Recent Resources for Feminists
(English) ~ 11 April, 2015
Iraqi voices: women brutalised by sanctions and warBy Al-Araby al-Jadeed staff
Scroll down to read also "And how is Baghdad today? " and "The continuing deterioration of women's rights in Iraq" both items by Haifa Zangana
There are approximately 1.6 million widows in Iraq today, as suffering continues [AFP]
Feature: Long years of sanctions and wars have brutalised generations of women and girls in Iraq, and set back the struggle for equal rights by decades.
In Iraq, women and girls have been subjected to gross human rights abuses such as abductions, killings, trafficking, torture, forced marriage, and sexual violence.
Years of protracted conflict have continued to affect family structures, with approximately 1.6 million widows in Iraq
Since 2003 The BRussells Tribunal has been focusing on Iraq, detailing information and analysis on the sanctions in the 1990s and the illegal invasion and occupation thereafter.
Al-Araby al-Jadeed highlights some of this evidence to bring to light how little has changed or progressed in the country.
Hana Ibrahim, the director of the Women's Cultural Centre in Baghdad, spoke to the 2005 World Tribunal on Iraq about gender based violence:
"From the day that the occupation started in Iraq, there was a systematic violation of women and their rights.
Women in Iraq today
Sexual violence: Reports of sexual violence against women and children have increased in Nineveh, Najaf and Kerbala. Additionally, there are reports of an increase in abductions, trafficking and forced recruitment. Due to stigmatisation of rape and sexual abuse, many survivors are reluctant to seek assistance, or openly discuss their trauma.
Human trafficking: Accurate numbers are impossible to obtain. IS has reportedly opened an office in Mosul where they have been selling Yazidi women and girls to local men.
Health: Essential services have sharply deteriorated and are inaccessible in many areas. Many living spaces for refugee women lack segregated living areas and security. (Source: United Nations in Iraq, March 2015)
"They were kidnapped, raped and even taken to other countries in order to have them work in networks.
"I spoke to one person involved in a gang that picked up these women.
"He told me that if a woman is not a virgin she would not cost more than $2,000 or $3,000 but if the woman was a virgin then she would cost much more.
"If that woman can be used for her organs because she is a healthy subject then her price could go up to $10,000.
"This kind of crime is being committed on a daily basis in a systematic manner by an organised mafia. That kind of thing did not exist in Iraq before the occupation.
"We were like normal people. We would go to restaurants and cafes with our children but now all the women and children rush to their home before the sun sets because they are afraid.
"Before, women used to drive cars themselves and some were also taxi drivers.
"Religion is a sort of a place of escape for women because women feel protected by religion when they find no other way to escape the harsh reality that they are enduring; and if they are wearing the headscarf it is because they are afraid.
Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project
"I can tell you of many instances of young women at universities who feel threatened and this is why they are wearing the headscarf.
"Families are also under threat. Fathers are taking their young girls and young children to schools themselves because they are afraid of them being abducted or raped, and because of fear for their family members many university students have been withdrawn from schools.
"Women's contribution to social life has diminished. Women are only working in domestic services such as housekeeping, cleaning and chores and they are paid very poorly for this.
"Prostitution is on the rise and we see more women and children among the beggars.
"One of the saddest situations facing women is when the person responsible for maintaining the livelihood of the family disappears.
"What is a woman to do? She may be afraid of going to official institutions because she may be the wife of a soldier killed or a soldier detained so she may be at risk.
"The first day Haifa Zangana said that we will continue resisting in Iraq for you as well as for ourselves because America is not the fate of humanity.
"They are not the power to rule over the world in future and we can create another world.
"We can create a more enlightened world for women and we would ask you to look at the world from women's eyes because women's eyes see through their hearts."
Iraqi authorities have arrested thousands of Iraqi women illegally over the years, with many subjected to torture and ill-treatment, including the threat of sexual abuse.
Many women are imprisoned for months or even years without charge before seeing a judge.
Human Rights Watch met a woman in 2014 in Iraq’s death row facility in Baghdad's Kadhimiyya district.
Human Rights Watch
She was on crutches. Nine days of beatings, electric shocks, and falaqa in March 2012 had left her permanently disabled. The split nose, back scars, and burns on her breast were consistent with the abuse she alleged.
She was executed in September 2013, seven months after Human Rights Watch interviewed her, despite lower court rulings that dismissed charges against her following a medical report that supported her alleged torture.
Hana Ibrahim added: "I would like to ask a question that most of you have already asked: why are detained women left naked? Why are they made to walk naked before other detained male prisoners?
"And why are naked men made to go into cages where naked women are kept under detention? We have documented all this. The Union of Phycisians documented the Americans carrying out this torture through their own photos."
Today, women in Iraq continue to suffer. Already paying the price for a decade worth of war, they are now facing ongoing brutality by Islamic State militants. In March 2015, the extremist group captured hundreds of Yazidi women, and boasted they had enslaved them as spoils of war.
Iraqi writer and political activist Haifa Zangana said Baghdad has survived invasions, destruction and tyranny through the ages. This it has. But how much longer are the women of Baghdad, and the rest of Iraq, expected to survive the invasions, destruction and tyranny for?
(English) ~ 8 April, 2015
And how is Baghdad today? A Baghdad security wall - and the natural response to such ugliness [AFP]
By Haifa Zangana
Comment: A multicultural city of peace for millennia has been conquered, divided and transformed in the 12 years since US invasion. But Baghdadis are resisting’
Two scenes from the fall of Baghdad in 2003 are burned into historical memory. The first is the choreographed toppling of Saddam Hussain's statue in Firdos square by US marines, who covered it first with their flag. The second is the chaos of the looting of museums and state property.
