Opinion

March 13, 2009

What will happen to Iraqi women?

(Continued)



While the Pentagon was arming militias bent on brutally ousting Iraqi women from public life, the U.S. State Department was busy brokering the new Iraqi Constitution. Hailed as “progressive” and “democratic” in Washington, the new Constitution designates religious law, which discriminates against women, as the basis of all legislation. It also restricts women’s rights by upending one of the most progressive family status laws in the Middle East -- a law that Iraqi women fought for and won in 1959, before Saddam Hussein took power.

For Fatin, the bitter irony is that her new Constitution, courtesy of the USA, destroyed women’s rights that were once guaranteed in Iraq, even under the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein.

Fatin has now been out of school and unemployed for more than three years. Her mother, a pharmacist, and her aunt, trained as a veterinarian, have also been unemployed for years now and are too afraid to try to find work.

Here in the U.S., we’ve rarely heard the story of the Iraq War told from the perspective of women. So what are Iraqi women saying on the sixth anniversary of the US invasion? The same thing they’ve been saying since 2003: end the occupation. Polls consistently show that a majority of Iraqis want US troops out.

We’ve been told that if the U.S. withdraws, violence would again soar in Iraq. That’s a compelling argument for those of us who care about the suffering that the U.S. has already visited on Iraqi women and their families. But Iraqis themselves, who have the best grasp of their security situation, say that U.S. troops are causing, not confronting, violence. In multiple polls, most Iraqis say they would feel much safer without U.S. troops.

Who can blame them? Since the invasion, over a million Iraqis have died violently and four million have been driven from their homes. The resources that women need to care for their families -- electricity, water, food, fuel, and medical care -- have become dangerously scarce, sometimes totally unavailable.

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