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[casi] HRW News: Insecurity Driving Women Indoors

Human Rights Watch's Report, "Climate of Fear: Sexual
Violence and abduction of Women and girls in Baghdad" is
available at

Iraq: Insecurity Driving Women Indoors

(New York, July 16, 2003) - The insecurity plaguing Baghdad
and other Iraqi cities has a distinct and debilitating
impact on the daily lives of women and girls, preventing
them from participating in public life at a crucial time in
their country's history, Human Rights Watch said in a report
released today.

The 17-page report, "Climate of Fear: Sexual Violence and
Abduction of Women and Girls in Baghdad," concludes that the
failure of Iraqi and U.S.-led occupation authorities to
provide public security in Iraq's capital lies at the root
of a widespread fear of rape and abduction among women and
their families.

"Women and girls today in Baghdad are scared, and many are
not going to schools or jobs or looking for work," said
Hanny Megally, executive director of the Middle East and
North Africa division of Human Rights Watch. "If Iraqi women
are to participate in postwar society, their physical
security needs to be an urgent priority."

Human Rights Watch interviewed rape and abduction victims
and witnesses, Iraqi police and health professionals, and
U.S. military police and civil affairs officers, and learned
of twenty-five credible allegations of rape or abduction.
The Human Rights Watch report found that police officers
gave low priority to allegations of sexual violence and
abduction, that the police were under-resourced, and that
victims of sexual violence confronted indifference and
sexism from Iraqi law enforcement personnel.

The report also found that U.S. military police were not
filling the gap when Iraqi police were unwilling or unable
to conduct serious investigations of sexual violence and
abduction. Human Rights Watch said this inadequate attention
to the needs of women and girls has led to an inability, and
in some cases an unwillingness, by police to conduct serious
investigations. In some cases, reports of sexual violence
and abduction to police were lost.

Megally urged that Iraqi and occupation authorities urgently
undertake legal reforms, law enforcement training, and
health and support services for women. The U.S. should
deploy a special investigative unit to investigate sex-based
and trafficking crimes against women and girls, until such
time as the Iraqi police can take up the responsibility for

Cases documented in the report include:

-    Saba A. (not her real name), a nine-year-old girl, was
     brutally raped by a man who grabbed her from the stairs
     the residence hotel where she lives, in the middle of
     afternoon on May 22.  A hospital refused to treat her,
     the forensic institute refused to give her an exam
     she did not have an official referral.

-    Muna B.(not her real name), a fifteen-year-old-girl,
     escaped from a house outside Baghdad on June 8, where
     had been held for a month with her two sisters and
     other children. She wasn't raped, but her sister was,
     she thought that her captors intended to sell her and
     other children to traffickers. Her case was reported to
     military police, but Iraqi police didn't even take a
     statement from her.

-    Dalal S. (not her real name), a 23-year-old-woman, was
     snatched while walking down the street with her mother
     other family members on May 15; she was taken to a
     outside Baghdad, held overnight and raped. Her father
     reported her abduction to the police, but they never
     the allegations.

"Iraqi and U.S. military police continue to receive reports
of abductions of women but mechanisms are wholly inadequate
for processing these cases," Megally said.

For example, on June 17, two young women reported to the
U.S. military and Iraqi police that their friend had just
been kidnapped. U.S. military police went to the scene of
the abduction, but the perpetrators had long-since fled.
Iraqi police failed to take a statement from the witnesses
and thus no investigation was opened into the abduction of
that young woman.

Human Rights Watch's Report, "Climate of Fear: Sexual
Violence and abduction of Women and girls in Baghdad" is
available at

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