The first was a declaration of military victory and "mission accomplished". The second was a declaration of the start of the erasing of Iraqi culture, history and identity.
Baghdad was a microcosm of what befell Iraq as a whole, violated time and again by US troops, mercenaries, special forces, proxies and militias, scarred over and over by human and physical destruction.
It is a bitter irony for a city known historically as Madinet al Salam, the city of peace. Baghdad is seen by Iraqis as the ultimate symbol of their unity, their modernity and their multicultural identity.
Baghdad's past glories - a diverse capital of science, arts and music at a time when Europe was crawling in the semi-darkness of Middle Ages - were in revival for much of the 20th century, despite the coups and the dictatorships. Then came the occupation.
Baghdad today is physically scarred by multiple checkpoints, concrete segregation walls and open sewers.
The checkpoints take two forms: those set up by the military, where men are subjected to sectarian harassment and women to sexual abuse, and those set up ad hoc by militias to kidnap, ransom and kill those they stop.
The post-invasion governments of Nouri al-Maliki and Haider al-Abadi have declared time and again that they are removing walls and checkpoints, but they remain to disfigure this city and torment its people.
Then there are the walls, usually concrete blocks at least three metres high. They exist, we have been told over time, to protect us from whatever threat fits the prevaling narrative: Saddamists, foreign fighters, al-Qaeda, the Islamic State group.
The US built many of these "security walls" as part of a "new strategy ... to break the cycle of sectarian violence" and enable reconciliation between the capital's Sunni and Shia, who had lived for centuries together in peace until after the invasion.
The US military chose not to mention that the walls have turned mixed communities into ghettos and gated areas populated almost exclusively along sectarian lines.
Divide and conquer
It is no wonder the policy has been compared to Israel's apartheid wall, and why Baghdadis came to see the structures as a method of control rather than protection.
This reality - checkpoints, walled ghettos, segregation and fear - is now ingrained and shreds the social fabric of the city. And despite this, the car bombs and attacks continue.
Corrupt politicians compound this manufactured reality - a reality that was never Baghdad and never should have been - with policies that promote segregation.
What of Baghdadis themselves? They continue to resist. Most of Baghdad's residents are of mixed religion and ethnic background and cross-faith marriages persist only slightly less prevalent than before.
A long tradition of inter-communal cooperation between Sunni and Shia, Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs, Muslims and Christians, has survived.
Baghdadis are as resilient as ever in finding ways to defend their city, their way of life and to resist any policy that fragments identities in an attempt to control them. Baghdad has survived invasions, destruction and tyranny through the ages. It will do so again.
February 2 2014
The continuing deterioration of women's rights in Iraqby Haifa Zangana
(Haifa Zangana's presentation given in the European Parliament in Brussels on 29 January 2014).
Haifa Zangana: "The regression in women’s situation is so devastating that she has reached the bottom of human needs. Just to survive."
National Iraqi News Agency reported on Fri 24th January that the Iraqi military's mortar shelling the night before left 4 people dead and 32 more injured "including women and children" and Saturday’s military shelling of Falluja left 5 people dead and 14 more injured -- "most of them women and children." Falluja General Hospital was shelled as well.
Iraqi’s government assault on Anbar continues. Maliki’s Collective punishment is called “Revenge for the martyr Mohamed” which was preceded by a campaign with the title: “Revenge for martyrs”.
And the attacks have been indiscriminate leading many civilians to flee. – The UN refugee agency on Friday reported that more than 65,000 people had over the past week fled the conflict in the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi in central Iraq's Anbar province. Since fighting broke out at the end of last year, more than 140,000 people have been made homeless by fighting according to Iraq's Ministry of Displacement and Migration.
This number comes on top of the 1.13 million people already internally displaced in Iraq and who are mostly residing in Baghdad, Diyala and Ninewa provinces.
"Many of the displaced, nonetheless, are still in desperate need of food, medical care, and other aid. As the insecurity has spread, many families who fled several weeks ago have been displaced again," according to UN.
The UN in Iraq has asked the government to facilitate the opening of a humanitarian corridor to reach displaced and stranded families in Anbar province. Currently, it is impossible to reach the area from Baghdad and relief agencies are using roads coming from northern Iraq.
Why am I talking about this and not about workshops for women’s empowerment and gender equality and political participation? Because In order to fully address women’s issues and come with helpful policy suggestions we need to address women not as separate from the rest of society, but as a part of it together with men.
.. and allow me to read the rest of the report :
“Other areas of Iraq including Baghdad, Erbil, Kerbala, Salah-al-Din and Ninewa have witnessed the arrival of thousands of displaced people. People are reportedly without money for food and lack suitable clothing for the rainy conditions. Children are not in school and sanitary conditions, particularly for women, are inadequate.”
The suffering of the displaced is far beyond the sheer loss of a house, it is the loss of neighborhood, community; schools and health service, the feeling of safety associated with familiarities and on the long run the submission to the newly manufactured identity . The lack of one of these or the combination of all leads to extreme levels of trauma, fear, depression, anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The regression in women’s situation is so devastating that she has reached the bottom of human needs. Just to survive.
I will focus on violence in the public sphere and how it became so prominent that women have been forced to give up hard earned rights, such as employment, freedom of movement, abolition of polygamy, and the right for education and health service, seeking instead, protection for themselves and their families.
The occupation of Iraq in 2003 left Iraqi women in a terrible state of regression on two interrelated levels. The first level is relevant to women as citizens in an environment that lacks guarantees and protection by a credible national criminal justice system embodying international standards. This subjects women as well as men to violations of their human rights.
