Baghdad: Highlights in Green Zone to include the execution of four Iraqi women
London -- March 6, 2007
We have not been liberatedWomen's basic rights are being rapidly eroded in Iraq and occupation forces seem to have forgotten their promises of empowerment.
The regime in Baghdad's Green Zone is busy organising a celebration of a different kind for this year's International Women's Day on 8 March. Among its highlights will be the execution of four Iraqi women. This follows on from its decision to honour four of its Iraqi officers accused of raping a young woman Zainab Abbas Hussain al-Shummary. The office of prime minister had forged an American medical report. Long gone are the colourful parades of Iraqi women commemorating their achievements. Now we only have parades of death, where the "liberated" and "empowered" Iraqi women and girls, covered head to toe with hijabs and abayas, will queue at police stations, prisons, detention camps, hospital's "fridges" and crowded morgues looking for the disappeared, kidnapped or their assassinated loved ones.
Briefing MPs on the latest situation on Iraq, on the eve of invading Iraq, Prime Minister Tony Blair, his eyes glowed with messianic determination, said:
"I know the innocent as well as the guilty die in a war. But do not let us forget the 4 million Iraqi exiles, the thousands of children who die needlessly every year ... Let us not forget the tens of thousands imprisoned, tortured or executed by his [Saddam's] barbarity every year. The innocent die every day in Iraq - victims of Saddam - and their plight too should be heard."
Indeed, let us hear the plight of Iraqi people, especially women.
Let us start by talking death sentence. Bearing in mind that executions of women were formally prohibited under Iraqi law from 1965 on the grounds that women are life-givers and life-nurturers.
The four women sentenced to death and in imminent danger of execution are Samar Sa'ad 'Abdullah, Wassan Talib, Zeynab Fadhil, and Liqa' Qamar. Ages 25-31. They were tried individually for murder, kidnapping, and the murder of several members of Iraqi security forces in Baghdad. All denied the accusations and Amnesty International is questioning the circumstances which led to the sentences by the central criminal court of Iraq (CCCI) between 2005-2006. Two of the women have young children with them: Zeynab Fadhil has her three-year-old daughter, Liqa' Qamar her one-year-old daughter, who was born in prison. The death penalty was reinstated in August 2004 by the "sovereign" interim government. According to Amnesty International, during 2006 at least 65 men and women were executed.
In issuing these sentences in the absence of law and order, carrying out arbitrary arrests and detaining suspects for years without charge or access to lawyers, the Iraqi regime seems to enjoy a convenient amnesia of times when all of its members used to condemn the previous regime for sentencing people to death without proper judicial procedure.
Now we have this:
"Reports of torture, ill-treatment and lack of judicial process at the hands of Iraqi authorities continue. Adequate safeguards against torture and ill-treatment are not in place in Multinational Force detention facilities, and thousands continue to be held without charge or trial."
United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) reported in December 2006 that,
"Law enforcement agencies do not provide effective protection to the population of Iraq and increasingly militias and criminal gangs act in collusion with, or have infiltrated the security forces. Operations by security and military forces, including by MNF I, continued to result in growing numbers of individuals detained and without access to judicial oversight."
Indeed, let us hear the plight of Iraqi women.
Within days of the US troops Operation Law and Order, the "surge" plan announced by the Bush administration on January 10, two courageous Iraqi women, for the first time in the Arab and Muslim world, appeared on TV to speak about their rape by Iraqi troops. The first was 20-year-old Sabrin Al Janabi (the initial alias for Zainab Al-Shummary) and the second was Wajda, a mother of 11 from Tal a'far, the northern city.
The case of Sabrin/Zainab was emblematic of the farce that is Iraqi government. When her tearful statement was aired by al-Jazeera, all media outlets rushed to describe the rape - to fit with the Anglo - American manufactured label of the bloodshed in Iraq - as Sectarian. So the BBC reported the rape saying,
"The 20-year-old married Sunni woman says she was taken from her home in Baghdad to a police station, where she was accused of helping insurgents - and then raped by three policemen."
Not failing to remind its listeners that, "The Baghdad police are predominantly Shia."
In no time, Al Maliki - not known for his quick response to Iraqi women's plight - issued a statement calling the woman a liar and a criminal and claimed that she was not attacked; fired an official who had called for an international investigation and described the rape as a "horrific crime" and ordered rewards for the officers Zainab accused of raping her.
Forgetting the gang rape by US soldiers of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi and how the soldiers poured kerosene on the girl's body and lit her on fire in an attempt to cover up the crime, the deputy interior minister, Hussein Ali Kamal, said the allegation by Zainab was unlikely because "something like this could not happen because Iraqi forces are operating with US forces at all times."
Wajda was the second victim raped by Iraqi police when they stormed into her home at the northern city of Tel Afar during Operation Law and Order. In an official statement, Brigade General Nijm Abdullah said that the attack took place during a search for weapons and insurgents. According to Abdullah, a lieutenant and three enlisted men denied the charge but later confessed after they were confronted by the woman, a Turkoman.
The rapes of Abeer, Zainab and Wajda are just few of many other cases documented by Iraqi human rights organisations and UNAMI. According to Mohamed Iraqi MP Al Dainey in a recent interview on Al Sharqiya TV, 1053 documented cases of rape by the occupation forces, militias and Police took place in Iraq since 2003.
In late December 2006, three female students from Mustansiriya University were kidnapped by militias. Despite the payment of a ransom, their bodies were found in a morgue on 22 December bearing signs of rape and torture. Official sources denied the incident but students from the University confirmed it did take place.
Women's basic rights are being rapidly eroded in Iraq. Where is the outcry of Ann Clwyd, who, like Tony Blair, made a very emotional speech in the House of Commons on 26 Feb 2003, to support British government's decision to launch the war? Surely being the prime minister's human rights envoy for Iraq she is aware of the United Nations Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) report which says that violence has not been contained but has continued to claim a very high number of innocent victims? During 2006, a total of 34,452 civilians have been violently killed and 36,685 wounded.