Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, November 25, 2020.  The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women finds us looking at the realities of violence against women and girls in Iraq as well as women and girls in the US.

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.  The World Health Organization explains:


The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, marked every year on 25 November, is a global advocacy effort aimed at preventing and eliminating violence against women. Women worldwide continue to face unacceptable levels of violence.

WHO estimates that nearly 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner. The COVID-19 pandemic has further contributed to increasing risks of violence, particularly domestic violence against women.

From 25 November to 10 December, during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, WHO and partners will be raising awareness about the global need to prevent and respond to violence against women, and provide support to survivors.


And the Council of Europe notes:


The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention, is ratified by 34 member states. It offers the most comprehensive legal framework to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence and contains a wide range of measures for governments to take, and to involve NGOs, women’s organisations and civil society generally. Non-member states of the Council of Europe can also join.

The Istanbul Convention asks for preventive action to be taken, but also to support and protect women that have been exposed to violence or are at risk of such violence. Ensuring accountability through investigation and prosecution is another important pillar of the Convention. Co-ordinating such action and offering a holistic response not only to domestic violence but also to rape, sexual violence, stalking, sexual harassment, online and technology-facilitated violence, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and forced abortion/sterilisation is what will really make a difference in the lives of women and girls.

Infographics and brochure.




Beat down in the market, stoned to death in the plaza
Raped on the hillside under the gun from LA to Gaza
A house made of cardboard living close to the rail
Somebody's mama, somebody's daughter
Somebody's jail
And I feel the witch in my veins
I feel the mother in my shoe
I feel the scream in my soul
The blood as I sing the ancient blue
They burned in the millions
I still smell the fire in my grandma's hair
The war against women rages on
Beware of the fairytale
Somebody's mama, somebody's daughter
Somebody's jail

-- "Somebody's Jail," written by Holly Near, first appears on SHOW UP. 


"From LA to Gaza . . . the war against women rages on."  Indeed.  The United Nations notes:

As countries implemented lockdown measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, violence against women, especially domestic violence, intensified – in some countries, calls to helplines have increased five-fold.

The UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign, a multi-year effort aimed at preventing and eliminating violence against women and girls, will focus on amplifying the call for global action to bridge funding gaps, ensure essential services for survivors of violence during the COVID-19 crisis, focus on prevention, and collection of data that can improve life-saving services for women and girls.

This year’s theme for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!”.Like in previous years, this year's International Day will mark the launch of 16 days of activism that will conclude on 10 December 2020, which is International Human Rights Day.

Several public events are being coordinated for this year's International Day. Iconic buildings and landmarks will be ‘oranged’ to recall the need for a violence-free future.


The war against women, the terrorism against women, is global.  We're going to focus on Iraq and the US -- Iraq because it's our focus and because the decisions of the US government have made life much worse for Iraqi women and the US because we don't just finger point at other countries -- the US has more than enough problems addressing gender violence.  


Last May, Madre noted of Iraq:

In early October 2019, Iraqi civil society began peaceful demonstrations, calling on the Government to end corruption and unemployment, and to address inadequate housing and lack of basic services. In defiance of patriarchal gender norms, women joined the demonstrations to demand rights and equality. Alongside all demonstrators, they have faced significant repression and violence, while suffering additional public reprobation from key religious leadership for breaking with traditional gender norms and for calling for women’s rights. With the spread of coronavirus in Iraq, the situation is becoming particularly acute for women and girls, especially those who face multifacted discrimination, based on gender, as well as race and/or disability. Iraqi women and girls confront a lack of adequate health services, and a lack of access to services and justice for gender-based violence victims at a time when domestic violence is increasing in relation to measures to confront the COVID-19 pandemic.

Iraq is at a fragile crossroads, making it more important than ever that the international community support Iraqi civil society’s efforts to protect human rights. Women are key actors in efforts to avert conflict and build just societies, and their meaningful participation is linked to recognition of their basic human rights, including the right to be free from gender-based violence. The Government of Iraq should listen to women’s leadership in civil society movements, including in the recent demonstrations, and meaningfully consult with the women’s leadership who are on the frontlines calling for change, and not just the “self chosen” leadership of the protest movement. This will sow the seeds for sustainable change and help protect the foundation of women’s rights that the demonstrations have called for.

Key recommendations for both the International community and the Government of Iraq include the following:

  1. Pass the draft Family Violence Protection Law.  The law would set a historical precedent providing recognition of victims and holding abusers accountable for attempted ‘honor’ crimes and other forms of domestic violence. It is currently pending in the Iraqi parliament.
  2. Provide adequate protection to Iraqi NGOs providing shelter. Women’s organizations not only provide shelter for the most vulnerable; they also act as first responders, providing much-needed aid and peer-to-peer support - without the sectarian strings often attached to religious groups and associations.

Read the report


Violence is rendering women invisible.  Please note, the bulk of websites today will not be noting this day or any women's issues.  Maybe someone at THE HILL will ponder how 'identity politics' helps anyone?  It's not identity politics.  It's exploding the assumption that the norm is male.  It's expanding our understanding of the reality that so many of us live with daily.  Madre notes that women participated in the ongoing protests.  Yes, they did.