The second level is to do with gender-related violence in public which is particularly relevant during occupation, war and armed conflict, often provide the context for sexual abuse, rape, and trafficking of women and girls.
Iraq "remains in a state of low-level war" with nearly 9500 civilians were killed in 2013. The right to life and physical security are the first casualties of the current “ low level war” affecting women as citizens whether the violence targets them directly (physically) or indirectly (the killing of their children or male relatives leaving them as heads of households). War and occupation have claimed over a million Iraqi lives, thus leaving behind an approx million widows and 5 millions orphans.
Widows often queue at doors of social welfare offices for months on end for their application forms to be processed or to retrieve insufficient payments which themselves are often late. Women wander the streets “to sell cheap goods, or stand at the gates of mosques and other religious institutions with the hope of receiving some distributed itemswhether blankets, clothing or food products. The phenomenon of women begging in the streets has become commonplace in Iraq. Often, the government’s only response is to arrest them and throw them in prison, Instead of finding permanent solutions to lift them from this suffering.” Only 120,000 are estimated to receive State aid. A widow’s monthly aid is $85, while the average monthly rent is $210.
In the private sector only 2% of all employees are women. 10% of households are headed by females who are widowed, divorced, separated, or caring for sick spouses. They represent one of the most vulnerable segments of the population and are more exposed to poverty and food insecurity as a result of lower overall income levels. ( UNAMI fact sheet 2012).
According to the IKN survey, only 14 percent of women are working or actively seeking work, compared to 73 percent of men. Those who are employed are mostly working in the agricultural sector, and women with a diploma have a harder time finding jobs: 68 percent of women with a bachelor’s degree are unemployed. 
This is happening while every week, an estimated $800 million is unlawfully transferred out of the country, while Iraqis are left deprived of basic needs.
Iraq is currently host to one of the highest execution rates in the world
1,300 prisoners are said to be on death row, women are among them, Some executions are carried out secretly. Under current Iraqi law, 48 offenses are subject to the death penalty. Just in 2013, 169 people were executed, the highest such figure since the 2003 US-led invasion, placing it third in the world, behind China and Iran. On 21 January the Ministry of Justice issued a statement confirming that the authorities had executed 26 men on Sunday, making the total 38 hanged within four days. “AI also learnt that on the same day, the presidency’s office ratified around 200 cases of people sentenced to death, paving the way for their executions to be carried out.
Most of those executed on Sunday, all of them Iraqi men, were convicted on charges of terrorism, under the draconian 2005 Anti-Terrorism Law.”
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay likened Iraq’s justice system to “processing animals in a slaughterhouse.” She also mentioned that Iraq's justice system is "too deeply flawed to warrant even a limited use of the death penalty, let alone dozens of executions at a time," warning that the death penalty undermines efforts to reduce violence and achieve a more stable society. Torture, sexual abuse and the threat of rape and actual rape are frequently inflicted on detainees, regardless of their gender.
This is especially concerning in view of the lack of trials conforming to the minimum of standards of fairness and “well documented cases of confessions being extracted under duress.”
The effect of execution and holding male detainees without charge or trial for prolonged periods and often in faraway camps or prisons is disastrous on their women relatives, no matter how resilient they are, as the entire burden of running the household has been thrust upon them.
According to a 2007 Oxfam report, some 92 per cent of Iraq’s children suffer from learning impediments. Most of school buildings are in a fragile state as a result of neglect, corruption,
This results in considerable damage including lack of portable water and toilets - the lack of access to sanitary facilities places a particular burden on girls.Some primary schools are left without any desks or chairs for pupils and teachers alike.
Parents are reluctant to send their children to school for fear of violence as a result of both military attacks and gangs ‘crimes such as kidnapping and rape. in addition to family poverty, the distance from home to school with lack of transportation, and the need to help at home.
In the case of higher education, kidnapping and targeted assassination of over 400 male and female academics have forced thousands of other academics and teachers to flee the country. Their positions are replaced by mostly unqualified teachers and academics with forged certificates and degrees. Their appointment, rather than being based on qualification and merit, is based mainly on sectarian favouritism and political loyalty to the regime. The lack of professionalism and standards in education inevitably result in poor teaching and by extension academic achievement by the students.
Women’s political participation
Article 47 of the Iraqi constitution, guarantees women 25% of the members of the Council of Representatives. This quota system has been applauded by women organisations and international community as one of the great achievements of the “New Iraq”. This appraise is made regardless of how little actual difference it makes to Iraqi women in general and how it has been used as a sheer token to cover up the volume of crimes committed against women under occupation. The irony is that even this nominal step was neglected by the present government formed in late 2010. In fact, among the 44 Ministers, there is only one woman appointed as Minister of State for Women's Affairs. Furthermore, The Minister, Dr. Ibtihal al-Zaidi does not believe in equality between women and men in Iraq. ”I am against the equality between men and woman”, she told a local news agency. “If women are equal to men they are going to lose a lot. Up to now I am with the power of the man in society” she explained.
Most female MPs have shown little interest in women’s rights but rather focus on representing their sectarian party’s policies towards women. In essence, they duplicate whatever their fellow male MPs already advocate. Concerns ought to be raised about the significance of having a female MP.  DR Jenan Al-Ubaedey, a female MP, for example, has been more committed than any other male MP to justify the beating of women and polygamy. ”
The right to demonstrate
In June 2011, government-backed thugs armed with wooden planks, knives, and iron pipes, beat and stabbed peaceful protesters and sexually molested female demonstrators at Tahrir square in Baghdad as security forces stood by and watched, sometimes laughing at the victims.
