BAGHDAD - Reports of the gang-rape of 20-year-old Sabrine al-Janabi by three
policemen has set off new demands for justice from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's
Janabi, who lives in the Hai al-Amil area of southern Baghdad with her husband,
was taken from her home Feb. 18 to a police station and accused of assisting
Janabi told al-Jazeera channel Feb. 19 that three police commandos raped her
in the police garrison after accusing her of cooking for resistance fighters.
"One of them put his hand on my mouth so no one outside the room could
hear me," she said in a videotaped statement. "I told them 'I did
not know that an Iraqi could do this to another Iraqi'."
She said "I begged them not to rape me and I swore to them that I was
a good woman and I am like a sister to them, but they did it one after the other."
Nouri al-Maliki's office issued a statement that medical evidence showed Janabi
had not been raped. That statement has turned the event into a political crisis.
Janabi is Sunni, and the police predominantly Shi'ite. Sunnis have long accused
the police of using heavy-handed tactics against Sunnis during "security
operations." But this incident appears to be highlighting widespread displeasure
with the Iraqi government at least as much as stoking strained sectarian tensions.
Maliki's office described Janabi as "a liar" and recommended that
the three accused policeman be commended, in response to demands for an independent
investigation from both Shi'ite and Sunni opposition groups.
The New York Times reported that an Iraqi nurse who says she treated
Janabi saw signs of sexual and physical assault.
Stories of rape committed by both U.S. and Iraqi soldiers have appeared since
the early days of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The first stories emerged from
inside Abu Ghraib prison. These, along with photographic evidence of sexual
humiliation, provoked widespread anger across Iraq.
Rape victims in Iraq rarely come forward because they fear public scorn and
humiliation. A Muslim woman who acknowledges being raped risks death at the
hands of male relatives seeking to restore family honor.
Dr. Harith al-Dhari, secretary-general of the Sunni religious group The Association
of Muslim Scholars, told reporters this week that rapes take place often, but
victims are not coming forward to file complaints.
But since Janabi went public with her story, other stories of rape have begun
On Feb. 22 a 50-year-old Sunni woman accused four Iraqi soldiers of raping
her and attempting to rape her two daughters. She took her story to minister
Izzidin Dola, who then brought the mayor of her city and a group of tribal chiefs
to her home in order to take her statement.
"At least four police officers participated in that crime and they are
facing legal procedures," Dola told IPS.
"The Iraqi police are following the example of those who trained them,"
Ahmed Mukhtar, a school headmaster in the northern Iraqi city Mosul told IPS.
"American soldiers did it more than a thousand times and got away with
it. They sentenced that soldier who killed Abeer after raping her with a hundred
years imprisonment, but we Iraqis are not fools, and we know he will be on parole
sooner than he hopes."
Mukhtar was referring to the gang rape of 14-year-old Abeer al-Janabi last
year near Mahmudiya south of Baghdad. Janabi was then killed together with her
parents and younger sister. Soldiers then burnt the bodies in an attempt to
cover their crime.
Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, 24, was sentenced Feb. 23 to 100 years in prison, but
is eligible for parole in 10 years. Cortez pleaded guilty to the rape and killing.
Iraqi resistance groups have issued statements declaring that the Iraqi police
and soldiers involved in recent rapes would be given "proper punishment."
(Inter Press Service)