Iraqi Women Report on Conditions
April 20, 2006
The Iraqi women who toured the United States last month told us that they were amazed by how misinformed many Americans were about the lives of Iraqi women. Most Americans thought that before the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Iraqi women were sitting at home oppressed, heavily veiled and secluded, and that thanks to the US invasion, they are now liberated. This is what the Bush administration would like us to believe, but after listening to our Iraqi friends many people now know better. To further shed light on the true status of Iraqi women, CODEPINK has released an in-depth report on Iraqi women that can be downloaded at:
The report shows that from 1958 to the 1990s, Iraq provided more rights and freedoms for women and girls than most of its neighbors. Though Saddam Hussein's dictatorial government and 12 years of severe sanctions reduced these opportunities, Iraqi women were active in all aspects of their society. After the occupation, with the exception of women in Iraqi Kurdistan, women's daily lives have been reduced to a mere struggle for survival.
Women walking on the streets face random violence, assault, kidnapping or death at the hands of suicide bombers, occupying forces, Iraqi police, radical religious groups, and local thugs.
Women trying to raise families in the midst of this chaos find themselves beset by a lack of electricity and clean water, and a dearth of social services like decent schools and health care.
Unemployment among women has skyrocketed. Of the 260,000 reconstruction contracts in Iraq, less than 1,000 have gone to female contractors. Before the occupation 70% of the public workforce, by far the largest employer in Iraq, were women.
The constant violence has trapped women and their children -- particularly their daughters -- inside the homes. Fewer girls go to school and illiteracy among girls is on the rise.
Though 25% of the seats in the National Assembly are reserved for women, the real power in Iraq is increasingly in the hands of Islamists determined to move Iraq from a secular society towards a theocracy. They are forcing women to wear veils and are trying to curtail women's rights in areas such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance.
But as we learned from our amazing delegation, Iraqi women are not mere victims, passively watching the destruction of their lives and the fabric of their communities. As delegate Nadje Al-Ali writes in our report,
"Despite the chaos and violence that restricts their activities and mobility, the women struggle on, meeting in each other's houses, establishing refuges where women can learn skills to make a living, providing free health care, legal advice and literacy and computer classes. Iraqi women also organize conferences, sit-ins and demonstrations to get their voices heard and to influence the political process."
Codepink is a US feminist antiwar group. This was sent on its e-list on April 20, 2006.