The following is an archived copy of a message sent to the CASI Analysis List run by Cambridge Solidarity with Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of Cambridge Solidarity with Iraq (CASI).

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [CASI Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi-analysis] casi-news digest, Vol 1 #39 - 2 msgs

[ This message has been sent to you via the CASI-analysis mailing list ]

This is an automated compilation of submissions to

Articles for inclusion in this daily news mailing should be sent to 
Please include a full reference to the source of the article.

Today's Topics:

   1. An empty sort of freedom - by Houzan Mahmoud, The Guardian,
       Monday 8 March (C Aitchison)


Message: 1
Date: Mon, 08 Mar 2004 14:07:55 +0000
Subject: An empty sort of freedom - by Houzan Mahmoud, The Guardian,
        Monday 8 March
From: C Aitchison <>
To: <>,2763,1164429,00.html

An empty sort of freedom

Saddam was no defender of women, but they have faced new miseries and more
violence since he fell

Houzan Mahmoud
Monday March 8, 2004
The Guardian

Women in Iraq endured untold hardships and difficulties during the past
three decades of the Ba'ath regime. Although some basic rights for women,
such as the right to education, employment, divorce in civil courts and
custody over kids, were endorsed in the Personal Status Code, some of these
legal rights were routinely violated.

The Ba'ath regime's "faithfulness campaign", an act of terrorism against
women that included the summary beheading of scores of those accused of
prostitution, is just one example of its brutality against women.

However, it is now almost a year after the war, which was supposed to bring
"liberation" to Iraqis. Rather than an improvement in the quality of women'=
lives, what we have seen is widespread violence, and an escalation of
violence against women.

From the start of the occupation, rape, abduction, "honour" killings and
domestic violence have became daily occurrences. The Organisation of Women'=
Freedom in Iraq (Owfi) has informally surveyed Baghdad, and now knows of 40=
women who were raped in the city between April and August last year.

A lack of security and proper policing have led to chaos and to growing
rates of crime against women. Women can no longer go out alone to work, or
attend schools or universities. An armed male relative has to guard a woman
if she wants to leave the house.

Girls and women have become a cheap commodity to be traded in post-Saddam
Iraq. Owfi knows of cases where virgin girls have been sold to neighbouring
countries for $200, and non-virgins for $100.

The idea that a woman represents family "honour" is becoming central to
Iraqi culture, and protecting that honour has cost many women their lives i=
recent months. Rape is considered so shaming to the family's honour that
death - by suicide or murder - is needed to expunge it.

Like Iraqi men, many women have lost their jobs. Marooned at home and
lacking independence, women are faced with new miseries. Islamist groups
have imposed veiling, and have issued fatwas against prostitutes. Now
"entertainment" marriages aretaking place. This is an Islamic version of
prostitution, in which rich men marry women temporarily (often for only a
few hours) in return for money.

The Iraqi Governing Council - an American creature - offers no hope for
Iraqi women, consisting as it does of religious or tribal leaders and
nationalists who rarely make any reference to women's rights. In fact, many
IGC members have a history of violating women's rights.

For example, the Kurdish nationalist parties that have been running norther=
Iraq for more than 13 years have violated women's rights and tried to
suppress progressive women's organisations. In July 2000, they attacked a
women's shelter and the offices of an independent women's organisation. Bot=
were saving the lives of Kurdish women fleeing "honour" killings and
domestic violence. More than 8,000 women have died in "honour" killings
since the nationalists have been in control.

One of the IGC's first moves was symbolic. International Women's Day in Ira=
has been changed from March 8 to August 18, the date of birth of Fatima
Zahra, the prophet Mohammed's daughter. This has nothing to do with women's
rights, and everything to do with subordinating women to religious rules.

When the IGC proposed replacing the secular law with sharia, there were big
demonstrations, but these have received almost no media coverage. This is n=
surprise. When the Union of the Unemployed marched for jobs, American
soldiers arrested some of the organisers. This, too, passed unnoticed.

What is needed is a secular constitution based on full equality between
women and men, as well as the complete separation of religion from the stat=
and education system. At a demonstration in Baghdad recently, Yanar
Mohammed, Owfi's chairperson, received two death threats from an Islamist
militia group. They threatened to assassinate her and "blow up" activists
who work with her.

Amnesty International has taken these threats so seriously that it has
written to Paul Bremer, the US chief administrator in Iraq, raising its
concern for Yanar Mohammed's safety. It is urging the Coalition Provisional
Authority to ensure that, amid the bombs and the atrocities, the
deterioration of women's rights doesn't become a secondary issue.

The groups represented in the IGC are irrelevant to Iraqis' demands and
desire for freedom. American support for Islamist groups through the IGC
exposes US hypocrisy. The parties in the IGC have no legitimacy, and have
not been chosen by Iraqis.

Iraq's lack of basic rights for women and the rise of political Islam are
the result of three wars and the ongoing occupation. The only way out of
this chaos is through the direct power of the real people of Iraq - the
progressive, secular masses.

=B7 Houzan Mahmoud is the UK representative of the Organisation of Women's
Freedom in Iraq

End of casi-news Digest

Sent via the CASI-analysis mailing list
To unsubscribe, visit
All postings are archived on CASI's website at

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]