“The government responded to largely peaceful demonstrations with violence and to worsening security with draconian counterterrorism measures.... The government responded to increasing unrest with mass arrest campaigns in Sunni regions, targeting ordinary civilians and prominent activists and politicians under the 2005 Anti-Terrorism Law. Security forces and government supporters harassed journalists and media organizations critical of the authorities.”
Gender based Violence in public space
the lack of basic security in the streets, road blocks, collapsed health system, water contamination and the feeling of fear, anxiety and despair, affects mothers to a greater extent than the rest of the population and being able to give birth safely, is becoming a privilege rather than a human rights entitlement. Roughly 38 per cent of pregnant women are anaemic. Furthermore, in 2010, lack of donor funding has forced the United Nations to cut back on its humanitarian efforts in Iraq which means its food aid agency halting distributions will affect some 800,000 pregnant and nursing women and malnourished children, as well as up to 960,000 schoolchildren.
The maternal mortality rate for Iraq remains the highest in the region. Of all maternal deaths, 80% can be potentially avoided by interventions during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum. 47.7% of women reported difficulties in receiving health care from governmental health institutions due to lack of money to pay for services while for 40.6% it was difficult to reach the service.
Young married women in Falluja, West of Iraq, are increasingly reluctant to become pregnant for the fear of giving birth to monstrously deformed babies. In November 2004, US troops used white phosphorus bombs in their major offensives against the city of Fallujah. Dr Chris Busby, a visiting professor at the University of Ulster and one of the authors of the An epidemiological study on Fallujah says: "The people of Fallujah are experiencing higher rates of cancer, leukaemia, infant mortality, and sexual mutations than those recorded among survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the years after those Japanese cities were incinerated by U.S. atomic bomb strikes in 1945" Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, an environmental toxicologist at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health and author of the book Pollution and Reproductive Damage, notes that increasing numbers of birth defects have also been seen in Mosul, Najaf, Basra, Hawijah, Nineveh and Baghdad. In some provinces, adds Dr Savabieasfahani, the rate of cancers is also increasing. She says:
'Sterility, repeated miscarriages, stillbirths and severe birth defects - some never described in any medical books - are weighing heavily on Iraqi families.'
On the issue of personal status law (family law), attempts of superseding the advanced 1959 law with the introduction of a sectarian version of Shari’a Islamic law were thwarted in 2004. However, in the realities of a country where laws are neither adhered to nor are respected, Iraqi civil law is also not enforced. Subsequently, a pre-Islamic cultural practice known as Muta’a (Pleasure) permitting temporary marriages, has been revived within the Shi’a community following the footsteps of Iran where this practice is widely practiced. Iran has been actively promoting Muta’a since the "Islamic Revolution" of 1979, as essential for a society's sexual health. Muta’a allows a man who wishes to have sex with a woman to “marry” her in the presence of a religious figure, who acts as a Muta'a broker. The man will specify how long the marriage will last, ranging from few hours to many years. A small mehr (dowry) will then be paid to the woman. Such marriages have no protection or guarantees for women and their offspring in Iraq. Only a man has the right to renew the marriage upon expirationfor another mehror to terminate it early. Temporary marriage and unregistered marriages in civil courts are now rife especially amongst poor women in Najaf and Karbala cities, the most revered places in Shi’a Islam. The marriages are conducted mostly under the protection and encouragement of religious institutions where seminars are hosted to promote temporary marriage to women. These seminars intend to convince women that such practice is acceptable and will, in fact, benefit the women. Muta’a is seen by many Iraqis as a form of prostitution despite the religious legality.
The other phenomenon which had been rare in Iraq and has since witnessed a comeback is polygamy; a by-product of poverty, unemployment and women’s need for economy assistance and social “protection”. Polygamy is promoted by some officials and politicians with support from some religious groups as a way to address the issue of ever increasing number of widowed and unmarried women. This is despite the fact that polygamy is illegal unless there are exceptional circumstances which requires a judicial authorization.
In the West of Iraq, in the province of Anbarfor example, the Islamic party and some officials offer money to men willing to take more than one wife. The grant ranges between 750 American dollars to take a second wife, and up to 2,000 American dollars to wed women who had been married before. Charities are sponsoring second marriages as well with the support of some women organisations which see polygamy as a pragmatic step to reduce the dangers of prostitution.
However, other women and human rights organisations see polygamy as a political manoeuvre to cover up the plight of Iraq’s most vulnerable women. They argue that widows and poverty stricken women need employment and monthly social welfare (as it used to be under the Baath regime), and micro-finance projects that would help women become self-sufficient, a near impossibility even in a resource rich country like Iraq. The effects of wide spread polygamy, no matter how it is marketed, will damage what Iraqi women have been struggling to get rid of for over a century. Combined with temporary marriage, it is a huge degrading step backward.
Trafficking in persons
Although Iraq is a signatory of several UN protocols and pacts that protect human and labour rights, according to the 2011 Trafficking in persons (TiP) Report, Iraq is a source and destination country for men, women and children subjected to trafficking for begging, prostitution and organ trafficking.
For less than 16 years old girls, prices range from 30,000 US dollars; older girls attract the price of 2,000 US dollars. The traffickers are aided by sophisticated criminal networks that are able to forge documents and pay corrupt officials to remove impediments. Girls as young as 10 or 12 have been trafficked from Iraq into countries including Jordan, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia for sexual exploitation. Other victims trafficked within Iraq end up in nightclubs or brothels, often in Baghdad. The large population of internally displaced persons and refugees moving within Iraq and across its borders are particularly at risk of being trafficked. In 2013, the US State Department released a report on human trafficking in the world, According to the US report, Iraq was categorized as a hotbed of human trafficking and smuggling from all over the world
Torture and sexual violence
Torture, sexual abuses and rape in Abu Ghraib and dozens of other Anglo-American camps and detention centres has continued at the hands of Iraqi forces under the control of the interior and defence ministries. These forces have been trained by US and British forces. Detainees, in some cases, in the aftermath of Abu Ghraib scandal, were handed over to Iraqis to be tortured while occupation troops claimed no responsibility. This gave Iraqi security forces the green light to continue the torture tradition to coerce confessions that would lead eventually to the detainee’s executions under Article 4 of anti terrorism law.
the sexual nature of torture, sexual abuses, and the threat of rape have become one of the terrifying “familiar” tools, practised with impunity, against detainees regardless of their gender. They are used to humiliate, break the will, control, and soil deeply rooted cultural values such as honour; a value which is equally important for both men and women.