The media regularly silences women.  On the issue of Iraqi women participating in the year long and ongoing protests -- actually, year long and a month at this point -- it was the press that refused to cover women's participation.  From the October 26, 2019 snapshot:


Natasha Ghoneim (AL JAZEERA) reports, "People here [Baghdad] are furious. Some are trying to storm barricades leading to the Green Zone, where government offices and the parliament building are located.  They want the government to go. Security forces are using lots of tear gas and stun grenades." Azhar al-Rubaie (MIDDLE EAST EYE) observes, "One if five Iraqis lives below the poverty line, World Bank figures show, and youth unemployment is at 25 percent.  The rates are staggering for OPEC's second-biggest oil producer, which Transparency International ranks as the 12th most corrupt state in the world."  CBS and AP note 60-year-old widow Um Layth who participated in the Baghdad protest but asked her children not to "because she feared for their safety."  The outlets quote her stating, "I am not afraid if I die, but I want a better future for my children.  If these parties and this government stay, they will have no future."  Yes, women participated.   Much of Friday's coverage in the western media attempted to act as if this was not the case.  RUDAW reports the reality and runs photos:

Anti-government protests resumed in Baghdad on Friday, with many women also taking to the streets of the Iraqi capital. Photographer Ziyad Matti captured  powerful moments amid the protests that turned violent as the day passed.
Iraqi women have always been part of the protests in Iraq. However,  women in Iraq face many restrictions, including religious,  cultural and tribal obstacles which leave them unable to fully participate in civic life.
Although Iraqi women theoretically share equal civil rights with men under the Iraqi constitution, religious conservatism continues to permeate all areas of public life, in opposition to the socially liberal values found among sections of the urban youth.



Men, women and even children from all walks of life marched to ’s Tahrir square once again, despite a deadly crackdown on protests, writes Nabil Mafrachi.


We had been calling out the western press here and I'd been working friends at various outlets on the phone.  Yet 'improvement' was one outlet acknowledging women two days later.  Only one US outlet.  And it was AP.  But AP didn't get honest.  They had to cover their own ass.  So, on the Sunday they reported, they said that women had appeared for the first time at protests on Saturday.  We had documented in the Friday snapshot that women were present.  When I complained to a friend at AP, he noted that the outlet was the only one at that point noting women had even participated.  True enough.  But they weren't being honest.  From that day's "AP strips women out of the coverage yet again:"



I want change. I want to remove those corrupt people who sleep in the Green Zone and who fired tear gas and rubber bullets at us."

Qassim also maintains: "The rallies have mainly been by young, unemployed men who are demanding jobs and better services. Young women appeared among the crowd in Baghdad for the first time Saturday, some handing out water to the protesters."  That second sentence is incorrect.  Women have taken part in the Baghdad protests from the beginning.  One woman was crowned a hero for her participation and that was two weeks ago.  But let's just deal that protests that started back up on Friday.  Women were there.

We noted this Saturday night:


 RUDAW reports the reality and runs photos:

Anti-government protests resumed in Baghdad on Friday, with many women also taking to the streets of the Iraqi capital. Photographer Ziyad Matti captured  powerful moments amid the protests that turned violent as the day passed.
Iraqi women have always been part of the protests in Iraq. However,  women in Iraq face many restrictions, including religious,  cultural and tribal obstacles which leave them unable to fully participate in civic life.
Although Iraqi women theoretically share equal civil rights with men under the Iraqi constitution, religious conservatism continues to permeate all areas of public life, in opposition to the socially liberal values found among sections of the urban youth.



There are 13 photos with the RUDAW article -- in addition, the huge photo that is above the report focuses on a young woman in the protests in Baghdad on Friday.

Anti-government protests resumed in Baghdad on Friday, with many women also taking to the streets of the Iraqi capital. Photographer Ziyad Matti captured powerful moments amid the protests that turned violent as the day passed.

 

 




In pictures: Women take to the streets of as Iraq protests resumed late on Thursday. 📷: Ziyad Matti
 

 

 

Iraqi women being part on the protests العراقيات جزء من الثورة
 

 

 





So we're not supposed to believe RUDAW or their photos?  Is that the way it's supposed to work.

Exactly what the hell do Iraqi women have to do to get attention from the western press?  They have been attacked, they have been and they have been raped.  And the western media has spent the entire Iraq War ignoring this reality.  Yes, AP covered the trials regarding the US soldiers who gang-raped and murdered Abeer and murdered her parents and younger sister.  And that's good that they did that.  But that is not a pass for the lack of coverage of women or for getting the facts wrong.


This is violence and it's gone on and on forever. The press has the ability to shine a light.  Sadly, women are always the last to get that recognition or attention.  Well, not always.  When the Iraqi government lies about women, the press love to report it.  When Nouri al-Maliki was arresting girls and women for the 'crimes' of being married to someone or being someone's mother or someone's daughter, when he was disappearing them into prisons and secret jails where they were tortured and disappeared?  The western media largely avoided the topic while Iraqi journalists -- such as ALMADA -- risked their lives to discuss what was actually happening.  The same outlets that ignored what was happening to Iraqi women and girls -- actions that were documented by a committee in the Iraqi Parliament -- suddenly rushed to cover Nouri's 'release' of the women.  It must have been a confusing February for many news consumers, trying to suddenly grasp a problem that had been building for several years but was never reported on by most US outlets.  A collective "Huh?" wouldn't have been a surprising response.


An appalling response was that the western press took this public relations move as reality.  Nouri was releasing these women.  They were going home.  A few token women were provided for the press.  If the women were free, however, why didn't they go home?  Yeah, AP and the other western outlets never bothered to check but the Iraqi media did and those women did not make it home.  Were they released?  Some may have been.  Since some were raped in prison and jail, they may not have been able to return home.  So-called "honor" killings take place in Iraq.  A woman or girl who has disgraced her family can be killed for "honor" and you can do that by being raped or even by being married to the wrong religion -- don't ask Patrick Cockburn about that.  He's still a laughingstock on Arabic social media for 'reporting' on the latter and getting how she was killed wrong.  


