Thursday, March 30, 2006

Untold stories of the rape scandal in Abo-Gharib prison in Iraq

This is an article on rape of Iraqi women.

Written on 03/06/2004

Untold stories of the rape scandal in Abo-Gharib prison in Iraq

By Houzan Mahmoud and Nadia Mahmood

Many Iraqis believe that sexual abuse of women in Abo-Gharib prison has been rampant.
There have been a lot of photos and talk about women being raped by coalition soldiers. Sometimes the US/UK authorities claimed that these were fake photos, but the live evidence of their crimes is now emerging.
Recently the news from women prisoners who have been released from jail and have either committed suicide or were killed by their own relatives have shocked us. Rape is considered as a shame on “family’s honour”. These women have been impregnated in prison after been raped by US soldiers.
The voluntarily killing of women after their release informs us that there is no space for a raped women in a society that is been destroyed. The most backward and inhumane values once again are reborn with the emergence of the occupation, which has provided the platform for the Islamists to inflict and impose the most misogynist ideas and norms on people. They look at rape as a “shame” not only on family “honour” but on the nation’s honour too. So they have yet another excuse to exploit the situation and yet carry out much more terrorism, and locate big sums of money to award those who can kidnap US and the allied women soldiers so they can take revenge.
USA’s and Islamist’s methods are both sadistic, oppressive and are both the two sides of one coin, both of them are crimes against women and they should be stopped.
These raped women did not want to live the resentful life in social exclusion and denial even by their own closest relatives in a society that been driven back into the dark ages by the forces of political Islam, and US occupation.
These women appear to have been arrested - not because of any crimes they have committed, but purely because of whom they are married to, and their impending intelligence value. US officials have previously acknowledged that they detain Iraqi women in the hope of convincing male relatives to provide information, and confess; when US soldiers raid a house and fail to find a male suspect, they will often take away his wife, sister or daughter instead.
This is exactly the same method that was used during Saddam’s regime and is been repeated now by different totalitarian forces. On invading Iraq, George W, Bush said now people in Iraq will be free from Saddam’s prison, torture and persecution, What has been happening in the prisons of Iraq is again showing the hypocrisy of the US government and its false and inhumane justification for occupying Iraq, and that actually they have just the same methods as the oppressive regime of Ba’ath and are inflicting the same rules and persecution on the Iraqi masses.
This shows us that actually abuse; rape and violent attitudes have always been part of the culture of the imperialist army whenever they have been invading any country.
Hearing about cases of women been raped by soldiers has shocked us, and it is a matter of fact that the occupation has been a reason for the enslavement of women in Iraq and the unleashing of a host of reactionary norms and values.
As a result, female prisoners face a solemn future after their released: rejection, ostracism or killing by committing suicide or killings by member of family in order to clear the “shame” that has been brought to the family’s “honour”.
In societies that still consider woman the honour of family and nation, rape in itself represents a death sentence for women.
What is happening to women in Iraq is unacceptable and is to be condemned. The US officials must be brought to justice for their crimes against women and what they have been doing to women in Iraq. Any women who are arrested, for whatever reason, should be treated with dignity and have all rights to defend herself. These women deserve all kinds of protection, physical and psychological treatment. The Iraqi police of the Puppet Government and the US forces should be held responsible for these crimes, these sadistic crimes against women in Iraq.

The killing of women by Islamic groups in Iraq continues unabated

This is my article which I wrote in 2004 and still the situation of women is not
better under the US occupation.

it was first published in Equal Rights Now and then on the website of a women's organisation in US called Awakened women:
http://www.awakenedwoman.com/mahmoud_islamic.htm