Numerous human rights reports document that women are subjected routinely to sexual abuse, torture and rape since 2003.
Women are detained for various reasons. there are women who have been arrested for “security reasons” accused of being terrorists, terrorist’s facilitators, potential suicide bombers, and ex-Baathists. Some are taken as hostages to intimidate or force their male relatives to admit crimes that they had not committed.
On 25th January 2009, the Minister of Women Affairs Nawal al-Samarrai said women prisoners were routinely beaten, abused and in some cases raped in both US and Iraqi prisons. Many women detainees have disappeared after being arrested by US and Iraqi forces and since their families do not report the cases it is difficult to give the exact figure of women detainees. Minister Al -Samarrai added that political parties and militias hold sway over the courts and judges. The result of both is that prisoners often remain in prison indefinitely.
Classified government documents obtained by Human Rights Watch reveal that torture is systematic. Detainees endure wide ranging abuses during interrogation sessions usually to extract false confessions. If the detainees still refused to confess, interrogators would threaten to rape the women and girls in their families”.
Ramze Shihab Ahmed, a 68-year-old man with dual Iraqi-UK citizenship, was held incommunicado, tortured and raped with a stick after he travelled to Iraq to secure the release of his son Omar. Both men were beaten, suffocated, given electric shocks to the genitals, and suspended by the ankles. Torturers also threatened to rape Ramze’s first wife, who lives in Mosul, in front of him, and threatened Omar that he would be forced to rape his father if he did not confess to killings. Both men signed “confessions”.
Women, have had to step out to protect their families, and to carry out the necessary daily tasks, some of which have traditionally been associated with men, such as burying the dead and searching for their missing male relatives in morgues. Queues of women waiting for news about their detained or missing husbands, sons, fathers or brothers have become almost a fixed feature in front of prisons, detention camps, and ministries of human rights, interior or justice. Some have been without news of their loved ones for many years. Officers often demand hefty bribes to let women visit their relatives. According to a report by the Guardian “Iraqi state security officers are systematically arresting people on trumped-up charges, torturing them and extorting bribes from their families for their release. Endemic corruption in Iraq has created a new industry in which senior security service officers buy their authority over particular neighbourhoods by bribing politicians, junior officers pay their seniors monthly stipends and everyone gets a return on their investment by extorting money from the families of detainees.”
On 25 December 2012, demonstrators took to the streets in Anbar province, followed by others in several cities. Demanding the release of women detainees Some of the women have been tortured, raped or threatened with rape according to reports by the committee of human rights in the parliament . The regime’s various spokesmen gave out contradictory responses: from denying the existence of women detainees arrested as hostages to force the surrender of their male relatives, admitting that some “terrorist” women were arrested, promising swift release, denying rape, to finally setting up a panel of religious personalities and officials to investigate.
The regime conducted a campaign of assassination of leaders of the peaceful demonstration, and where they could they disbanded them by force. In Huweija, in the north of the country, 50 people were massacred. The regime has ended the peaceful protest in all but in Anbar. In the end they resorted to link the protest to terrorism, and this is what is being carried out.
What Europe can and should do to help Iraqi women? This would be straightforward, but also multilayered policy.
First – actions to stop the atrocities
The priority of international pressure is to ensure the current bloodshed stops, before it multiplies to the degree seen in Syria. Public stance by the EU against abuses is the best policy to fight terrorism which thrives when the international community is silent under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
When Iraqi women asked about the most important issue their reply is security followed by health and education and employment. Running workshops on political participation and democracy are great, but at time of conflict and war they come down the list of priorities.
a Special Rapporteur on should be appointed. This is a first step to monitor the crimes committed by the sectarian corrupt regime. These must be addressed to bring an end to the scandalous present impunity.
Second, and related point – Looking at the root causes of terrorism in government policy rather than playing to Islamophobia and myths about foreign forces.
Ban Ki-moon in his visit to Iraq on January 14 has singled out what the protests has been demanding all along: looking at the root causes of the problems. They are sectarianism, corruption, lack of basic services, violations of human rights, increasing unemployment and organised gangs and militias flourishing under a kleptocratic government.
Third - To stop supplying arms to a regime using it against its people.
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) shows in its annual book massive disregard by many states in this respect. You cannot expect Iraqi people to believe the West’ good intentions if they see them arm their oppressors.
Fourth: Expose corruption and demand transparency in where Iraqi wealth is stashed.
The Maliki government has been harvesting over $100bn a year for some time now, from the nation's oil wealth. That amounts to about $20,000 a year per average Iraqi household of 7 people, except that Iraqis are left deprived of basic commodities. The wealth is squandered or stolen, a situation illustrated byTransparency International as: "Massive embezzlement, procurement scams, money laundering, oil smuggling and widespread bureaucratic bribery have led the country to the bottom of international corruption rankings, fuelled political violence and hampered effective state building and service delivery."
Implementing justice is the only way to put an end to terrorism, and to allow the Iraqi people to rebuild their country and social cohesion.
