Women In Iraq
By Ghali Hassan
31 May, 2004
day for the people in Iraq, torture chambers and rape rooms are shut
down". Colin Powell, U.S. Secretary of State, 08 March 2004.
In one of the most secular country in
the Arab world, where women were until recently a visible and integrated
part of public life, females have all but disappeared. The lawlessness,
brought by the occupation forces into Iraq, is felt disproportionately
by young women and girls who have yet to finish
their education. This is the "freedom" George W. Bush and
his cabal brought to the Iraqi people.
the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the U.S. army failed to establish
effective authority and security of their own. And because of the power
vacuum that developed when the Iraqi regime collapsed, there was acomplete
breakdown of law and order encouraged by the invading forces. According
to Amnesty International, "violence against women and girls has
sharply increased in Iraq compared to the time before last year's war".
Under the U.S.-British occupation, Iraqi women faced arrest; torture,
including rape; and even execution simply because their husbands or
male relatives were sought by the occupation forces" (1). Women
detainees and Iraqi Prisoners of War (POWs) arrested without charge
by the occupying forces are denied humane treatment and rights under
the Geneva Conventions and International laws. So far, only Saddam Hussein
has been granted "prisoner of war" status by the United States.
humanitarian law, the occupying forces have a responsibility to guarantee
the "safety of the civilian population in Iraq". They have
an obligation to maintain and restore public order and to provide food,
medical care and relief assistance. So far, they have failed in their
duties. The occupying forces must provide effective protection, investigate
and punish all perpetrators of violence against women.
The U.S. occupation
force in Iraq is taking women and their close relatives hostages, and
using them as "bargaining chips". Recently, Newsday reported
that, "the U.S. military is holding dozens of Iraqi women as bargaining
chips to put pressure on their wanted relatives to surrender. These
detainees are not accused of any crimes, and experts say their detention
violates the Geneva Conventions and other international laws. The practice
also risks associating the United States with the tactics of countries
it has long criticized for arbitrary arrests"(2). The Australian
SBS World News reported on 29 May 2004 of horrific cases of Iraqi women
detainees tortured and raped by U.S. soldiers and their quislings.
Cases of torture
and rape of Iraqi women detainees first come out of prison through smuggled
note by a female detainee to the resistance fighters in which the other
women detainees asked the fighters to bomb the prison and spare their
dignity. Amal K. Swadi, one of several female lawyers representing Iraqi
women detainees in Abu Ghraib prison, detailed the systematic abuse
and torture (including rapes) perpetrated by U.S. soldiers against Iraqi
women held in detention "across Iraq" without charge. According
to Swadi, the women have been detained - not because of anything they
have done, but merely because of whom they married to. Often U.S. soldiers
raid a house in their violent manners, and if they fail to find a male
suspect, they will take away his wife or daughter instead.
The wife and daughter
of the former Vice Chairman of the Iraqi Revolutionary Council, Izzat
Ibrahim al-Duri, were arrested in November last year. The occupation
authority has acknowledged that they are detained, but they haven't
said anything about their legal status or the reason for their detention.
Although, Amnesty International and several human rights organisations
have called on the occupation authority to "guarantee adequate
protection of women and women rights defenders", they received
US officials have
acknowledged detaining women in the hope of convincing male relatives
to provide information: a strategy that is in violation of all international
laws. "The issue is the system", Nada Doumani of the International
Committee of the Red Cross told Luke Harding of the Guardian of London.
Iman Khamas, head of the International Occupation Watch Centre, a non-governmental
organisation which gathers information on human rights abuses under
coalition rule, said, "one former detainee had recounted the alleged
rape of her cellmate in Abu Ghraib. According to Khamas, the prisoner
said; "her cellmate had been rendered unconscious for 48 hours".
She claimed; "she had been raped 17 times in one day by Iraqi police
in the presence of American soldiers". Kamas reported that, "since
December 2003 there are around 625 women prisoners in Al-Rusafah prison
in Umm Qasr and 750 in Al-Kazimah alone. They range from girls of twelve
to women in their sixties". The allegations made by the victims
in the report are sickening, and can only be attributed to those who
live in a sick society, like America. Furthermore, British Labour MP
Ann Clwyd, Tony Blair's personal human rights envoy to Iraq, highlighted
the humiliation last year of an Iraqi woman in her 70s detained by U.S.
soldiers at Abu Ghraib for about six weeks without charge. The elderly
women had been abused, insulted and ridden like a donkey by U.S. soldiers.
These heinous crimes
against Iraqi women and Iraqis POWs are not the acts of a " few
bad apples", as suggested by George W. Bush and his lackey Tony
Blair. All the evidence now points to the facts that Donald Rumsfeld
authorised physical coercion and sexual humiliation in Iraqi prisons.