By Houzan Mahmoud

October 2004

The suffering of women in Iraq has intensified considerably at the hands of the Islamic groups since the start of war and the occupation of Iraq. These atrocities take place before the eyes of the occupying forces and without ever being condemned by them. The treatment of women by occupying forces themselves is not much better than that of the Islamic groups. The treatment of women in their custody which has included harassment, torture, rape as well as degrading attitudes towards women in general has contributed to an atmosphere of fear and haplessness for women.
The Islamic groups resort to every possible method to terrorize Iraqi women; by inflaming the sense of insecurity, kidnapping and killing and by terrorizing the whole society they pursue their aim of forcing women out of social life and into the confines of homes. While opposing the occupying forces the main trust of the Islamic group's violence is aimed at women. Fighting the occupying forces has served as a pretext to direct the brunt of their attacks against. Separated, isolated, excluded and enslaved women is the foundation for an Islamic society. Preventing women from work and education, two important elements of a woman's independence are also being targeted.
In the last three months 8 women have been killed in the city of Mousel alone by Islamic terror groups. These women have been killed because Islamic gangsters do not want women to go to work, terrorizing them to stay at home, wear veils, remain segregated from men, and to prevent them from working in public. The crimes of these women were that they did not observe the Quranic rules. They paid for it with their lives. The wrath of the Islamists has also been targeted against the foreign nationals, including women, in Iraq. Simona Torretta, the head of the Baghdad office, and Simona Pari, both 29, and the two Iraqis who were identified as Raad Ali Aziz and Mahnaz Bassam - who were working for an agency called "A bridge to Baghdad" in Iraq - were the victims of the kidnappers. Targeting women for their political gains is a desperate act by the Islamists. However, such acts have exposed the real characters of these criminals to the Iraqi people.
The Islamic groups are terrorizing Iraqi society to impose their dark rules. They target civilians to advance their inhumane agenda. We have seen how they kidnap workers who have been forced to migrate to Iraq in the hope of earning a living to feed their families. The killing of the 12 workers from Nepal is yet another example.
The recent kidnapping of the two journalists Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, working for Radio France-Internationale and Le Figaro, shows the ultimate bankruptcy of Political Islam, demanding the French government lift the ban on veil at France's schools. These are some examples amongst many, and they are in facts demonstrating how remote these Islamic gangsters are from the demands, aspirations and desires of modern human beings. The veil, polygamous marriages for men and stoning of women are to become the norms of the society. But the question is that if these were to become the norms of any society, would we really call it a "human society"? Or the brutal rules of the jungle. In order to end all these violations of women's rights in Iraq by Islamists we have to be united and confront political Islam wherever it starts to threaten our liberties.

A statement by OWFI-abroad representative on 8 March international women's day

A statement by organization of Women’s freedom in Iraq – abroad representative on International Women’s Day (8 March)


Make it a day to say No! To Islamic Sharia law in Iraq!
For secularism, equality and freedom!

The Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) sends its greetings for this historic day to women activists all over the world. For centuries women have been struggling for their rights and for equality and liberation in all parts of the world. Major changes have been won, but nowhere do we have real equality, and in many parts of the world the oppression and exploitation of women are still striking. Iraq is one of those places.

The US-UK occupation has pushed Iraqi society back into a medieval world in which “honour killings”, beheadings, forced veiling and seclusion and sexual servitude are now a part of everyday life.

Now the reactionary, tribalist and sectarian government the US has installed in Iraq wants to go further by institutionalizing the oppression of Iraqi women. The outcome of a war and occupation which was sold to the world as bringing “liberation” and “democracy” has been a hand-picked group of political hacks and tribal elder imposed on Iraqi society through a pseudo-parliament and a constitution that makes women second class citizens.

For the last three years Iraqi women have stood up against not only the occupation but against political Islamist groups who are fighting to establish an Iranian or Saudi Arabian-type regime of gender apartheid, with all marital and family matters regulated by Islamic Sharia law.
OWFI is fighting to mobilize Iraqi women and their supporters across the world against the occupation and Islamisation of Iraq. The USA and its allies claim that in facilitating our subjugation they are respecting “Islamic culture” and “Arab culture”.

We say that this viewpoint, permanently relegating people in the so-called Muslim world to barbarism, borders on racism. We oppose politicized religion and demand a secular and egalitarian constitution for Iraq!

They want to divide people along lines of religion, ethnicity and gender. We are demanding equality for all Iraqis regardless of their origin! Women in Iraq need your support more than ever. OWFI has been able to maintain and continue its work because of international support and solidarity, because of solidarity from women’s, progressive and workers’ organizations all over the world helping us to stand firm for our lives and our liberties.
We call upon you to join with us this International Women’s Day (8 March) to say No to religious law in Iraq and yes to equality and freedom.