 The United Nations Refugee Agency issued the following today: January 24 (UNHCR)
 UNHCR , January 22, 2008
 “A study, published in prestigious medical journal The Lancet, estimated that over 600,000 Iraqis had been killed as a result of the invasion as of July 2006. Iraqis have continued to be killed since then. The death counter provides a rough daily update of this number based on a rate of increase derived from the Iraq Body Count. The estimate that over a million Iraqis have died received independent confirmation from a prestigious British polling agency in January 2008. Opinion Research Business estimated that the death toll between March 2003 and August 2007 was 1,033,000.”
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/iraq , see also ; Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a cross-sectional cluster sample survey, Prof Gilbert Burnham MD a , Prof Riyadh Lafta MD b, Shannon Doocy PhD a, Les Roberts PhD , The Lancet, Volume 368, Issue 9545, Pages 1421 - 1428, 21 October 2006
 Iraqi Widows and Orphans Face Government Corruption, NGO Coordination Committee for Iraq, 30-11-2010
 IRAQ’S CORRUPTION LEGACY, Farid Farid, 3 April 2013, transparency International,
 Amnesty International Annual Report – Iraq – 2011.
 AI: Iraq: Another spike in executions with 38 hanged in last four days, AI Jan 2014
 Hans von Sponeck in: IRAQ:A CASE OF EDUCIDE, March 2011, Ghent http://www.brussellstribunal.org/Seminar/texts/en/2.pdf
 UNAMI HR 2010 http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/UNAMIHRReports.aspx
 For List of killed, threatened or kidnapped Iraqi Academics , see; http://www.brussellstribunal.org/academicsList.htm
 Iraqi Newspaper Azzaman reported on 8 October 2011: “More than 30,000 Iraqi civil servants, among them high-level officials, have obtained their jobs on fake certificates and degrees, according to the parliamentary commission on integrity and transparency.”
 Outrage as Iraqi women’s affairs minister opposes equality for women, Kurdistantribune, February 14, 2012
 Iraq's women of power who tolerate wife-beating and promote polygamy, Catherine Philp , 18 April 2005
 Iraq: Intensifying Crackdown on Free Speech, Protests, HRW, JANUARY 22, 2012
 According to Edward Kallon, the U.N. World Food Program's representative for Iraq. http://www.aolnews.com/2010/07/19/un-forced-to-cut-food-aid-to-iraqi-women-children/
 Toxic legacy of US assault on Fallujah 'worse than Hiroshima', The independent, 24 July 2010.
 Abuse Of Temporary Marriages Flourishes In Iraq, KELLY MCEVERS, NPR, October 19, 2010
 Population of Anbar 1.7 million with around 130,000 widows and unmarried women .
 Polygamy Promoted to Tackle Plight of Anbar's Women, Uthman al-Mukhtar ,ICR Issue 353,
 Iraq toys with polygamy as solution for war widows, Roula Ayoubi, BBC, 26 January 2011
 Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/01/iraq-human-trafficking-absence-law.html##ixzz2r8nEZRgG
 Iraqis Torturing Iraqis, NY times, SAMER MUSCATI, May 4, 2010
 Corruption in Iraq: 'Your son is being tortured. He will die if you don't pay', Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, The Guardian, 16 January 2012
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Put the date in you diary!
Wednesday 25 November 2015
Wednesday 25 November 2015, at Federation Square Melbourne for the annual Walk against Family Violence (WAFV).The United Nations General Assembly designated 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The premise of the day is to raise awareness of the fact that women around the world are subject to domestic violence, rape and other forms of violence. A key aim of the day is to highlight that the scale and true nature of the issue is often hidden.
This year’s event is expected to be bigger and stronger so please join us, and encourage your friends, family and friends to do the same. Look forward to seeing you there!
Sunday March 22nd, 2015
The lynching of a woman in broad daylight in present-day KabulBy Carol Mann
On March 19th 2015, Farkhunda, a 27-year old woman completing her studies, was lynched by a mob in a Kabul street for being suspected of setting alight a copy of the Q’uran or a Tawiz (an amulet, it’s not clear). The family ‘s first reaction (that is to say, before demanding justice), seems to have been explanatory, nearly apologetic, claiming she was suffering severe mental problems and depressiona condition which according to research affects a significant proportion of the female population in Afghanistan. One hardly needs to wonder why.
Farkhunda’s fate reminds me of the execution of Zarmina in a public stadium in Kabul by the Taliban, in the closing years of the XXth century. This was the time that I came into contact with a then very active, but still unknown, militant group in Afghanistan, RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. This secular, egalitarian group was the only one fighting the Soviet intervention not from a religious point of view but from a socialist alternative standpoint.
Documenting Taliban abuses was one of its aims. Thus, one brave woman smuggled in a camera to the stadium and hid it in the folds of her blue burqa to film Zarmina’s execution. Had she been spotted, she would have been killed along with her comrades. I was sent this film in Paris with the hope of showing it on TV. This being pre-9/11, it did not interest anyone at the time, one company telling me that the quality was too poor to be aired on public media! Naturally when Afghanistan became the flavour of the new millennium, these images were immediately appropriated by prominent spokespeople in the name of self-righteous, if tardy, indignation. It took me several years to get the real hero over to Paris to tell her tale on TV. Just to remind you: the images show a female figure in a burqa being dragged to the centre of the stadium by other similarly clad women (presumably policewomen) , made to sit and then shot by an executioner in a turban behind her, firing with a Kalashnikov. Apparently thousands were forced to look on, including the hapless victim’s seven children. Zarmina’s fate became a cause célèbre after 9/11, it was shown as a true example of Taliban evil, complete with sinister beards and head-dresses. The film went global and served to legitimate the US and Allied intervention on the promise, as G.W. Bush repeatedly mouthed, of liberating Afghan women from such outrages and bringing them Western-style democracy and human rights, etc.
