2003 June 17 Tuesday
Iraqi Women Make Small Attempts To Organize Politically

Sharon Waxman has written an excellent article in The Washington Post about the status of women in Iraq.

Throughout the 1980s, women were encouraged to work because so many men were sent to the front lines. But as Islamic revivalism seeped into the culture and jobs evaporated under U.N. sanctions after 1991, the government began to pressure women to leave their jobs and stay home. The religious campaign was a new wrinkle in a complex, suspicion-ridden society. Over the past few years, many women began to don the veil, while hair salons -- symbols of a Westernized ideal of female beauty -- were discouraged from continuing their business.

The article relates the experiences of a number of Iraqi women. They are organizing to create at least one women's political association called the Iraqi Women's League (not to be confused with at least one expatriate organization of the same title). Some Iraqi women are actually taking off their veils now that the Saddam Hussein regime is overthrown. Whether they will manage to keep the veils off without suffering reprisals remains to be seen.

The occupation administration needs to elevate women to important positions. It also needs to be very aggressive at hunting down any Islamists who start attacking women who are unveiled or working in jobs where the Islamists do not want to see women. The US is not going to succeed in politically transforming Iraq if it does not manage to protect the rights of Iraqi women.

Tina Susman of Newsday has written another excellent article on the status of women in Iraq. Muslim militants may be spreading false rumours of female abductions in order to scare women out of moving around on their own.

"So many times I have asked my mother, why was I born a girl? Our society does not allow girls to go to the cinema. It's for boys only. We cannot go anywhere except with our brothers or fathers. I can't go anywhere on my own. And now, with the fears of kidnappings, people are saying they must make their daughters wear the hijab," she said.

The need for security in schools and hospitals has provided an opening for religious groups to provide the security. But they demand more restrictive rules governing interactions between men and women. An example cited in the article is a children's hospital where the Islamist security personnel do not let the male doctors treat female patients. Lawlessness works to the benefit of the Islamists.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 June 17 06:04 PM  Mideast Iraq Freedom Rights


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