No to Islamic Sharia Law in Iraq!
Long Live International Women’s Day! Long live freedom, equality, and secularism!

Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq- Representative abroad
February 2006


For further information please contact Houzan Mahmoud:
houzan73@yahoo.co.uk
Tel: +44 79 56 88 3001
www.equalityiniraq.com

Call from the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq- abroad representative

Call from the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq- abroad representative


To make International Women’s Day on 8 March a day of saying No to Islamic Sharia law in Iraq

To all women’s, progressive, secularist and labour movement organizations

Iraqi women are facing a historic threat. The US/UK occupation has strengthened political Islamist groups, who now constitute a majority in the US-installed parliament and have a dominant position in the new constitution based on ethnic division and the principles of Islamic Sharia law. Iraq’s personal status law will now be abolished and all marital and family matters will be conducted on the basis of Sharia and other forms of religious-tribal law. This means the enslavement of Iraqi women under a system of laws developed hundreds of years ago in the dark ages. Iraqi women will not accept their subjugation. We will stand firm against both the occupation and political Islam in Iraq.

To do this we need your solidarity - please support us in our struggle.

Please sign the following statement and send it back to us:

"The war and the occupation of Iraq by the US and UK have opened the way for reactionary forces in Iraqi society to impose a constitution based on Islamic Sharia and other forms of religious-tribal law. We the undersigned organizations and individuals condemn the introduction of religious law. We demand freedom and equality for Iraqi women and support their Struggle for a democratic, secular and egalitarian constitution."


For further information please contact Houzan Mahmoud:
houzan73@yahoo.co.uk
Tel: +44 79 56 88 3001
www.equalityiniraq.com

Campaign to defend the life and safety of Marywan Halabjaye

please sign the petition by clicking on to this link in support of a Kurdish secular pro women writer:

http://www.petitiononline.com/01021970/petition.html

To: Kurdish Authorities

Campaign to defend the life and safety of Marywan Halabjaye

Defend this secular writer against the threats of Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan! Marywan Halabjaye is secular Kurdish write who recently published a Book entitled “Sex, Sharia and Women in the History of Islam”. In this book he discussed the status of women in Islam and according to the text of the Quran. The book has received an overwhelming response from the secular, progressive masses of Kurdistan. Three of Kurdistan’s Islamic parties, the United Islamic Party, the Islamic League and the Islamic Movement, have started to threaten Marywan Halabjaye and mobilise the Kurdish media against him and his book. They have filed a complaint against the writer in a Sulaymania court and are using mosques in many towns and villages to provoke people against him. This is part of the ongoing drive of political Islam to attack Freedom of expression across the world and silence the voices of those who are critical of the treatment of women in Islam. It is our task to defend the right of secular, progressive and enlightened writers and thinkers to express their ideas and thoughts without fear or intimidation. We the undersigned condemn the reactionary attack on Marywan Halabjaee and secularism in Kurdistan and argue strongly for the Kurdish authorities to:

- Provide unconditional protection for Marywan and his family, who are now in hiding. - Guarantee protection of freedom of thought, expression and Association in Kurdistan.

Houzan Mahmoud Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq - UK Branch 09/02/2006

