Women were far better off under former Iraq dictator
Saddam Hussein, a women's group has found after an extensive survey in Iraq.
"Under the previous dictator regime, the basic rights for women were enshrined
in the constitution," Houzan Mahmoud from the Organization
of Women's Freedom in Iraq told IPS in an interview. The group is a sister
organization of MADRE, an international women's rights group.
Under Saddam, she said, "women could go out to work, university, and get
married or divorced in civil courts. But at the moment women have lost almost
all their rights and are being pushed back into the corner of their house."
The recent constitution, which was written under the U.S. government's supervision,
is "very backward and anti-women," Mahmoud said. "They make Islam
the source for lawmaking, and the main official religion of the country. This
in itself means Islamic Sharia law, and according to this, women will be considered
second-class citizens and will have no power in deciding over their lives."
The whole of Iraqi society has been subjected to "chaos and brutalization,"
she said. "Security is absent, all basic services, and above all the protection
for women's rights is in no way on the agenda of any of the political parties
who have been hand-picked by the U.S. administration in the installed so-called
MADRE is calling for the deployment of a United Nations-led peacekeeping force
and an immediate end to the U.S. occupation. As the crisis in Iraq intensifies,
the group says women and their families in Iraq face an urgent need for security,
functional government, and the provision of basic services within a human rights
Over three years of occupation, the situation is becoming more dangerous and
bleak with the presence of the occupying forces, and "the more violence
and terrorism is in function in Iraq, the more women will fall victims of such
climate," she said.
"The rape, abduction, abuse in prisons by prison guards, and killing of
women is widespread," she said. "The lack of security and proper protection
for women is a major issue and no one, neither the occupying forces nor the
local police of the puppet regime, is doing anything about it."
But the position of women does vary within Iraq, she said. "In the Kurdish
part, the situation of women is slightly better because Iraqi Kurdistan was
out of the hands of the Ba'ath regime from 1991, so it was not part of the U.S.
military attacks in 2003. But the attitude toward women is not progressive there."
Beyond any dangers from the political situation, "a lot of so-called honor
killings are still taking place, and the Kurdish authorities are not doing much
to prevent it from happening."
But the south is directly under daily military occupation, "and the presence
of various Islamic armed militias who are terrorizing women has made their situation
worse," Mahmoud said. "Also, the so-called parliament is divided on
the bases of religious sects and ethnic backgrounds, so the majority of Shi'ites
who are in power are institutionalizing women's oppression and are systematically
forcing Islamification on Iraq."
Women are 60 percent of the population of Iraq, but they are not being consulted
on any political issues and are being deprived of this right, she said.
The presence of a few women should not mislead people on the situation of women,
she said. "The U.S. administration has handpicked a few women and imposed
them on people in the so-called parliament," she said. "These women
are very unknown to Iraqi women. Most of them belong to the reactionary, right-wing
parties in power and they follow their agenda, which is discriminatory against
Women would first like to see "an end to the military occupation which has
created chaos and destruction of Iraqi society and also resulted in the daily
mass killing of ordinary Iraqis."
Women particularly would "want to see security restored so at least they
can go out freely without being attacked, kidnapped, or having acid thrown on
their face," Mahmoud said. "In addition, women want equality, freedom,
and their rights to be recognized in the constitution, and above all to be treated
as equal human beings."
(Inter Press Service)