In April of this year, Human Rights Watch noted:

The death on April 18 of a 20-year-old woman in Najaf, possibly at the hands of her husband, should act as a wake-up call for Iraqi legislators to pass a law against domestic violence, Human Rights Watch said today. Iraqi authorities should investigate and prosecute domestic violence, and ensure appropriate sentences for violence against women.

“Domestic violence has always plagued Iraq,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch. “We see case upon case of women and girls dying at the hands of their families, but Iraq's lawmakers have not done enough to save those lives.”

On April 12, a video surfaced on social media of the woman in a hospital with severe burn wounds. Her mother told Human Rights Watch that eight months ago her daughter married a police officer who had only allowed her to visit her parents once since then. On April 8, her mother said, the husband called to tell her that his wife had a “slight burn accident” and was in the hospital.

The mother could hear her daughter screaming. She rushed to the hospital, where the husband’s mother blocked her from seeing her daughter. Police took the young woman’s statement while her mother was blocked from the room, the mother said. On April 11, when she was able to enter the hospital room, her daughter told her that her husband had beaten her so badly on April 8 that she poured gasoline on herself and warned him that unless he stopped, she would light herself on fire.

“I still don’t know if he lit her on fire or she did it herself, but she told me she burned for three minutes while he just watched, and finally his father, also a policeman, came in and put out the fire,” the mother said. “She begged them to take her to the hospital but they waited for over an hour before doing so. Her father-in-law then pretended to the police that he was her father and said to them the fire had been an accident.”

The young woman died on April 18. Najaf’s governor, Loai al-Yasiri, told Human Rights Watch on April 15 that the authorities had established an investigation committee and arrested the husband, father-in-law, and the husband’s uncle. Al-Yasiri said that this case would likely be resolved through a mediation in which the husband’ family’s ashira (clan) would negotiate with Samira’s family’s ashira to reach a non-judicial settlement.


Patrick's far from the only problem.  Women were missing from the coverage provided by THE NEW YORK TIMES for years and years.  You have to wait for Alissa J. Rubin, Sabrina Tavernise and Cara Buckley to be assigned Iraq for women to be covered.  It was Ellen Knickmeyer, please remember, at THE WASHINGTON POST who broke the story on the gang-rape and the murder of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi -- gang raped and murdered by members of the US military who also killed her younger sister and both of her parents.  And please note that while Steven D. Green, the ringleader, was convicted and sent to prison others got a slap on the wrist.  James Baker admitted what in his written statment?  That "Green dragged the father, mother and younger sister into a bedroom, while Abeer was left in the living room. . . Barker said Cortez appeared to rape the girl [Abeer] and he followed.  He said he heard gunshots and Mr. Green came out of the bedroom, saying he had killed the family, before raping the girl and shooting her with an AK-47."


There was no fog of war.  Let's not even play that nonsense game.  Green, Barker, Cortez and Jessie V. Spielman  were near Abeer's home.  Green saw her and plotted with them.  They snuck off base, broke into Abeer's family home, gang-raped her in one room while she heard the shots that killed her sister and both of her parents.  Green then killed her.  He wasn't done yet.  He set her body on fire and they tried to make it look like Iraqi 'terrorists' had been in the home.  The death penalty was sought.  No one got the death penalty.  In fact, Spielman, although he remains in prison, has already hit the time frame where he could be paroled if authorities felt it was warranted.  There is no parole for Abeer.   But Spielman was 'only' part of the planning and he was 'only' present and 'only' a lookout for the crimes.  So, when he was sentenced in 2007, it was noted he could be paroled in ten years.  'Only.'  

Brian L. Howard was also part of the sentencing.  His family tried to play him as the victim.  I'm sorry, who killed and/or gang-raped Brian?


No one.  


Brian 'overheard' (some say was part of the planning) talk of the crimes ahead of them being carried out and, after the fact, he lied to cover for the rape and murder.  His defense for not coming forward before the crimes were carried out?  "He said he was unsure if anyone was aware what he had heard."  Well pin a medal on him, right?  He served 27 months in a military prison.  He's now out and about, among the people.  Heaven help the women and girls of the United States.  


Steven D. Green?  He was already out of the military when the news came out.  In fact, he was returning to the US and was seized after he got off the plane.  Sandra Lupien, then at KPFA, was the only one who reported that event on the day it happened.  Time and again, it has been women who've had to cover these issues.


Granted, Ellen, Alissa, Sabrina, Cara, Sandra, Nancy A. Youssef and others are aware that these issues matter.  But it shouldn't have to fall on women only to cover these issues. 


The Go-Go Boys in the Green Zone.  Remember them.  The rah-rah boys -- especially THE NEW YORK TIMES' Dexter Filkins and John F. Burns.