Sincerely,
The Undersigned

My interview with Inter Press Service News Agency

Dear reader bellow is my interview with IPS News Agency

http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=32693

IRAQ:Saddam Better for Women


Sanjay Suri LONDON, Mar 29 (IPS) -

Women were far better off under former Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein, a women's group has found after an extensive survey in Iraq. ''Under the previous dictator regime, the basic rights for women were enshrined in the constitution,'' Houzan Mahmoud from the Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq told IPS in an interview. The group is a sister organization of MADRE, an international women's rights group. Under Saddam, she said, ''women could go out to work, university and get married or divorced in civil courts. But at the moment women have lost almost all their rights and are being pushed back into the corner of their house.'' The recent constitution which was written under the U.S. government's supervision is ''very backward and anti-women,'' Mahmoud said. ''They make Islam the source for law making, and the main official religion of the country. This in itself means Islamic Sharia law and according to this women will be considered second-class citizens and will have no power in deciding over their lives.'' The whole of Iraqi society has been subjected to ''chaos and brutalisation,'' she said. ''Security is absent, all basic services, and above all the protection for women's rights is in no way on the agenda of any of the political parties who have been hand-picked by the U.S. administration in the installed so-called parliament.'' MADRE is calling for the deployment of a United Nations-led peacekeeping force and an immediate end to the U.S. occupation. As the crisis in Iraq intensifies, the group says women and their families in Iraq face an urgent need for security, functional government, and the provision of basic services within a human rights framework. Over three years of occupation, the situation is becoming more dangerous and bleak with the presence of the occupying forces, and ''the more violence and terrorism is in function in Iraq the more women will fall victims of such climate,'' she said. ''The rape, abduction, abuse in prisons by prison guards, and killing of women is widespread,'' she said. ''The lack of security and proper protection for women is a major issue and no one, neither the occupying forces nor the local police of the puppet regime. is doing anything about it.'' But the position of women does vary within Iraq, she said. ''In the Kurdish part the situation of women is slightly better because Iraqi Kurdistan was out of the hands of the Ba'ath regime from 1991, so it was not part of the U.S. military attacks in 2003. But the attitude towards women is not progressive there.'' Beyond any dangers from the political situation, ''a lot of so- called 'honour killings' are still taking place, and the Kurdish authorities are not doing much to prevent it from happening.'' But the south is directly under daily military occupation ''and the presence of various Islamic armed militias who are terrorising women has made their situation worse,'' Mahmoud said. ''Also, the so-called parliament is divided on the bases of religious sects and ethnic backgrounds, so the majority of Shiittes who are in power are institutionalising women's oppression and are systematically forcing Islamification on Iraq.'' Women are 60 percent of the population of Iraq but they are not being consulted on any political issues and are being deprived of this right, she said. The presence of a few women should not mislead people on the situation of women, she said. ''The U.S. administration has handpicked a few women and imposed them on people in the so-called parliament,'' she said. ''These women are very unknown to Iraqi women. Most of them belong to the reactionary right wing parties in power and they follow their agenda, which is discriminatory against women.'' Women would first like to see ''an end to the military occupation which has created chaos and destruction of Iraqi society and also resulted in the daily mass killing of ordinary Iraqis.'' Women particularly would ''want to see security restored so at least they can go out freely without being attacked, kidnapped or having acid thrown on their face,'' Mahmoud said. ''In addition, women want equality, freedom and their rights to be recognised in the constitution, and above all to be treated as equal human beings.

'' (END/2006)
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Houzan Mahmoud: Iraq must reject a constitution that enslaves women

Houzan Mahmoud: Iraq must reject a constitution that enslaves women

http://comment.independent.co.uk/commentators/article305879.ece

Islamic terrorism is killing and injuring Iraqi women daily, employing, among other weapons, acid attacks