Fast forward to now, Now Ruz 2015. Zarmina’s twins (whom she was allowed to wean before being executed) are now adults. The US intervention has come and practically gone, purportedly having created the basis for democracy. Admittedly schools, hospitals have been built, a class of urbanized educated women has been somewhat empowered, the foundations for a possible state have been laidat least on paper. The only overriding achievement is that henceforth Afghanistan is the world capital for the cultivation of the opium poppy and cannabis and provides over 75% of the planet’s consumption of these drugs, despite the billions spent in attempted eradication.
Compared to the modest statistics in Taliban times, this, in terms of cynical numbers, is the single greatest Afghan success story of recent times, far more considerable than the reduction of maternal and child mortality which continue to be catastrophic.
Look (if you can stomach it) at the horrific images of Farkhunda’s lynching. Again a totally veiled woman, no face showing, like Zarmina, savagely beaten with sticks, and stoned until she is but a bleeding rag-doll. But scrutinise the henchmen shouting Allah-u-Akhbar. No bearded Taliban here or shalwar-kamiz, but young men, some teenagers, slick short hair, leather jackets, jeans, wielding sticks and cell phones to film the scene. One executioner proudly posted the scene on his Facebook page. Looking just like their contemporaries anywhere on the planet, these kids do not appear to be older than 25, which means that they all benefited, however diminutively, from the possibilities afforded to them by the nascent institutions of Post-Taliban Afghanistan. Something comparable could be said for all the thousands leaving Europe and parts of North Africa (especially Tunisia) to join the ranks of ISIS. They are not all illiterate and starving, nor victims of some imperialist plot. Nor were the uniformed and armed Kabuli policemen, however poorly paid, who were calmly watching the lynching.
Are we asking the right questions? For a start, there is no real ‘Before’ and ‘After’ Taliban but a continuum of abuse against human rights in Afghanistan, which started to escalate more dramatically as from the Civil War, (after the collapse of the pro-Communist regime) between warlords, some of whom are still in power. Should one be surprised that officials in the government and clerics came out in support for the lynching? As far as I am aware, the public murder did not make the immediate headlines in Afghanistan or Pakistan. From Thursday when it happened until Saturday evening, I hardly saw it posted on any Afghan Facebook pages that I subscribe to either, except from a couple of outraged individuals not representing anyone. I am willing to be proven wrong. There were more details to be had from the Western press, suitably and predictably horrified..
My permanently angry friend FS suggested that one should think the situation out in the light of the Charlie Hebdo issue. Hapless Farkhunda, it seems, was not burning anything at all but the suspicion of sacrilege seems to have been enough to warrant and justify her public lynching with the tacit blessing of the authorities. Three interlocked features have been normalized here: first the undefined notion of blasphemy overriding constitutional law which in turn removes citizenship and human dignity from anyone suspected of committing what any other (male) individual may consider a felony. This in turn allows any (male) person the right to represent divine justice and turn himself into an executioner. For what it was worth, Zarmina went through some semblance of a Taliban-style trial but Farkhunda was murdered point-blank in broad daylight, in a crowded neighbourhood.
The notion of state, already moribund with Karzai, seems to have entirely disappeared in Ashraf Ghani’s Afghanistan. Like everywhere else, the condition of women’s rights constitutes the only valid indicator for the maintenance or absence of true democracy and human rights. In Afghanistan once again, this tragedy with a woman’s death at its epicentre is a symptom of the potential collapse of the state if real justice is not carried out and human rights not enforced by law. The women clad in black carrying Farkhunda’s coffin today may well be burying their hopes and futures for a better world.
London ~ Monday 23 March 2015
Women break with tradition in Afghanistan to help bury 'completely innocent' Farkhunda who was beaten to death by Kabul mob
A mob beat the 27-year-old woman to death before throwing her body off a roof, running it over with a car, setting it on fire and then throwing it in a river
By Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith
The burial of a woman who was brutally killed in Kabul for allegedly burning a copy of the Koran, saw Afghan women break with tradition on Sunday and help to carry the 27-year-old’s coffin to its final resting place.
The woman, now named as Farkhunda, was beaten to death by a mob in Kabul last week following accusations she had burned a copy of the Koran. The mob of men threw her body off a roof after beating her, ran over it with a car, set it on fire and then threw it into a river next to a well-known mosque in their brutal attack.
Farkhunda, a veiled woman who had just finished a degree in religious studies and was about to take up a teaching post, had got into a dispute with a group of men who sold amulets at the Shah-Do Shamshera shrine, her family said. She had told women not to waste their money on the amulets, calling the sellers parasites.
Farkhunda had been wrongly accused of burning a copy of the Koran People chanted 'we want justice' as Farkhunda was buried
A man holds up a picture of Farkhuna as he attends her funeral
Her father, Mohammed Nadir, said the men responded by claiming Farkhunda had torched the Koran, causing people to believe she was “not a Muslim” and for her to be beaten to death.
But authorities have been “unable to find any singly iota of evidence to support claims that she had burned a Koran,” the country’s top criminal investigator, General Mohammed Zahir said.
“She is completely innocent,” he added, revealing that 13 people had now been arrested in connection with the killing, including two men who sold amulets. Thirteen policemen have been suspended pending investigation following allegations members of the force stood by and did nothing to stop the attack from happening last Thursday.