They lied repeatedly and those lies distorted what Americans knew about Iraq.  Dexter won an award for a piece of garbage full of lies -- it doesn't hold up but we called it out the day it was published. Supposedly, Dexter has repented -- that's what e-mails from members of the press via the public e-mail account (common_ills@yahoo.com) -- regularly tell me.  Now I'm not the Pope so maybe I'm not grasping "repent"?  But my understanding is that if you're repenting you are making up for your wrong.  Dexter has never 'elaborated' on his prize winning garbage.  And, honestly, I never expect him to.  He doesn't have that kind of character.  I know that because I always know a ton more than I put up here.  Meaning, I know exactly what Dexter did in Baghdad besides reporting.  John did it too.  How did Amy Winehouse sing it?  "Kept his dick wet."  Right.  They wouldn't cover the prostitution in Baghdad but they were damn well aware of it.  OFF OUR BACKS did cover the prostitution.  They did so in the final issue noting the way the war was destroying the lives of Iraqi women.  I miss OFF OUR BACKS.  Back to Dexy, if he truly 'repented' he would have demonstrated it by focusing on Iraqi women and girls over the last few years since he left THE TIMES and moved on over to THE NEW YORKER. (In 2019, PBS' FRONTLINE did a report on the sex trafficking in Iraq.)


I don't need to know what Dexy told you privately.  I know what Dexy did.  I also know what he said.  


They lived it up in the Green Zone, those go-go boys.  Iraqi women suffered as a result.  I don't have any sympathy for Dexy Filthens Filkens.  And Molly Bingham, at the same time, was doing reporting that should have won prizes.  Yet again, a woman is ignored.  We saw that over and over. 


Our 'friend' ("he's on the left!") Gregg Mitchell would repeatedly do a column celebrating reporters covering Iraq.  He never noted Molly.  Or Molly Ivins.  Or Alyssa or -- No women.  What about Pig Boy Thomas E. Ricks?  He would regularly do a column noting books on Iraq and which were the best.


Strange thing, though, he never seemed to notice any women writing about Iraq.  Not Riverbend -- the young Iraqi women blogging at BAGHDAD BURNING.  Her voice never mattered to Thomas E. Ricks.  But it wasn't just Iraqi women he ignored.  Deborah Amos wrote ECLIPSE OF THE SUNNIS: POWER, EXILE, AND UPHEAVAL IN THE MIDDLE EAST.  That's one of the most important books published by any US reporter on Iraq.  And Deborah was a name journalist -- NPR -- who had already won awards over the years.  However, Thomas E. Ricks, year after year, could never note her work.  


Maybe Deborah's 'crime' was dealing with the aftermath? Thomas E. Ricks was only interested in the battle scene, the thrust.  What happened after he shot his wad on War Porn didn't concern him.  Meanwhile, Deborah's writing about what actually happened as a result of the war.  She's covering the aftermath.  Isn't that, if you think about it, what women stereotypically do?  We get stuck with the clean up over and over.  We have to deal with what happened while the Thomas Ricks just get their jollies on the bombs falling and the bullets shot.


Pig boys and go-go boys 'covered' Iraq in a way that never noted what was being done to women.  It happened over and over.  And you saw echoes of that all over again when the protests started in October of last year and the western press rendered women invisible from the coverage. 


Last May, UNHRC issued the following:

“Women in Iraq face several additional challenges right now,” says Danielle Bell, Head of UN Human Rights in Iraq. “The restrictive measures adopted to fight COVID-19 in Iraq heighten the risk of domestic violence, whilst at the same time substantially reducing the ability of victims to report abuse and seek effective shelter, support and access to justice.”

As COVID-19 sweeps the globe, in many countries it is often women who bear the brunt of the crisis. Taking on the lion’s share of the caregiving and household responsibilities is just one aspect. Women may also face difficulty accessing healthcare due to issues of stigma around the virus, and they are also far more vulnerable to violence in their own homes.

When the first official case of COVID-19 was declared on 24 February in Iraq, measures put in place by the authorities were swift. As case numbers grew, schools, universities, restaurants, and shopping centres were closed, and mosques and other religious venues were forbidden to host large gatherings. By the middle of March, a nationwide lockdown and curfew were implemented, as well as travel restrictions.

“While these early preventive actions were necessary to help prevent transmission, the curfew has had substantial impact on the lives of women,” continues Bell. “We’ve received reports that some women cannot leave the house to seek medical care because of the stigma and shame it could bring to their families, but also because cultural norms do not allow women to be alone in quarantine centres in the absence of a male relative.”

One of our main concerns is the exacerbation of domestic violence in the country, which we fear was highly underreported even prior to the pandemic.”

When home is not a safe place

Although the Constitution of Iraq prohibits all forms of violence and abuse in the family, school, and society, the Penal Code provides that the punishment of a wife by her husband is the exercise of a legal right and as such, is not a crime. Perpetrators frequently go unpunished. However, the Iraqi Government is showing commitment to change this, with the Anti-Domestic Violence Law currently under discussion in the parliament.

These discussions are taking place amidst a worrying context for women and girls. In mid-April, the United Nations in Iraq confirmed multiple reports of horrific abuse, including the rape of a woman with special needs, spousal abuse, sexual harassment of minors, and suicide due to domestic abuse. Iraq’s High Judiciary Council subsequently issued a circular calling on judges to use all legal provisions for deterrence, but this won’t close the loopholes.

Confinement affects reporting

Media and social media in Iraq are also reporting an increase in acts of domestic violence. The authorities on the other hand have noted a decrease in official reports of domestic violence, but acknowledged in some instances that the curfew has contributed to this reduced number.

The ‘humiliation’ of being exposed in front of neighbours and the community has often led to under-reporting of domestic violence. Victims do not always seek support, for fear of publicly shaming their family. This is exacerbated by home confinement.

“Throughout Iraq, entire families are confined together,” notes Bell. “Quite frequently, there is a pressure to resolve family disputes – including domestic violence - without any intervention from a third party due to shame and stigma associated with such violence. Resolutions are therefore fraught, and the cycle of violence just continues.”