Published: 15 August 2005

Today is the deadline for Iraq's ruling political classes to agree a brand new "constitution" for the country - but don't be deceived, this is likely to be nothing but another false dawn for Iraq's women. Much of the debate over the constitution's main articles has centred on the degree to which Islam will be the source for future laws in Iraq. This spells disaster for Iraq's women, and represents a cave-in to the terrorist Islamist groups who are "committing crimes against humanity" on an almost daily basis, in the words of Amnesty International.
The constitution's drafting committee, like Iraq's legislative assembly, is dominated by religious, ethnic and tribal figures. Committee members have been pushing for Islamic Sharia law to be the sole source of the constitution and there is strong resistance to the incorporation of any human rights standards that are seen as usurping Islamic legal supremacy.
By all accounts, the finished document is going to reflect the growing forced Islamisization of Iraqi life, as the poison of Islamic groups spreads into the mainstream. Supposedly moderate politicians are disastrously disinclined to challenge the increasingly powerful Islamist factions that now hold sway in almost every quarter of post-occupation Iraq.
Whether Sunni or Shia; in the current government or in opposition; affiliated directly to al-Qa'ida or to the Jordanian fanatic Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, or are former Baathists who "freelance" as so-called "resistance fighters", what unites Iraq's armed Islamists is a fierce hatred of women that rivals their hatred for US and British "invaders", foreign "infidels" and other assorted enemies.
Across the country, a steady clampdown on women's rights has been going unreported and unchecked by the government. Islamic terrorism is killing and injuring Iraqi women daily, employing among other weapons, acid attacks.
My women's rights group, the Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq, has been documenting part of the upsurge in violence against women. In March this year, for example, followers of the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr targeted an outing of students from Basra University. Playing football and listening to music, the mixed group was attacked in Basra Public Park. One male student was killed trying to defend his female friends against Islamists who literally tore the women's clothes off their bodies. Sadr's men photographed the dishevelled, half-dressed women, and told them that their parents would receive the photos if they didn't refrain in future from "immoral" behaviour.
More widely, professional women have been deliberately targeted and killed - notably in the city of Mosul - and, recently, anti-women Islamists in Baghdad have taken to throwing acid in women's faces and on to their uncovered legs.
So-called "honour killings" are rife, as is the kidnapping and rape of women. Beheadings have occurred and women have been sold into sexual servitude. When I was in Baghdad a few months ago, I couldn't go anywhere without a bodyguard. The sense of danger and threat was tangible.
Islamist repression against women is a campaign of "moral" terror. Leaflets, graffiti and verbal warnings in their thousands warn women against going out unveiled, against putting on make-up, and against shaking hands or mixing with men. Female doctors have been prevented from treating male patients, and male doctors warned not to attend to women.
This is a recipe for future gender enslavement, second-class citizenship and ignorance. Thousands of female university students have now given up their studies to protect themselves against Islamist threats.
Islamist hostility is contagious and echoed daily in high-level political debate. Currently there is a drive over the "right" of men to have four wives, to make divorce a male preserve and for custody of children to be given to men only. Even women on Iraq's National Assembly - the country's parliament - have been calling for resolutions to allow for the beating of women by their guardians (males relatives, such as husbands or fathers).
This is all the outcome of the occupation of Iraq. This has been pursued under the name of liberation, but what we actually see is women increasingly losing their freedom, while political Islamists feel free to terrorise them. The Islamicists pour into this invaded, so-called Muslim land in order, they say, to liberate it; but in reality, neither the US nor the Islamists are our liberators. They both really fight for power and influence in Iraq and in the region.
The January so-called election and today's constitution are all part of the same procedure, which is to legitimate the current installed government in Iraq. It is only in an atmosphere of occupation and terror, they can push their reactionary ideas forward.
The constitution is set to add to a growing fearfulness among Iraqi women, as their rights are passed over or signed away to Islamists hostile to Iraq's entire female population. Women in Iraq face being dragged back into the dark ages. We need to stop this tragedy before it's too late. A constitution based on enslaving women, religious sectarianism, and tribalism must be rejected.
