What’s happening to Iraqi women under occupation?
Iraq Tribunal – Berlin – 19/6/04
14 months after the US-led forces occupied Iraq, most Iraqis feel unsafe in their country. Women and children are in particular at risk. Violence against women is widespread.
Iraqi women make up 55% of the population.
Lack of Security -- In many ways:
The danger of being too close to occupying forces patrols in the streets, road side mines and bombs, random killing by scared American soldiers. The resistance.
Kidnapping: kidnapping for profit, revenge, sell to neighbouring countries, prostitution.
When asked about reports about women being kidnapped and violated representative of occupation forces in Baghdad told the New York Times in Sept last year "we don’t do women". According to Robert Fisk of the independent in April 2003: "Abductions of men as well as women were at the rate of 20 a day and may now be as high as 100 a day"
Killing: Killing of women and children. US warplanes are running about 150 flights a day inside Iraq to conduct combat operations, according to Gen T Michael Moseley the vice chief of staff for the air force (1/4/04 to A.P). 2000 pound precision – guided bombs used in Iraq. The air force had tested dropping 80 smaller 500-pound guided bombs in a single pass.
In April, Over 700 Iraqis were killed in Falluja town; half of them were women and children. Air force F-16s and navy F-14 fighters interchangeably delivered strikes In Falluja Sadr city,Najaf and Karbala Hospitals were closed and ambulances were shot at. The poorest of the poor in Sadr city were hit by tanks fire and helicopter gun ships... Basra and Imara under British control witnessed shooting and fighting. (Please see the latest report published by Amnesty international on 15/5/04 title "killing of civilians in Basra and Ammara").
The massacre in Al Qieem. On May 23rd. An American air strike had killed 40 Iraqis celebrating a wedding in al qaim town near the Syrian border, among them were 6 women guests and children.Brigader general Kimmit, American, spokesman said : " Bad people have parties too". He said there was no sign of wedding presents! (Notice the lack of understanding for different cultures and traditions).
OF refuse to count killed Iraqi civilians: Paul Bremer said we don’t count Civilians. Civilians killed until now according to Iraqi body count are 11,000.
The killing of every man means a family has been left without a bread winner.
72% of Iraqis working in public sector are women. In the absence of an Iraqi government unemployment among women is at highest level. Ministry of information as an e.g.
Tazkia (letter of recommendation) is needed to be employed. Lack of security prevents many women of going to work.
Electricity and clean water
Only 50 percent of the population have fresh water compared with 60 % before "liberation. Some people have no option but to drink water from rivers. Tigris water is mixed with sewage and chemicals. My sister who lives in Baghdad’s suburb has no water. Women manage many water treatment plants in Iraq, lack of personal security proved a major obstacle to water delivery. Al twaitha nuclear plant was looted immediately after the war. Containers with all kind of radiation were used by people to drink water. Yellow cake of chemicals was thrown in the river. UN scientists tried to investigate the level of radiation but American forces denied them access to the area. Doctors in nearby hospitals reported high increase of various child illnesses related to radiation.
Electricity is still intermittent. It is less than what it used to be before the invasion. Electricity is needed for water treatment, lights, air conditions…etc. I’ve Called Baghdad recently they were without Electricity for the third day running. Children were fainting in the summer heat in schools with no electricity. Locals contribute money to the private supplier to supply schools with electricity during exams time at least.
Drugs are sold openly in the streets.
Socially: prostitution has become widespread as a result of increasing poverty among women. (Women search rubbish in civic centres in Baghdad). Although abortion has long being illegal, a number of backstreet abortion clinics have opened in the post Saddam era. (My visit to Um Mohammed, the midwife).
Environment Pollution DU cluster bombs:
The temperature in Iraq now over 40 degree. Hot, dusty, stagnant, and unbearable.
2003 surveys and available data indicate that Iraq is the most mine-affected country in the world.. The risk of mine related injury is the highest among men and children, women will be left with extra responsibility of care for male members of the family.
The use of weapons contain DU by the OF during both 91 and 2003 invasion has resulted in thousands of newly disabled persons in Iraq.800 tons of munitions containing DU used by us forces in 1991. Cancer rates and disabilities among children significantly increased. Miscarriages and pregnancy complications increased especially in the south of Iraq. Tanks and vehicles hit by DU Penetrators were left in streets a year after the end of the war. Newly wed Iraqi women don’t want to have babies for the fear of having deformed one. All data related to research on effect of DU in Iraq was burned immediately after the war.
Women issues are used as a propaganda card. Taking part in the political process is very limited. It has been designed as cosmetic rather than real change. Only 3 women were nominated to the interim Iraqi Governing council in July 2003. Women were not included in either the nine-member rotating presidential council or the committee working on constitutional reform. Majority of Iraqi women don’t trust political parties .all political parties are run by men. Women working for the OF are targeted by the resistance. In the Iraqi Gov after the 30th June there are 6 women ministers among 33.
Economy and Privatization
The CPA is in full control of Iraqi resources. Oil in particular... "The CPA does not provide any other public data on sales of Iraqi oil, such as volume or price information" – Iraq has been offered for sale and long term binding agreements. Paul Bremer issued all kind of laws to make sure that no future Iraqi G is going to have the power to change that.
Rights of women workers and farmers are ignored. Subsides to farmers are going to be cancelled to encourage "Iraqi farmers to compete with private investors" as claimed by deputy minister Swasan Sharif.
The Red Cross estimates there are between 10,000-15,000 prisoners. The oldest prisoner 75, the youngest 11. None of them has been charged. American led forces conduct daily raids. Arresting men and women. Women are detained in most cases as hostages. For all these prisoners there have been only 30 prisoners. There are no exact figures of how many women prisoners are in Iraq. The rape of a woman stigmatizes her whole family. We have already heard of women committing suicide after release from prison. Rumsfeld spoke about photos of soldiers having sex with women prisoners. What does he mean?
The torture of prisoners by American and British soldiers leave us horrified to think what is happening to women prisoners. During my last visit to Baghdad in Jan this year, I saw women queuing for hours at the gates of Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad begging for news of their loved ones. It brought back bad memories. In the seventies, under the Ba’th regime, my mother had to wait in the same place desperate to hear if I was held inside.
The Hand over of Sovereignty
Haifa Zangana, London,