“Iraq’s response plans for COVID-19 should include the adoption of the Anti-Domestic Violence Law to enable the prevention and redress of violence against women,” says Bell. “Without doubt, this is the time for the Iraqi Government to renew its efforts to finalise the law and organize the remedies offered to women including establishing enough shelters accessible without cumbersome procedures.”

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the signing and implementation of this law is even more crucial. Current lockdown measures mean that only half of staff in Iraq’s family protection units are coming to work. These units previously offered a place of safety and support for women who were victims of violence. Now, the few women who are able to come to report a case are often quickly dismissed, and they also have to get the report signed by a judge, clearly a challenging and complicated endeavour.

In situations where perpetrators have been brought to account, they have often simply been forced to sign a document to say they will not repeat the offence. Another favoured ‘solution’ is that victims are asked to ‘reconcile’ with the perpetrators.

Impunity for perpetrators must end

”Since the start of the COVID-19 curfew in Iraq, the obstacles faced by women in reporting domestic violence have created an even deeper sense of impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes,” notes Bell. “Violence against women and girls is a crime, and perpetrators need to be held to account.”

UN Human Rights is urging the Government to take immediate steps. “Special measures need to be made available immediately to women, including secure and confidential online services to lodge complaints, or an easing of the requirements for women to report abuse and seek emergency shelter,” says Bell.

For Bell, the adoption of the Anti-Domestic Violence Law is critical in the battle to save human rights, and human lives. “In the meantime,” she says, “judicial systems must continue to prosecute abusers. The women and girls of Iraq – as in any country – deserve the right to protection, and to be safe in their own homes.”


Two months later, in July, UN Women issued this:


The coronavirus pandemic is one of the biggest challenges facing Iraq, but it is not the only one. In addition to fighting the deadly virus, the country has been grappling with popular protests in several regions, a challenging reconstruction process for large parts of the country recently liberated from terrorist groups, and dwindling state revenues from oil, which experienced a sharp fall in price as a repercussion of the pandemic.

Furthermore, Iraq’s health sector lacks resources. The sector’s budget, just 2.5 per cent of the USD 106.5 billion state budget (2019), represents a small fraction of spending compared to neighboring countries in the Middle East. Underfunding of the sector has led to a shortage of hospitals, medical equipment, and supplies, as well as specialized doctors and medical staff.

Combined, these challenges have placed onerous demands on front-line workers in Iraq. Women workers in particular are shouldering a disproportionate burden, faced with additional responsibilities in their households and communities.

“Iraqi women have shown a great deal of resilience in the various sectors in which they work,” said Dina Zorba, UN Women Representative for Iraq and Yemen. “UN Women is in close cooperation with partners to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on women and to ensure that women are able to carry out their roles in service of their communities and country.”

Zorba also highlighted that, as in many parts of the world, measures to reduce the spread of the virus, such as lockdowns and curfews, have exacerbated pre-existing inequalities for many women; the country has seen a rise in cases of domestic and gender-based violence since the onset of the pandemic.

“UN Women, alongside its partners, is focusing its attention on fighting domestic and gender-based violence and minimizing repercussions of the situation on women, particularly those most in need of help,” says Zorba.

Despite the unprecedented challenges, Iraqi women are playing vital roles in the country’s COVID-19 response, serving as leaders, health and social workers, and responders to domestic and gender-based violence.

Here are five Iraqi women’s stories of how the coronavirus crisis has impacted their lives.

Navigating the pressures of work and home as an essential health worker

Mariam Taha, a lab worker at the Central Public Health Laboratory in Erbil, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Photo: Courtesy of Mariam Taha.
Mariam Taha, a lab worker at the Central Public Health Laboratory in Erbil, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Photo: Courtesy of Mariam Taha.

Mariam Taha is a 36-year-old technical assistant at the Central Public Health Laboratory in Erbil, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Since the first COVID-19 cases were detected in Iraq in February 2020, Taha’s life has changed drastically.

Taha, who normally works eight hours every day, now logs an 11-hour shift.

The nature of her work has shifted too; the laboratory has become entirely dedicated to testing suspected COVID-19 cases. Taha is now in constant fear that she might contract the virus at work and spread it to her family.

“No matter how much I try to pretend that the situation is normal, what is happening makes me worry,” said Taha. “I wash and sterilize my hands all the time. I avoid crowded places and try to keep my distance from patients and colleagues,” she shared.

Although no COVID-19 cases have been recorded at the centre she works in and she takes every precautionary measure, including donning a face mask, gloves, goggles and suit while at work, anxiety about contracting and spreading the virus has become a part of Taha’s daily life.

“Every time I leave work, I feel anxious and stressed that I might infect my family. Before leaving the centre, I take off my disposable personal protective gear, and I sterilize myself using medical sterilization. As soon as I arrive home, and before physical contact with anyone in my family, I shower and wash the clothes I was wearing," Taha explains.

While the demands of her work have been difficult during the pandemic, Taha is dealing with challenges on other fronts as well.

She notes that her responsibilities as a wife and a mother have increased, especially after school closures. “My four children are now staying at home without schooling, except for one who is receiving distance learning online and requires my time to follow up on his homework.”

Providing for others, despite personal loss

Fayza Elias Rashu is sewing masks to distribute among the displaced community in the Sharya complex for displaced persons in the Duhok Governorate, northwestern Iraq. Photo: Courtesy of Dak Organization for Ezidi Women Development.
Fayza Elias Rashu is sewing masks to distribute among the displaced community in the Sharya complex for displaced persons in the Duhok Governorate, northwestern Iraq. Photo: Courtesy of Dak Organization for Ezidi Women Development.