The writer is the UK Head of the Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq and co-founder of the Iraq Freedom Congress
houzan73@ yahoo.co.uk
Today is the deadline for Iraq's ruling political classes to agree a brand new "constitution" for the country - but don't be deceived, this is likely to be nothing but another false dawn for Iraq's women. Much of the debate over the constitution's main articles has centred on the degree to which Islam will be the source for future laws in Iraq. This spells disaster for Iraq's women, and represents a cave-in to the terrorist Islamist groups who are "committing crimes against humanity" on an almost daily basis, in the words of Amnesty International.
The constitution's drafting committee, like Iraq's legislative assembly, is dominated by religious, ethnic and tribal figures. Committee members have been pushing for Islamic Sharia law to be the sole source of the constitution and there is strong resistance to the incorporation of any human rights standards that are seen as usurping Islamic legal supremacy.
By all accounts, the finished document is going to reflect the growing forced Islamisization of Iraqi life, as the poison of Islamic groups spreads into the mainstream. Supposedly moderate politicians are disastrously disinclined to challenge the increasingly powerful Islamist factions that now hold sway in almost every quarter of post-occupation Iraq.
Whether Sunni or Shia; in the current government or in opposition; affiliated directly to al-Qa'ida or to the Jordanian fanatic Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, or are former Baathists who "freelance" as so-called "resistance fighters", what unites Iraq's armed Islamists is a fierce hatred of women that rivals their hatred for US and British "invaders", foreign "infidels" and other assorted enemies.
Across the country, a steady clampdown on women's rights has been going unreported and unchecked by the government. Islamic terrorism is killing and injuring Iraqi women daily, employing among other weapons, acid attacks.
My women's rights group, the Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq, has been documenting part of the upsurge in violence against women. In March this year, for example, followers of the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr targeted an outing of students from Basra University. Playing football and listening to music, the mixed group was attacked in Basra Public Park. One male student was killed trying to defend his female friends against Islamists who literally tore the women's clothes off their bodies. Sadr's men photographed the dishevelled, half-dressed women, and told them that their parents would receive the photos if they didn't refrain in future from "immoral" behaviour.
More widely, professional women have been deliberately targeted and killed - notably in the city of Mosul - and, recently, anti-women Islamists in Baghdad have taken to throwing acid in women's faces and on to their uncovered legs.
So-called "honour killings" are rife, as is the kidnapping and rape of women. Beheadings have occurred and women have been sold into sexual servitude. When I was in Baghdad a few months ago, I couldn't go anywhere without a bodyguard. The sense of danger and threat was tangible.
Islamist repression against women is a campaign of "moral" terror. Leaflets, graffiti and verbal warnings in their thousands warn women against going out unveiled, against putting on make-up, and against shaking hands or mixing with men. Female doctors have been prevented from treating male patients, and male doctors warned not to attend to women.
This is a recipe for future gender enslavement, second-class citizenship and ignorance. Thousands of female university students have now given up their studies to protect themselves against Islamist threats.
Islamist hostility is contagious and echoed daily in high-level political debate. Currently there is a drive over the "right" of men to have four wives, to make divorce a male preserve and for custody of children to be given to men only. Even women on Iraq's National Assembly - the country's parliament - have been calling for resolutions to allow for the beating of women by their guardians (males relatives, such as husbands or fathers).
This is all the outcome of the occupation of Iraq. This has been pursued under the name of liberation, but what we actually see is women increasingly losing their freedom, while political Islamists feel free to terrorise them. The Islamicists pour into this invaded, so-called Muslim land in order, they say, to liberate it; but in reality, neither the US nor the Islamists are our liberators. They both really fight for power and influence in Iraq and in the region.
The January so-called election and today's constitution are all part of the same procedure, which is to legitimate the current installed government in Iraq. It is only in an atmosphere of occupation and terror, they can push their reactionary ideas forward.
The constitution is set to add to a growing fearfulness among Iraqi women, as their rights are passed over or signed away to Islamists hostile to Iraq's entire female population. Women in Iraq face being dragged back into the dark ages. We need to stop this tragedy before it's too late. A constitution based on enslaving women, religious sectarianism, and tribalism must be rejected.