Julian Borger of the Guardian of London reported from Washington "General
Ricardo Sanchez, head of coalition forces in Iraq, issued an order last
October giving military intelligence control over almost every aspect
of prison conditions at Abu Ghraib with the explicit aim of manipulating
the detainees 'emotions and weaknesses'. Borger writes, "[t]he
October 12 memorandum, reported in the Washington Post, is a potential
'smoking gun' linking prisoners abuse to the U.S. high command. It represents
hard evidence that the maltreatment was not simply the fault of rogue
military police guards"(3). So far, these heinous crimes against
Iraqi civilians (women and men) proved to be ineffective; no weapons
of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, and the resistance continue
The revelation of
tortures and rapes of Iraqi POWs and Iraqi female detainees "constitute
the writing on the wall for a decadent civilization which has been proclaiming
its moral and cultural superiority to the world for some centuries now
and using that public delusion to control their own populations and
bludgeon all the world's peoples into submission, with vacuous promises
of civilization or freedom", writes Aseem Shrivastava (4). Western
culture has never stood lower in Moslem and Arab eyes.
media are in total cooperation with power. CBS, who held its story for
two weeks at the request of General Richard B. Myers, Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, showed the kind of self-censorship in the media.
CBS only aired the story to beat Seymour Hersh's report in The New Yorker.
According to Danny Schecter of Media Channel, "CBS was so nervous
about bucking the Pentagon that it needed to interview war supporters
and spooks in its story to validate its decision to air the story"(5).
The Red Cross spokeswoman Antonella Notari says, "the photographs
shocking, but our reports/ratios are worse . . .. We don't need the
photos to know what's going on and that it's not acceptable". According
to the Taguba's report, the report, which was prepared by Maj. Gen.
Antonio M. Taguba on alleged abuse of prisoners by members of the 800th
Military Police Brigade at the Abu Ghraib Prison in Baghdad, Iraqi women,
have been abused, raped and forced to strip naked by sick U.S. soldiers
at gunpoint. The Bush Administration refuses to release photographs
and videotapes to prevent further domestic embarrassment in the land
of the "free press".
movements stood silent when tortures and rapes of Iraqi women detainees
came to light. Western "feminists" are ready to attack with
ferocity Moslem "fundamentalists" and community leaders, but
they failed to lift a finger when innocent Iraqi women and girls are
detained, tortured and raped by sick colonial soldiers. Furthermore,
western feminists allowed Bush and Blair to hijack feminist rhetoric
in order to bomb and kill thousands of innocent Afghani and Iraqi civilians.
This is not new in imperialists thinking; western feminism has served
as a "handmaid to colonialism". "Whether in the hands
of patriarchal men or feminists", writes Harvard Professor, Leila
Ahmed, "the ideas of western feminism essentially functioned to
morally justify the attack on native societies and to support
the notion of comprehensive superiority of [the U.S.A. and] Europe (6).
Bush and Blair speak the language of benevolent bullies, and their lies
led to the destruction of Iraq and the murder of more than 12,000 innocent
The words "rape"
and "torture" seem to be difficult words for Americans and
Westerns to utter when they are caught in the act of committing them
on people of other societies. The American scholar, Joseph Massad writes:
"It should not be forgotten that in America, not in the Moslem
World, between 40 percent and 60 percent of women killed, are killed
by their husbands and boyfriends, but such murders of course are no
longer even called 'passion' crimes; much less 'honour' crimes. It is
the misogynistic trait of imperial American culture and its violent
racism that propels the torture to which Iraqi prisoners (POWs and civilians)
have been, and may still subjected"(7). Here is what the average
Iraqis thinks of "the land of the free and the home of the brave":
"They are an army of sick cowards. They are from a country of sick
lost their mind to think properly. It is preposterous to read the like
of Michael Ignatieff advocating violence against innocent people, and
at the same time encouraging the rise of terrorism. The New York Times
columnist writes: "the US and its allies should use coercion and
assassination to defeat terrorism. But they must still keep faith with
democratic principles". How can one keeps with these "democratic
principles" if one does not believe in democratic principles for
those one despised? Mr. Ignatieff proved to the world that he doesn't
think properly, and that his
opinion is pure imperialist rubbish. Terrorism grows out of the violence
of "state terrorism", currently practised openly by the U.S.
and its close ally Israel. The definition of terrorism seems to fit
the patterns of American and Western imperialism. The U.S. and its allies
should be condemend for blatant violations of Intrenational laws and
the Fourth Geneva Conventions.
promises on Women's Day stood in stark contrast to the realities on
the ground in Iraq. Mr. Powell is more concerned about "America's
International image" than the welfare of the Iraqi people. Mr.
Powell allowed himself to become the mouthpiece for the necons gang
and Israel's Zionists. Mr. Powell's job for the past decades has been
selling wars against innocent and defenceless people. History shows
that Mr. Powell sacrificed moral principles and human rights for his
own increasingly pathetic career.
There is no military
solution to the situation in Iraq, and therefore the best way to end
the violence against the Iraqi people, is to end the military and economic
occupation of Iraq. It will also be a historical day in the struggle
for liberation from colonial occupation. That day will certainly come
 Amnesty International,
Violence against women increases sharply, 31 March 2004.
 Mohammed Bazzi, U.S. using some Iraqis as bargaining chips, Newsweek,
26 May 2004.
 Julian Borger, Commander of coalition forces witnessed prisoner
abuse, The Guardian, 24 May 2004.
 Aseem Shrivastava, Iraq torture, Znet, 03 May 204.
 Danny Schecter, Why Media Stood Silent When Torture Cases First
Came To Light, MediaChannel.org, May 12, 2004.
 Leila Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern
Debate, Yale University Press, 1993.
 Joseph Massad, Imperial mementos, Al-Ahram Weekly, No. 691, 2004.
Ghali Hassan is in the Science and Mathematics Education Centre,
Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia. Hassan@exchange.curtin.edu.au