Ten years ago, Fayza Elias Rashu and her family, who belong to the Yazidi minority group, left their home in Sinjar in the Nineveh Governorate in northern Iraq in a bid to improve their living conditions. They settled in the Sharya complex for displaced persons in the Duhok Governorate, northwestern Iraq, where Rashu, using her previous sewing experience, found work as a dressmaker for the Dak Organization for Ezidi Women Development.

The position enabled Rashu to support her family, and she excelled at the job, training many women and girls on sewing.

“I love my work very much. I’ve always loved sewing and with the training opportunities that I’ve received from many organizations, I have fulfilled my childhood dream of becoming a professional dressmaker,” Rashu shares.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, Rashu dreamed of expanding her small shop into a large workshop, but the situation has forced her to close the business.

Despite the loss, Rashu continues to sew for others. With the support of the Dak Organization, one of UN Women’s partner organizations, Fayza has sown more than 500 and distributed them, free-of-charge, to her community.

“I wanted to do something of value for my community, especially those suffering from forced displacement. This is something I have wanted to do for so long,” she says proudly.

Pushing for improved resources for survivors of violence

Kajhal Nayef Rahman, Judge at the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, during an activity organized by UN Women in 2019. Photo: UN Women.
Kajhal Nayef Rahman, Judge at the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, during an activity organized by UN Women in 2019. Photo: UN Women.

Kajhal Nayef Rahman is a judge at the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Erbil, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Like many public officials, Judge Rahman and her office have been shouldering a heavy workload since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis.

She says that there has been a noticeable rise in the number of domestic violence cases in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) since the pandemic hit and containment measures were put in place, closing businesses and public offices across the country.

“The lockdown and the curfew have severely impacted the ability of women facing abuse at their homes to communicate with us and to seek help,” she explains.

Despite the security measures available in the area, such as shelters and safe housing for violence survivors, women in abusive situations still do not have adequate means to communicate with authorities, Judge Rahman says.

“With the closure of government departments and the curfew, the government should find ways to enable violence survivors to make complaints, seek help, and get needed assistance and protection. A domestic violence hotline, for example, could connect survivors to resources.”

After fighting the virus on the front lines, a dentist in Baghdad battles the disease herself

Dentist Shahd Al-Jawari takes part in an activity to raise awareness of the new coronavirus along with colleagues in Baghdad, Iraq. Photo: Courtesy Iraq Women Journalists Forum.
Dentist Shahd Al-Jawari takes part in an activity to raise awareness of the new coronavirus along with colleagues in Baghdad, Iraq. Photo: Courtesy Iraq Women Journalists Forum.

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected healthcare workers worldwide. A limited supply of personal protection equipment in Iraq has caused many front-line workers to fear for their health and safety, and that of their families as well.

Shahd Al-Jawari, a dentist working in the capital city of Baghdad, recently contracted the virus, most likely through her clinical practice or while participating in a public awareness campaign about the novel coronavirus.

Like others in the healthcare sector, Dr. Al-Jawari worked longer hours following the virus outbreak, as she fought to curb the spread and protect the health and safety of others.

“Due to the current situation, doctors have to be in hospitals for longer hours regardless of their specializations,” Dr. Al-Jawari said in an interview with the Iraqi Women Journalists Forum, one of UN Women’s partners, in early May, before contracting the virus.

Dr. Al-Jawari also stated that there are more women working in the health sector in Iraq than men, estimating that 60 per cent of all health workers across Iraq are women. She says this statistic is “a testimony to the capabilities of women in addition to their dedication, commitment, and patriotism."

"My work is no longer limited to the medical practice. I’ve also volunteered to present a TV programme to [raise awareness] on the risks of this virus and ways to protect oneself. I’ve taken many field trips to hospitals and quarantine stations and helped patients,”.

Despite all her precautionary measures, Dr. Al-Jawari contracted the coronavirus and was recently moved to an intensive care unit in a Baghdad hospital. A breast cancer survivor, Dr. Al Jawari continues to fight the virus with optimism, determination and hope.

Leading the way in the fight against coronavirus

Wasan Al-Tamimi on an inspection visit along with her team to a location in Al-Muthanna Governorate in southern Iraq. Photo Courtesy of SAWA Organization for Human Rights.
Wasan Al-Tamimi on an inspection visit along with her team to a location in Al-Muthanna Governorate in southern Iraq. Photo Courtesy of SAWA Organization for Human Rights.

“Resolute, persistent and courageous,” this is how colleagues of Wasan Aref Al-Tamimi describe her. Dr. Al-Tamimi is the Director of the Public Health Department of Al-Muthanna Governorate, in the southernmost part of Iraq.

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, ensuring food safety is critical. Along with her team, Dr. Al-Tamimi examines all foodstuff that comes into the governorate for sale and public consumption and conducts inspections at local markets to make sure that food supplies meet the health standards.

She is also the only female member of the Government’s Crisis Cell in Al-Muthanna Governorate, She follows up on the implementation of coronavirus response plans in her community and liaises with all relevant actors – medical staff, crisis teams and public health officials.

“We have an active role in following up on suspected as well as confirmed coronavirus cases,” explains Dr. Al Tamimi. “I take the lead in solving any problems facing my team members at hospitals and during inspection tours, particularly when people resist being quarantined.”