The writer is the UK Head of the Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq and co-founder of the Iraq Freedom Congress
houzan73@ yahoo.co.uk

Houzan Mahmoud: Why I am not taking part in these phoney elections

This is my article which was published on 28 January 2005 on the so called elections in Iraq

http://comment.independent.co.uk/commentators/article17099.ece

Houzan Mahmoud: Why I am not taking part in these phoney elections

Women are the new victims of Islamic groups intent on restoring a medieval barbarity
Published: 28 January 2005
I am an Iraqi woman, and I am boycotting Sunday's elections. Women who do vote will be voting for an enslaved future. Surely, say those who support these elections, after decades of tyranny, here at last is a form of democracy, imperfect, but democracy nevertheless?
I am an Iraqi woman, and I am boycotting Sunday's elections. Women who do vote will be voting for an enslaved future. Surely, say those who support these elections, after decades of tyranny, here at last is a form of democracy, imperfect, but democracy nevertheless?
In reality, these elections are, for Iraq's women, little more than a cruel joke. Amid the suicide attacks, kidnappings and US-led military assaults of the 20-odd months since Saddam's fall, the little-reported phenomenon is the sharp increase in the persecution of Iraqi women. Women are the new victims of Islamic groups intent on restoring a medieval barbarity and of a political establishment that cares little for women's empowerment.
Having for years enjoyed greater rights than other women in the Middle East, women in Iraq are now losing even their basic freedoms. The right to choose their clothes, the right to love or marry whom they want. Of course women suffered under Saddam. I fled his cruel regime. I personally witnessed much brutality, but the subjugation of women was never a goal of the Baath party. What we are seeing now is deeply worrying: a reviled occupation and an openly reactionary Islamic armed insurrection combining to take Iraq into a new dark age.
Every day, leaflets are distributed across the country warning women against going out unveiled, wearing make-up, or mixing with men. Many female university students have given up their studies to protect themselves against the Islamists.
The new norm - enforced at the barrel of a gun by Islamic extremists - is to see women as the repository of honour and shame, not only on behalf of family and tribe but the nation. Ken Bigley's abductors perversely wanted to redeem the "honour" of Iraq through obtaining the release of female prisoners. Since when did Islamic groups - the very people doing the hostage-taking, torturing and killing - start caring about the rights of Iraqi women?
Take the case of Anaheed. She was suspended to a tree in the New Baghdad area of the capital and then first shot by her father (a solicitor no less) and then by each member of her tribe. She was then was cut into pieces. This to clear the shame on the tribe's honour for having wanted to marry a man she was in love with. This happened in late 2003, months after the "liberation".
In the last six months at least eight women have been killed in Mosul alone - all apparently by Islamic groups clamping down on female independence. Among these, a professor from the city's law school was shot and beheaded, a vet was killed on her way to work, and a pharmacist from the Alkhansah hospital was shot dead on her doorstep.
The occupation has in effect unleashed this new violence against women, while in some cases adding its own particular variety. Iraqi women have been tortured by US soldiers at Abu Ghraib and other prisons. The social taboo against speaking about sexual abuse is so strong in Iraq that these women will almost certainly have no-one to turn to upon release.
Methal Kazem is one woman who has spoken publicly of her treatment at the hands of the occupiers. Last February a US helicopter landed on the roof of her house. She was hooded and handcuffed and taken to Abu Ghraib. Accused of being a former Baathist secret policewoman, she was made to run on sharp gravel, tied up and suspended and made to listen to the screaming of other inmates. She heard one man repeatedly screaming "do not touch my honour", and Methal believes that the man's wife was being raped in front of him.
When Allied forces handed over power to the interim government last June, they should, as Amnesty International has argued, also have handed over prisoners. Instead they have illegally detained over 2,000, without charge. Few of these may be women, but it still leaves thousands of wives, mothers, sisters and other family members in distress and despair.
I also believe that Iraqi women have been raped by American soldiers. They dare not talk about it, however, as they face being killed by their own families if they do. My associates in Iraq have been counselling Liqaa, a former Iraqi female soldier, who was raped by an American soldier in November 2003. The savage truth is that if she returns home, male family members may murder her for her "dishonour".
If Iraqi women take part in Sunday's poll, who are they to vote for? Women's rights are ignored by most of the groupings on offer. The US government appears happy to have Iraq governed by reactionary religious and ethnocentric élites.
The one glimmer of hope is that courageous demonstrations against rape and kidnapping have taken place. In September, a women's protest fused opposition to the occupation, a demand that all Islamic militia forces leave cities, and a call for safe streets for women. This new women-led secular progressive movement is against the interim government and against the violence and restriction of political Islam. Those who support us should publicly renounce these phoney elections and campaign for a truly free Iraq.
The writer, an Iraqi living in Britain, is the UK head of the Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq
I am an Iraqi woman, and I am boycotting Sunday's elections. Women who do vote will be voting for an enslaved future. Surely, say those who support these elections, after decades of tyranny, here at last is a form of democracy, imperfect, but democracy nevertheless?
