2004 June 28 Monday
Position Of Women In Iraq Worsens

Writing for the New York Times Somini Sengupta reports on declining educational opportunities and restricted ability to go into public for women in Iraq. (free registration required)

During the school year, young men claiming to represent new religious groups arrived at some schools, demanding that girls' heads be covered or long-sleeved shirts be required. Not surprisingly, an increasing number of the girls seem to be covering their heads — as much out of fear as out of newfound conviction. Some have stopped going to school altogether, as much because of the threat of violence as because of the economic hardships facing their families. In Yosor's school, for example, 700 girls registered for classes this past year, compared with 850 the previous year.

Keep in mind that since the population of Iraq is growing if girls were maintaining their same rate of school attendance we'd expect to see more, not less, girls enrolling in schools.

Writing for Foreign Policy Swanee Hunt and Cristina Posa report on the trend toward lower levels of education and rights for women in Iraq began as far back as the early 1990s. (free registration required)

Conditions for Iraqi women have certainly deteriorated since the Persian Gulf War of 1991. Today, mothers who can read have daughters who cannot, and the older generation often displays more modern views than the younger. Those who recall pre-Hussein Iraq remember women's political activism. The Iraqi Women's League was founded in 1952 but forced underground by Hussein soon after the Baath Party took over in 1968.

...

Many of these gains were lost during the economic depression that followed international sanctions in the 1990s. Men took priority in the shrinking job market. Families pulled girls out of school to work at home, and female literacy plummeted. Iraqis increasingly turned to religion for solace, sharpening the divide between the country's Shiite Muslims (who constitute roughly 60 percent of the population), and Sunni Muslims (who account for about 35 percent). Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, launched a “Faith Campaign” in the early 1990s that attempted to co-opt the support of conservative religious leaders while eradicating Shiite leadership, rolling back women's legal protections in the process. Nevertheless, Shiite Islam's influence grew steadily throughout the 1990s, chiefly because its focus on social justice attracted the poor and oppressed and also because Hussein's crackdowns strengthened Shiite solidarity.

I expect Iraqi politicians to appease the fundamentalists at the expense of the rights of women. The rise of fundamentalism in Iraq was obvious before the war to topple Saddam Hussein and his fall may have accelerated the trend. See my pre-war post Islamist Forces Challenge To Post-War Iraq Reconstruction for more details.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan a Taliban bomb aimed at female election workers killed 2 women and injured 9 more women and 2 children.

The blast in the eastern city of Jalalabad destroyed a bus taking the Afghan women to register female voters for the polls scheduled for September, which the Taliban and allied Islamic militants have vowed to disrupt.

"We did this because we warned people not to get involved in the election process," Taliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi said after contacting Reuters by telephone. "This only strengthens the foundations of the American-backed government."

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 June 28 12:12 PM  Mideast Iraq Freedom Rights


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