On March 8th, International Women’s Day and March 20th, the three-year anniversary of the Iraq war, Global Exchange and CODEPINK plan to highlight the issue of women and war:

Iraqi women have paid a high price for the war and occupation of their country. As Haifa Zangara wrote in an article for Alternet last summer, “Iraqi women were long the most liberated in the Middle East. Occupation has confined them to their homes. A typical Iraqi woman’s day begins with the struggle to get the basics: electricity, petrol or a cylinder of gas, fresh water, food and medication. It ends with a sigh of relief for surviving death threats and violent attacks. For a majority of Iraqi women, simply venturing into the streets harbors the possibility of attack or kidnapping for profit or revenge.”

Few people in the United States have any idea of the impact of the war and occupation of Iraq on the daily lives of Iraqis, much less its impact on women. For this reason, CODEPINK and Global Exchange are trying to bring Iraqi women to the United States to tell their stories to journalists, policy makers and the general public. Knowing how powerful Cindy Sheehan’s story has been in helping Americans understand the real cost of war, imagine what it would mean if Americans could hear first-hand from Iraqi women whose stories are similar to Cindy’s.

Maybe that’s why the US State Department rejected the visa applications for two of the Iraqi women.

According to Global Exchange, the US State Department rejected visa applications for Anwar Kadhim Jawad and Vivian Salim Mati, who were invited to speak during the week of International Women’s Day.

Anwar Kadhim Jawad, her husband and their four children were driving down the road from their house in Baghdad when they were suddenly caught in a hail of bullets from US soldiers. There was no checkpoint and no warning before their car was attacked. Anwar’s husband, son and two daughters were shot dead. Only Anwar, who was pregnant at the time, and her 14-year-old daughter, survived. The US Army compensated her with $11,000, but her loss is incalculable and her grief immeasurable.

Vivian Salim Mati and her husband decided to flee their home when the US military began bombing their neighborhood in Baghdad in the first months of the invasion. They grabbed their children and jumped in the car. Vivian’s husband was driving, and their three children were sitting in the back. They were driving down a side street when they crossed paths with a US tank. The US soldier atop the tank began shooting at them. Vivian’s husband and three children were killed right away. Vivian was hurt but still alive. She got out of the car, screaming, ‘Help me! Help me!’, but the soldiers just kept shooting, Miraculously, Vivian survived but she carries her grief with her every day.

Ironically, the reason given for the visa rejection was that the women don’t have enough family in Iraq to prove that they’ll return to the country.

If you believe these women deserve to be heard, call the State Department at: 202.647.4000 and ask for the office of Condoleeza Rice. Tell her office that Anwar Kadhim Jawad and Vivian Salim Mati are two of the Iraqi women invited to Washington DC on March 8 by CODEPINK, but they were denied their visas by the US Embassy in Amman, Jordan. Demand that her office intervene and grant these women their visas.

Click here if you’d rather email a message.

In March 2004, a group of women from Afghanistan left their country for the first time to spend a month in California. Unfortunately, their trip didn’t get much press. Meeting these women was an incredible experience. Read about it here.

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