Juan Cole flagged an article in Open Democracy today that reports on the escalating oppression of women in Iraq.
Women in Saddam’s Iraq lived under a system that promised them freedom from gender-based oppression.
Even under Saddam’s regime, women were free to choose whether to wear western-style dress and make-up or the black abaya. Many wore western dress in their jobs for government departments and in schools and universities.
Women were given the right to vote, receive an education, and work outside the home. Education was mandatory for both girls and boys up to the age of 16. Women were strongly encouraged to attend universities and acquire professional skills.
This was the starting point when the US invaded Iraq. I’m not suggesting Iraq was a beacon of democracy. It was far from it and women in Saddam’s Iraq were not free from danger.
AI Under Saddam Hussein’s regime, Iraqi women faced arrest; torture, including rape; and even execution because they were suspected of political opposition activities or simply because their husbands or male relatives were sought by the authorities.
The impetuous for abuse under Saddam was usually based on politics, not on gender. Have things gotten any better?
While politically based intimidation and murder of women continues, today we see increasing threats to women based solely on their gender.
Insurgents and religious extremists use rape, acid and assassination to force Iraqi women to wear the veil – the symbol of submission, first signal of further repression to come. Many Iraqi women have never worn the scarf. Now, dead bodies of girls and women are found in rivers and on waste ground with a veil tied around the head, as a message.
Similar attacks and threats have forced a number of women in the northern city of Mosul to give up paid work or to make sure they are accompanied to work by a brother, a male driver or a guard.
While these types of attacks and oppression were reported in some cities in Iraq over a year ago. The oppression of women is now widespread.
Attacks have now expanded from certain geographic locations to the whole country. They have also spread to non-Muslim women.
Has Bush spoken out about the increasing oppression of women in Iraq? Of course not. To do so would be to admit his stated goal of bringing democracy to Iraq is failing. To do so would require him to take responsibility for the mess he’s created.