Like many other women on the front line, her work doesn’t end when she goes home. A single mother of three, she juggles long hours of paid work and parenting: “I am trying to make sure that …I am spending time with [my children], listening to them, and discussing any problems they face.”


Let's move over to the US.  Does assault matter?


If you're Gloria Steinem, it clearly doesn't.  Former CIA employee Gloria latched on to feminism but really never delivered anything but her own fame.  Sondra Locke was promised help by Gloria, it did not emerge.  Help would have required Gloria to challenge a man and she wasn't going to do that.  From  a podium, maybe.  But face to face?  When Gloria encountered a sadistic male, she didn't confront them, she slept with them.  Henry Kissinger wasn't the only one.  Was Gloria undermining the feminist movement because of the CIA?  That's for her to answer -- and, let's be clear, she's never answered honestly since becoming a 'feminist.'  She attacked and smeared The Red Stockings, she stole their work, but she never answered honestly.  You can find many clips of Gloria talking about her work for the CIA on YOUTUBE -- and those are from before she became a 'feminist.'


What I do know -- and I know Gloria -- how well is now open to debate because for years I believed her non-response regarding her CIA ties -- is that Gloria destroyed the feminist movement.  The Second Wave went from making demands and staging sit-ins to funding from questionable foundations while we did nothing.  Gloria sold women out in 1976 at the DNC (HARPER'S has the report) and she was weak over and over.  She couldn't see a better future, she could only see maintaining what already was.  As Ellen Willis so infamously said of Gloria, a reformer can't lead a revolution.


And we see that over and over.  Monica Lewinsky?  Gloria covers for Bill Clinton.  Multiple women come forward to talk about unwanted touching (and sniffing) from Joe Biden and Gloria's defending Joe.  Tara Reade comes forward to speak of both harassment on the job and of an assault and Gloria goes into silent mode.  


Now on this day, one thing being stressed is believe all victims.


I don't agree with that and I've never agreed with it.  We all have brains, we should use them.  If you don't believe a woman who came forward, you may have a good reason not to, you may not have a good reason but you're going by what you see.  We need to use our brains.


There are women who've come forward that I don't believe.  I believe Rose McGowan one hundred percent.  I don't believe another actress who has come forward about Harvey because I know this actress slept her way into roles including with a friend of mine who is a woman.  I mention that because the woman coming forward that I'm speaking of presents as straight and has pretended to be in relationships with men.  The only men she's slept with have been producers and directors.  And it was for film parts.  


I'm making that call based on what I know about her.  I could be wrong.  That's always possible.  But I am not tearing her down.  I am not naming her and writing, "You slept with _____ for your role in ____ and then with _____ for your role in ____ and" or "You have publicly lied about ____ and ___"  I'm not doing that and I won't do that.


I do call out EJ Carroll.  The minute she said that rape was sexy, that was it for me.  No, it's not sexy.  Have you been raped or assaulted?  Those of us who have know it's not sexy.  She may have some fetish where she pretends to be raped and it gets her off but she's an adult who should be smart enough to grasp that, in that case, she finds pretending to be raped sexy, not rape.


If you're saying rape is sexy, I don't have any use for you and I'll call you out because it has been one huge barrier after another that we have faced in the US to getting rape recognized and to moving from rape culture.  EJ's on her own.


But there are women that I do not believe.  It's because of them, not because I'm defending the man accused.


I loved Bob Filner.  When women came forward against him, I did not question the women.  I did not say, "Hey, that's my friend!"  I said I hoped the accusations weren't true but that I didn't know, that we needed to listen to the women.  If ever I was going to have a blind spot, it was then.  But we covered it here and never attacked the women (they were telling the truth).  


With Tara Reade, I've been very clear that I find her highly credible and can think of no one who has come forward about a past event who has as much supporting evidence as she has.  I believe her.  


And I'm fine with those who don't if they're not slamming her.  


Her credit history has nothing to do with her assault.  What some former friend thinks of her doesn't have anything to do with the assault.


The actress I was speaking of who gave it out to everyone to get a job?  She still could have been assaulted.  I'm basing my opinion on what I know about her -- beyond just her sexual history but the first thing I did was call my friend and ask her what she thought since she had slept with the actress and given her a role.  We don't believe her for a variety of reasons and we could be wrong.


People who spread lies about Tara?  Why?  Why are you attacking her?  


If you look honestly at your attacks, you'll admit that you're too tied up in Joe Biden to be honest.  That's why you're attacking her.


As for those 'feminists' who said they believed Tara but were voting for Joe? Those bitches I have a problem with.  Don't call yourselves feminists.  Second Wave feminism and Third Wave have worked way too hard to fight for survivors and see that they are able to make their claims in a public manner.  


Phyllis Chesler is a Second Wave feminist.  She thought Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan were her friends.  She thought that.  But when she was raped by a friend of Gloria and Robin's, they went out of their way to silence her.  If this is news to you, that's one more reason you should read her book A POLITICALLY INCORRECT FEMINIST: CREATING A MOVEMENT WITH BITCHES, LUNATICS, DYKES, PRODIGIES, WARRIORS, AND WONDER WOMEN.

There are many stories that women have not brought forward about Gloria.  When I began questioning Gloria's CIA ties and lies, it was because someone brought it up to Ava and me in an e-mail to THE THIRD ESTATE SUNDAY REVIEW.  I hadn't given it much thought.  I knew Gloria's side of the story (which were lies, I now know) and Gloria was  friend.  I thought I knew her.  But I can always be wrong -- I often am -- and when Bob Feldman raised the issue in an e-mail, I did take a look at it.  And I do that when someone raises an issue.  I started asking and women started responding differently.  It was a topic that a number of us had closed ourselves off too.  The wall was broken and now we've arrived at the point where Gloria's work for the CIA can be -- and was -- reported by THE NEW YORK TIMES resuling in a whiny e-mail from Gloria.  