Hundreds attended the funeral, which was broadcast live Farkhunda has been found 'completely innocent' of her alleged crime
Activists called for justice and claimed the killing demonstrated how women are treated as second class citizens in Afghanistan
Farkhunda’s funeral was broadcast live on Sunday and was addressed by politicians, officials and senior police officers. Hundreds of people gathered at the graveyard chanting “we want justice” while the women who attended to help bury her carried the coffin from an ambulance to an open-air burial ground and finally her grave.
The women attendees, who are usually excluded from these rituals, were surrounded by a group of men who had formed a chain to offer them protection and support as they carried Farkhunda’s coffin.
Farkhunda’s brother Najibullah told the crowd: “She is a sister to you all, and it is your duty to bury her.”
Men formed a protective chain around the female pallbearers
Farkhunda had completed a degree in religious studies and was about to take up a teaching post
Farkhunda's brother denied reports his sister had suffered from mental health issues Najibullah said he is changing his second name to Farkhunda in memory of his sister, and denied media reports his sister had been mentally ill. He said this claim was a made-up defence by his father, who had wanted to protect his family after police told them to leave the city for their own safety.
President Ashraf Ghani, now in Washington on his first state visit to the United States since taking office in September, condemned the killing as a “heinous attack” and ordered the current investigation.
Activists have condemned the killing, calling for justice for Farkhunda and for women in Afghanistan.
Thirteen men have been arrested and as many policemen suspended in connection with the killing.
Activists lay in Farkhunda's grave before she was buried
Women do not traditionally attend burial rituals “We want justice for Farkhunda, we want justice for Afghan women. All these injustices happening to Afghan women are unacceptable,” a prominent women’s rights activist, known as Dr Alima, said.
“In which religion or faith is it acceptable to burn a person to death? Today is a day of national mourning and we will not keep quiet.”
Despite the end of the Taliban’s rule in 2001 following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, and the supposed end to the restrictions placed on women under the previous regime, activists claim women are still treated as second-class citizens.
Under the Taliban, women could neither attend school nor work, and were forbidden from leaving the house without a male guardian.
While the last decade has seen much progress, with millions of girls now attending school and women entering employment, particularly in major cities, some rural areas have seen little changed and hard-won rights are at risk of being reversed as aid and foreign troops are withdrawn.
Additional reporting by agencies
Sunday March 15, 2015
Afghanistan: Woman wears metal underwear to protest against sexual harassment, goes into hidingAP
Afghan performance artist Kubra Khademi was just 4 years old the first time she was molested by a stranger on the street, and recalls thinking one thing "I wish I had a metal underwear". (AP)
Kabul: Afghan performance artist Kubra Khademi was just 4 years old the first time she was molested by a stranger on the street, and recalls thinking one thing: "I wish my underwear was made of iron."
So more than 20 years later she donned a suit of armour with large breasts and buttocks and wore it on the streets of Kabul to protest Afghanistan's endemic harassment.
The eight-minute performance was not well received: She is now in hiding and afraid for her life. But after a lifetime of being pinched and prodded on the streets and being told to keep quiet about it the 27 year old is determined to break her deeply conservative society's silence on sexual harassment.
Women, even those who wear the all-encompassing burka, regularly endure verbal abuse and unwanted touching in Afghanistan, where the fight for gender equality is still in its infancy. After more than a decade of activism, girls are still sold into marriage, domestic violence goes largely unpunished, and few women occupy positions of public responsibility.
Khademi was four when a stranger touched her bottom while she was walking to a shop near her family's home in Quetta, Pakistan, where they had joined a tide of refugees fleeing war and the brutal rule of the ultra-conservative Taliban. She was molested in the streets on many other occasions throughout her life, including one instance shortly after she had returned to Afghanistan in 2008 to take entrance exams to study fine arts at Kabul University.
On that occasion, she screamed, assuming someone would come to her aid. Instead, the crowd turned on her.
"All the people stared at me and even started yelling at me: 'You whore! How dare you scream! Did you enjoy it?'" Khademi told The Associated Press.
"Nobody saw that man. Maybe he was among the people shouting at me. This stuff happens daily and I see it. But if I am a 'good girl' I shouldn't say it, not to my mother, not to my brother, I shouldn't say it in public. But I will say it."
The repeated harassment and other deeply personal experiences inform her exhibitions, which can take years to evolve and yet last just minutes. A late 2013 performance at a Kabul gallery, which many viewers found distressing, consisted of her slapping both sides of her own face for almost an hour. She said she wanted to highlight her country's tolerance of violence after more than 30 years of war.
Ahead of her Feb. 26 suit of armor performance, she spent four months interviewing women about sex, sexuality and identity. Many stories were about cruelty and loss, but none of the women seemed to own their own experiences, she said.
"What I felt was the same: women do not have the right to enjoy, and should not have the right to enjoy. It's like food you desire to eat, but good women should not talk about it, good women should not enjoy it, good women should not have the right to think of it as her right," she said.
There undoubtedly have been improvements since the U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban in 2001. Billions of dollars in aid have poured into projects aimed at cutting maternal mortality rates, boosting women's access to health care and schooling, and educating police and the judiciary in enforcing constitutional guarantees of equality.
Khademi said the angry reactions from both men and women to her performance including death threats and accusations that she is an American spy are proof that Afghan society is changing.
But change is slow, and fear of change remains deeply entrenched.
When she put on the suit of armor and returned to the crowded Kabul neighborhood where she had been harassed in 2008, the crowd turned on her again. People threw stones and threatened to beat her, and after just eight minutes she declared the performance over and returned to her car, which was surrounded and damaged by the angry mob.
But amid the melee at least one person seemed to understand the message.
"Look at that girl," she recounted a boy saying who was about 10, not much older than she had been on that distant day in Quetta. "She doesn't want to be touched."
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