BAGHDAD – Iraqi women’s organizations and international observers point to an escalating war against women in Iraq, aided by the widespread chaos and lawlessness under the US occupation. In addition to violence by US troops inside and outside of prisons, women in Iraq face daily violence from militants under the guise of religion and “liberation.”
In Iraq’s second largest city, Basra, a stronghold of conservative Shia groups, as many as 133 women were killed last year for violating “Islamic teachings” and in so-called “honor killings,” according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The methods are brutal evidence of a backlash by previously subdued tribal forces that have been unleashed by the occupation: women strangled and beheaded, and their hands, arms and legs chopped off.
With US forces in Iraq now funding both Sunni and Shia tribal leaders in an effort to stabilize the country, conditions for women grow deadlier by the day. Islamist leaders have imposed new restrictions on women, including prohibitions on work, bans on travel without a muhram (male guardian), and compulsory veiling.
According to the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), formed in Baghdad in 2003, women are harassed if they appear in the streets of most Iraqi cities and towns, educational institutions, or work places. Now there are even “no woman zones” in some southern cities controlled by Islamist parties and tribal leaders.