|Another negative impact of the US-UK invasion has been to put women's rights in danger in the "new" Iraq.
"On May 22 around 4:00 P.M.
at Baghdad, nine-year-old girl "saba", was adducted from
the stairs of the building where she lives, taken to an abandoned
building nearby, and raped..."
(Human Rights Watch Report: Climate of
Fear, July 2003)
According to a Human Rights Watch report Climate
of Fear published in July 2003, as a result of the invasion,
women and girls face increased sexual violence and abduction, which
was almost unheard of during Saddam Hussein's regime.
Hodgkin is Research Coordinator for Amnesty International in
Baghdad. She says the violence against women and girls has created
a state of fear, preventing them from being more active in the society.
"It's certain women feel that now [after April], it is less
safe for them on the street. There's been more killing; women feel
more danger going back and forth from work and school, and participating
in activities. Some girls have been withdrawn from school because
their parents think it's unsafe in the streets," Hodgkin explains.
An accurate count of women and girls victimized
by sexual violence is very difficult to ascertain since many do
not report such cases or even seek medical attention, according
to Human Rights Watch. While the U.S. troika - its occupying forces,
the Coalition Provisional Authorities (CPA) it runs, and its de
facto government in Iraq - is busy securing Iraq's natural resources
and hunting Saddam Hussein, the public security vacuum in Baghdad
has heightened the vulnerability of women and girls to sexual violence
According to Hodgkin, there has been an acute
rise in "honor killings" and domestic violence, once suppressed
during the past regime, since the U.S. occupied Iraq last April.
A woman becomes the victim of an "honor killing" when
her family feels she has damaged their reputation by having sex
with a man, or even just by going out with him. This dishonor "entitles"
a male member of her family to "justifiably" murder her.
"These crimes often go unreported, and even when they are reported,
police rarely take any action. So a woman's life is expendable,"
According to an Amnesty International investigation,
there have been many "honor killings" in Iraq, the vast
majority of which are unreported. There have been no investigations
of the people alleged to have carried out these murders. Police
have made no arrests. Hodgkin explains further, "If you do
find a situation where a woman may have been raped, no matter what
the circumstances, she runs the risk of being murdered by a male
relative if she admits the incident to a family member. So if you
think there's a possibility that a woman has been raped, you'd never
go to her family to investigate the crime for fear of putting her
in more danger."
Hodgkin still remains optimistic about the role of women in the
post-Saddam era. She says since April, there's been great boost
of activity from all sectors in Iraqi society, including the formation
of many civic and human rights organizations. Although women are
underrepresented in these groups, Hodgkin reports there are organizations
surfacing that have been formed by women and are run by women. "I
think there is great hope for women's activism in the future. I
think this is a period of transition, this is a period of change;
[but] women are still unable to take their rightful position in
It's not very difficult to see male-domination in
Iraq, even though it's considered one of the most socially open
secular countries in the region. When I interviewed people on the
street, males always dominated the speech, and women always stood
The rise of the Shi'ites in southern Iraq
is affecting women's rights in the post-invasion period. Many worry
that replacing Saddam's secular government with a fundamentalist
Islamic government will undermine women's rights in the future Iraq.
Hodgkin believes there must be positive efforts in every area to
ensure that women do have positive positions. She says, for instance,
in the Iraqi Interim Governing Council that was established in July,
of the 25 members on the Council, only three are woman. Hodgkin
believes there must be stronger efforts made to ensure the rights
and the equality of women in the future constitution and governing
body of Iraq.