Saturday, January 01, 2011

Iraqi women

When Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki introduced what he called a national partnership government two weeks ago, he included allies and adversaries, Arabs and Kurds, Shiite Muslims and Sunnis. One group, however, was woefully underrepresented.
Only one woman was named to Maliki's 42-member cabinet, sparking an outcry in a country that once was a beacon for women's rights in the Arab world and adding to an ongoing struggle over the identity of the new Iraq.
Whether this fledgling nation becomes a liberal democracy or an Islamist-led patriarchy might well be judged by the place it affords its women.

So opens Shashank Bengali and Sahar Issa's "2011 looks grim for progress on women's rights in Iraq" (McClatchy Newspapers) and at least one outlet surveyed the horizon. Throughout the illegal war, Iraqi women have shown the guts and courage to protest but the US hasn't been at all concerned with supporting them. In January of 2004, Anne Garrels (NPR's All Things Considered) reported on Iraqi women protesting as their rights were stripped away by exiles/thugs appointed by the US. Garrels notes that the women said the change "will split society" and lead to sectarianism and extremism. And that should have been that. Paul Bremer could knock it down. But he didn't. And the US didn't apply pressure, didn't give a damn about Iraqi women. Over a year later, Iraqi Women Gathering was still organizing protests against this. Where was the US government? Still celebrating those laughable 2005 elections? Houzan Mahmoud wrote a column which ran in the Seattle Post Intelligencer's January 30, 2005 edition and shared her thoughts about the election in her country:

In reality, these elections are, for Iraq's women, little more than a cruel joke. Amid the suicide attacks, kidnappings and U.S.-led military assaults since Saddam Hussein's fall, the little-reported phenomenon is the sharp increase in the persecution of Iraqi women. Women are the new victims of Islamic groups intent on restoring a medieval barbarity and of a political establishment that cares little for women's empowerment.
Having for years enjoyed greater rights than other Middle East women, women in Iraq are losing even their basic freedoms -- the right to choose their clothes, the right to love or marry whom they want. Of course women suffered under Saddam. I fled his cruel regime. I personally witnessed much brutality but the subjugation of women was never a Baath Party goal. What we are seeing is deeply worrying: a reviled occupation and an openly reactionary Islamic armed insurrection taking Iraq into a new dark age.
Every day, leaflets are distributed across the country warning women against going out unveiled, wearing makeup or mixing with men. Many female university students have given up their studies to protect themselves against the Islamists.

In August of 2005, Spark Newspaper reported:

July 19 about 200 Iraqi women and a few men took to the streets in Baghdad to protest parts of a draft of the new constitution, scheduled to be completed mid-August. The protesters were from women's rights groups and included secular Iraqi women politicians.
The draft of the entire constitution is religious and sect-based. It gives lip service to equal rights for women – but only as long as those rights do not violate Shariah or the law based on the Koran. If these changes are implemented, it would severely set women backwards in important ways.
The women are outraged by Article 14, which includes a provision that women, regardless of age, would need their family's permission to marry. Under Shariah, a man could get a divorce just by expressing his wish three times in front of his wife. Women would also be denied inheritance rights.
Article 14 would replace a personal status law enacted in 1959 and continued up until the U.S. took over. It is one of the more progressive laws in the Middle East in acknowledging women's rights. It gives women the right to choose a husband and requires divorce cases to be decided by a judge. Article 14 would chuck that body of law and require cases dealing with marriage, divorce and inheritance to be judged according to law practiced by the family's sect or religion.
The draft appears to deepen the divide between Sunnis and Shiites, without acknowledging legal rights for mixed marriages. Women also protested a proposal to phase out a current measure requiring that one-out-of-four parliamentary seats go to women.

Where's the concern? Where has it ever been? We saw a lot of grandstanding last month from the likes of Naomi Wolf and others tossing around this and that but they've never really weighed in, have they, on the stripping of Iraqi women's rights? When you consider how much the Iraq War lined Naomi Klein's cage, her silence on the subject is especially chilling.

Fang Yang (Xinhua) reports a Salahuddin bombing targeting Balad's prosecutor Hardan Khalaf Jasim left him injured, wounded eight more family members and claimed the life of his nephew. Since yesterday, Kat's offered "Happy New Year" and:

And we're also noting the Independent, GI attorney and NLG member Jim Branum and Jane Fonda.

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