in Iraq. Then we can celebrate the
8th of March."
The Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq released a statement March 8 that
said, "Crimes of the occupation are the major threat to Iraqi women's rights.
Before, women could go to work and study safely; today they are exposed to many
threats, such as kidnappings, murder, and rape."
Women's Will blamed the occupation for creating a chaotic situation in Iraq.
"We charge occupation forces with making a civil war in Iraq," al-Naddaf
told IPS. "Our appeal is asking them to stop violating Iraqi people's rights
in their daily life."
Sixty-three-year-old Asmaa Ali described her family situation. "My son
was killed two weeks ago, and now I feel Iraq has become like a big prison.
Before occupation, my sons were soldiers in the Iraqi army, and I worried about
them when they were in the Gulf War. And now also I'm worried about the others
because everywhere there is killing."
Women have come to fear Iraqi troops now, she said. "The most dangerous
problem Iraqi women face is the uneducated and fanatical Iraqi troops. Because
of that, some of the Iraqi women stop trying to educate themselves."
Asmaa appealed for support from women around the world. "I want to invite
them to come to Iraq, to see how Iraqi women suffered before, and how they are
still suffering because of occupation."
The troubles are not all new. Some women speak also of difficulties under the
Saddam regime due to the brutal war with Iran and later because of the imposition
And there are also some voices of optimism among women. Jinan Jabbar believes
women are in danger, but that in time "Iraq will be better."
Ahrar Zalzali, a female Iraqi journalist, says the new government has at least
shown there are some new possibilities for women. In some respects, the situation
of women has improved under the occupation "because women in Iraq are taking
on a good place in the Iraqi government."