By Megan Cornish
Al-Jazeerah, December 3, 2004
In a telephone interview with Nadia Mahmoud in the London office of the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), this reporter got some chilling answers. Women suffer unrelenting deprivation and are under horrific attack from the U.S. occupation, Islamic fundamentalists, and sex traffickers.
But, at the same time, Iraqi women are showing incredible bravery in organizing against all the enemies they face, and are reaching out for support.
The social wounds of past wars and U.S. sanctions.
The story of how the situation of women became so dire is a textbook example of U.S. imperialism at work.
In 1959, long before Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party came to power with the help of the CIA, organizing by Iraqi women won them the most advanced family civil code in the Arab world.
Initially, because Iraq’s expanding economy needed wo-men in the workforce, Hussein kept and even extended these rights, with policies that outlawed sex discrimination and provided free higher education and maternity leave.
But the seven-year Iran/Iraq war, provoked by the U.S., bankrupted the country and precipitated a steady decline of women’s rights. Then, Uncle Sam’s Gulf War in 1991 and 10 years of U.S./UN economic sanctions sharply worsened both the economy and the position of women. Many women became jobless, while their freedom of choice in marriage and right to travel without a male relative were revoked.
As it became harder for women to make a living, prostitution increased. During 2000-2001, the Hussein regime beheaded 350 women accused of prostitution. Some were in fact political dissidents.