I am an Iraqi woman, and I am boycotting Sunday's elections. Women who do vote will be voting for an enslaved future. Surely, say those who support these elections, after decades of tyranny, here at last is a form of democracy, imperfect, but democracy nevertheless?
In reality, these elections are, for Iraq's women, little more than a cruel joke. Amid the suicide attacks, kidnappings and US-led military assaults of the 20-odd months since Saddam's fall, the little-reported phenomenon is the sharp increase in the persecution of Iraqi women. Women are the new victims of Islamic groups intent on restoring a medieval barbarity and of a political establishment that cares little for women's empowerment.
Having for years enjoyed greater rights than other women in the Middle East, women in Iraq are now losing even their basic freedoms. The right to choose their clothes, the right to love or marry whom they want. Of course women suffered under Saddam. I fled his cruel regime. I personally witnessed much brutality, but the subjugation of women was never a goal of the Baath party. What we are seeing now is deeply worrying: a reviled occupation and an openly reactionary Islamic armed insurrection combining to take Iraq into a new dark age.
Every day, leaflets are distributed across the country warning women against going out unveiled, wearing make-up, or mixing with men. Many female university students have given up their studies to protect themselves against the Islamists.
The new norm - enforced at the barrel of a gun by Islamic extremists - is to see women as the repository of honour and shame, not only on behalf of family and tribe but the nation. Ken Bigley's abductors perversely wanted to redeem the "honour" of Iraq through obtaining the release of female prisoners. Since when did Islamic groups - the very people doing the hostage-taking, torturing and killing - start caring about the rights of Iraqi women?
Take the case of Anaheed. She was suspended to a tree in the New Baghdad area of the capital and then first shot by her father (a solicitor no less) and then by each member of her tribe. She was then was cut into pieces. This to clear the shame on the tribe's honour for having wanted to marry a man she was in love with. This happened in late 2003, months after the "liberation".
In the last six months at least eight women have been killed in Mosul alone - all apparently by Islamic groups clamping down on female independence. Among these, a professor from the city's law school was shot and beheaded, a vet was killed on her way to work, and a pharmacist from the Alkhansah hospital was shot dead on her doorstep.
The occupation has in effect unleashed this new violence against women, while in some cases adding its own particular variety. Iraqi women have been tortured by US soldiers at Abu Ghraib and other prisons. The social taboo against speaking about sexual abuse is so strong in Iraq that these women will almost certainly have no-one to turn to upon release.
Methal Kazem is one woman who has spoken publicly of her treatment at the hands of the occupiers. Last February a US helicopter landed on the roof of her house. She was hooded and handcuffed and taken to Abu Ghraib. Accused of being a former Baathist secret policewoman, she was made to run on sharp gravel, tied up and suspended and made to listen to the screaming of other inmates. She heard one man repeatedly screaming "do not touch my honour", and Methal believes that the man's wife was being raped in front of him.
When Allied forces handed over power to the interim government last June, they should, as Amnesty International has argued, also have handed over prisoners. Instead they have illegally detained over 2,000, without charge. Few of these may be women, but it still leaves thousands of wives, mothers, sisters and other family members in distress and despair.
I also believe that Iraqi women have been raped by American soldiers. They dare not talk about it, however, as they face being killed by their own families if they do. My associates in Iraq have been counselling Liqaa, a former Iraqi female soldier, who was raped by an American soldier in November 2003. The savage truth is that if she returns home, male family members may murder her for her "dishonour".
If Iraqi women take part in Sunday's poll, who are they to vote for? Women's rights are ignored by most of the groupings on offer. The US government appears happy to have Iraq governed by reactionary religious and ethnocentric élites.
The one glimmer of hope is that courageous demonstrations against rape and kidnapping have taken place. In September, a women's protest fused opposition to the occupation, a demand that all Islamic militia forces leave cities, and a call for safe streets for women. This new women-led secular progressive movement is against the interim government and against the violence and restriction of political Islam. Those who support us should publicly renounce these phoney elections and campaign for a truly free Iraq.

The writer, an Iraqi living in Britain, is the UK head of the Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq

An empty sort of freedom

This is my article which was published on 8 March 2004 in The Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1164429,00.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, 2004The 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's 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's Freedom in Iraq (Owfi) has informally surveyed Baghdad, and now knows of 400 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 in 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 northern 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. Both 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 Iraq 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 no 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 state 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.
· Houzan Mahmoud is the UK representative of the Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq
houzan73@yahoo.co.uk
www.equalityiniraq.com