Gloria is not a leader.  She's failed feminism.  She has taken the spotlight away from too many other women and, honestly, she thought Betty Friedan was too old in her fifties and worked to shove Betty aside (let's be honest, that's what happened) but she's 86 and still won't retire.  Remember how, in the 70s, she teamed up with African-American women?  She'd speak with one to raise issues.  Please note, she never teamed up with younger women.  That's what she should have been doing in the 80s, highlighting younger women, pulling her spotlight over to note them.  But she didn't do it.


And now this media appointed 'leader' can't speak up for women.


Tara is saying she was assaulted.  If you believe her but voted for Joe Biden, I don't think you can honestly call yourself a feminist.


If you didn't believe her, you can call yourself a feminist.  That was your call and we can all make the call to believe or not believe.


But knowing how difficult it has been for women to come forward about past abuse and how they have been treated when they do come forward, to say you believe a survivor of assault but you're going to vote for Joe?  You're saying what Robin and Gloria were saying to Phyllis: You don't matter, your assault doesn't matter.


And that's what women have been told since the beginning of time.  It's why we have a feminist movement and have needed one: You don't matter.


I don't see how you can say "I believe Tara but I voted for Joe" and not expect to be called a hypocrite and a whore. You've betrayed women.


(Again, if you didn't believe Tara, that's your right.  I'm not saying every feminist who voted for Joe should cease using that term.  I am saying that those who believed her and voted for Joe need to stop calling themselves feminists.)

You've made it so difficult for any woman to come forward.


And let me add that you may have voted for Joe and you didn't know what to think regarding Tara.  That happens and it doesn't make you not a feminist.  We're not experts on every issue and when Tara came forward, you may have had difficulty assessing her assertions -- especially since the corporte media worked so hard to kill her -- not just her story but to wipe her out of the public record.


Hans Mahncke Tweets:


Half of Biden voters didn't know about the sexual assault allegations involving Tara Reade.
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Tara tells her story in LEFT OUT: WHEN THE TRUTH DOESN"T FIT IN.  Richard Medherst did a great interview with her a few days ago.



60 MINUTES covered the story.




Excuse me, 60 MINUTES in Australia covered the story.  In the US?  Not a peep.

It sends a message.  You don't matter.  The man who assaulted you?  We're going to protect him.  He is more important than you are.  We are sorry you were assaulted and harassed but there is what we say we believe in and there is what we actually do.

 

I'm not a great person or even a good person -- I don't pretend to be.  But when society sends the message that my assault does not matter, I reject that.  Even me, someone who is not rushing to claim any glory, defend myself.

I am a victim of assault.  I am a survivor of assault.  I am Tara Reade for all intent and purpose.  I have been assaulted and I want that recognized.  When it is ignored, when it is minimized, you are not practicing feminism.  (Again, if you didn't believe Tara that's your right and you can not believe her and still be a feminist.  I'm addressing women who stated they believe Tara and still voted for Joe.)


When you ignore me and my assault, you are saying that I deserved it and I should shut up because I don't matter.


I'm luckier than Tara.  I was assaulted as a child by a non-family member who kidnapped from school. There wasn't any pushback on my claims.  Because of my very young age, I didn't have to face charges of what I was wearing, claims of leading someone on, etc.  


Not everyone is so lucky.  


Kate Willett Tweets:


Now that y'all can't yell at me anymore for enabling Trump by saying so, I'm gonna go ahead and reiterate that I still believe Tara Reade


Shanley Tweets:


Alright well, myself and other rape victims have been wanting to talk about Tara Reade and how Joe Biden raped her for .... awhile. And the resounding response from Democrats was: "Wait until we get him elected, and then we'll talk about it." Well.... Let's go!


I agree.  I believe Tara was assaulted by Joe Biden.  I know she was assaulted by the media and the Democratic Party.  The second assault is appalling and telling and we have a great deal of work to do in terms of creating spaces for survivors to tell their stories.  But the push back you're seeing right now?  It's what I said months ago.  This isn't over.  The media's attempts to bury this have not worked.  This will haunt Joe Biden throughout the rest of his life and will always be attached to his legacy.  It is not going away and the support for Tara is only going to build.  I saw it happen before with Anita Hill.  The men -- including Joe -- thought that they had silenced Anita.  No.  Women didn't stay silent.  And younger women and younger men could see what the men of the Senate and the men of the media refused to see in real time.  You can see the same with Juanita Broaddrick.  It's been on a smaller scale but she is being believed.  I believe her.  (And, to be clear, I didn't believe or disbelieve her back in the 90s.  I was out of the country when she came forward.  I left because I overheard some remarks by Bill that I shouldn't have -- unrelated to assault -- and I was of the opinion, as was James Carville, that it could come up and I left the country to avoid it coming up.)  She is someone whose story is still being told and will continue to be told.  The same thing is taking place with Tara.


Joe has lost to history.  He's one woman coming forward away from losing in the present(there are two I know of who are weighing coming forward).


If we valued women and girls, we wouldn't have to have an annual day to eradicate violence against them.  But the treatment of Tara Reade this year reveals that we don't value women.  We have a great deal of work to do.  Bless the Fourth Wave because they're the ones who will carry on this battle.  

The following sites updated: