“Strategies against gender-based violence in the Middle East need to also combat the violence of US foreign policy.”
Part V. Gender War, Civil War
The state of Iraq now resembles Bosnia at the height of the fighting in the 1990s when each community fled to places where its members were a majority and were able to defend themselves.
— Patrick Cockburn 
A Product of US Policy
Whether by design or incompetence, the US has instigated a civil war in Iraq. Remarkably, in a country with almost no history of communal violence, US actions helped transform a doctrinal difference between the Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam into a political divide. The US dismantled Iraq’s largely secular government bureaucracy in favor of a system that allocated seats in parliament, jobs, and other resources according to ethnic and religious divisions. That system produced the so-called “Shiite list” that swept the first national elections held under US occupation in January 2005.
In effect, US policy forced Iraqis to compete for scarce resources on the basis of sectarian identity and reoriented Iraqi citizenship on the basis of religion instead of nationality. At the same time, the US armed and deployed openly sectarian Shiite and Kurdish militias to fight Sunnis and police Sunni neighborhoods. The US State Department has acknowledged that this policy has “greatly exacerbated tensions along purely ethnic lines.”  After igniting the civil war, US policies have continued to fuel the violence by giving one side – the Sunni-based insurgency – its raison d’être, while giving the other side – the Shiite-controlled Iraqi security forces – money, weapons, and training. In addition, the US failure to provide security has led many Iraqis to support whatever armed group promises to protect their families and communities.
Looking at Gender in Iraq’s Civil War
In September 2006, The Los Angeles Times described the Badr Brigade and the Mahdi Army as
“Iraq’s two most deadly Shiite militias” for their role in sectarian violence.  What the Times did not mention is that both Islamist groups are also notorious for their attacks on women. Indeed, the relationship between Iraq’s civil war and its “gender war” has been largely overlooked. Yet, the two crises are deeply intertwined.
In the legal arena, the same provisions of the US-brokered constitution that most clearly codify gender discrimination (Articles 39 and 41)  also lay the groundwork for sectarian violence. Six months before the February 2006 bombing of the Samarra Mosque that marked a turning point in the civil war, MADRE warned that, “the new constitution could allow un-elected clerics and Islamist politicians to determine a person’s legal recourse based on her sex and religious affiliation. Due to varying interpretations of religious law, tensions between Islamic groups with differing rules about personal status issues would be exacerbated. The resulting civil strife will further endanger Iraqis, undermine prospects for democracy, and foment a dangerous sectarianism in an already destabilized society.”  The decision to apply separate laws on the basis of sex and religion reinforced gender discrimination and sectarian conflict – the twin crises now plaguing Iraq – underscoring the link between women’s human rights and democratic rights in general.
Iraq’s Civil War, Fueled by US Occupation Policies, Generates Numerous Forms of Violence against Women
• Though women comprise a minority of those killed in sectarian violence, women are targeted for attack. For example, on October 12, 2006, six Shiite women and two four-year-old girls were gunned down while picking vegetables on a farm south of Baghdad. The attackers, who police said were Sunnis seeking to intimidate Shiites into leaving the ethnically mixed village of Saifiya, reportedly forced two teenage girls into their cars before escaping. 
• Sectarian violence has bolstered the Islamist militias that have been attacking women. Indeed, one of the militias’ primary motivations for fomenting violence is that the resulting chaos causes people to become dependent on the militias for security. As The New York Times reports, “Iraqi Shiites see the Mahdi militia as their most effective protector against the hostile Sunni groups that have slaughtered Shiites and driven them from their homes. Shiites say that as long as the government cannot keep them safe, they cannot support the disarming of the militias.”  Even Iraqis who would otherwise condemn the violence and ideology of the Islamists have come to support them because they are the only force providing security.
• Sectarian conflict has made domestic violence more deadly because of the proliferation of guns in Iraq. Because of the threat of attack, nearly every Iraqi household now possesses weapons. On October 30, 2006, The New York Times reported that the US military failed to keep track of hundreds of thousands of weapons it had shipped to Iraq, including thousands of nine-millimeter pistols and assault rifles.  Women’s rights advocates in other armed conflicts have noted that, “domestic violence often increases as societal tensions grow and becomes more common and more lethal when men carry weapons.” 
• Sectarian violence has entrenched the authority of conservative tribal leaders, many of whom condone violence against women (including forced marriage and “honor killing”). Iraqi women’s rights advocates report a sharp rise in “honor killing” since the onset of civil war, which they attribute, in part, to the enhanced authority of tribal leaders. In early 2006, in the rural province of Maysan, police released an accused murderer after his tribe agreed to pay $3,000 and promise three women in marriage to the family of the victim.  In rural areas, where tribal affiliations are strongest, many people resent the rule of the Islamist militias  and have rallied, instead, behind traditional tribal leaders.
• Sectarian violence has triggered widespread displacement of Iraqi women and their families.  Nearly 1.8 million people have been forced to flee their homes, while two million have fled to other countries.  Forced displacement is itself a form of violence against women and exposes women to other types of violence, including domestic abuse, forced prostitution, and sex trafficking. According to the UN Refugee Agency, many Iraqis are in urgent need of “shelter and aid items, food, access to water and employment.”  Within families and communities the world over, women’s needs are often the first to be sacrificed when resources such as these become scarce.
• The gendered dimension of sectarian conflict endangers women. Because of women’s role in cultural and biological reproduction, they are often perceived as symbols of group identity. As such, they are specifically targeted in times of communal violence. In 2003, OWFI began reporting cases of “Islamic groups taking revenge on each other by raping women.”  In September 2006, OWFI reported that “Recently, a sectarian gang abducted a Shiite woman from the Alhussienya district of northern Baghdad, raped her and dumped her in a deserted area on the outskirts of the city. In retaliation, a Shiite gang kidnapped eight Sunni women from Rashidya district (adjacent to Alhussienya) and subjected these women to rape and torture.”  Additionally, Christian women in Mosul and elsewhere have been targeted for rape  as part of a broader attack on that community. 
Part VI. Gender-based Violence against Men
A corollary to the systematic violence against women in Iraq is the campaign of torture and killing of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, and intersex (LGBTTI) Iraqis under US occupation. Homophobic attacks intensified in early 2006, after Grand Ayatollah Sistani issued his fatwa (religious decree) saying that anyone accused of “sodomy or lesbianism” should be killed “in the worst, most severe way possible.” The fatwa triggered a systematic witch-hunt by SCIRI’s Badr Brigade, which was carried out while the group was receiving military training from the US. Badr militiamen began ordering Iraqis to kill gay and lesbian family members in “honor killings.”  In so-called religious courts with no official authority, self-appointed clerics – including those affiliated with Sistani – preside over the “trials” and executions of those accused of homosexuality. 
Crimes committed as part of the Islamist campaign of “sexual cleansing” are a form of gender-based torture: they are gender-based because they seek to enforce prescribed social roles for men and women; and they constitute torture because state authorities have acquiesced to and participated in the violence. US authorities have responded to Iraqis seeking protection or justice in the wake of homophobic attacks with derision and outright mockery.  The US-backed Iraqi police stand accused of rape and extortion by gay men. According to one Baghdad resident, “Policemen raped me several times at gunpoint and threatened to hand me over to extremist groups if I refused.” 
Gender-based attacks on Iraqi men are also used to foment sectarian violence. ‘Terrorists in the Hands of Justice’ is Iraq’s most popular television show.  It airs six nights a week on the Iraqiya television network, which was created by the US Pentagon. The show – financed with US tax dollars – consists of an interrogator eliciting live confessions from alleged insurgents. The detainees – who have not been tried or convicted of any crime – usually show signs of torture: bruised and swollen faces and the “robotic manners of those beaten and coached by police interrogators off camera.”  The program relies heavily on gender ideologies to fuel sectarian hatred. The ‘suspects’ are invariably Sunni men rounded up by the US-backed Special Police Commandos – a Shiite group affiliated with the Badr Brigade. Confessions frequently include admissions of homosexuality, pedophilia, pornography, and rape.  In fact, the word mujahid, meaning holy warrior, has become slang for homosexual because so many of the detainees appearing on the show have confessed to using mosques to hold “gay orgies” for Sunni insurgents.  Like Rwanda’s notorious Radio Mille Collines, ‘Terrorists in the Hands of Justice’ is a dangerous use of popular media to promote gender-based and communal hatred.
The most widely circulated images of gender-based violence from US-occupied Iraq are the notorious Abu Ghraib photos. Released to the public in April 2004, the photos document the sexualized torture of Iraqi men by US soldiers. They include images of prisoners forced to stand naked, masturbate, simulate gay sex, and wear women’s clothing. In essence, the torture consisted of an attack on the gender identity of the prisoners. The forcefulness of that attack derived from the misogyny of both the detainees and their torturers. As Dhia al-Shweiri, an Iraqi who was tortured in Abu Ghraib said, “They were trying to humiliate us, break our pride. We are men. It’s OK if they beat me. Beatings don’t hurt us, it’s just a blow. But no one would want their manhood to be shattered. They wanted us to feel as though we were women, the way women feel, and this is the worst insult, to feel like a woman.” 
The systematic killing of LGBTTI Iraqis is a grim reminder that all human rights are indivisible. In Iraq, as elsewhere, protecting LGBTTI rights and ending violence against women are inextricably linked.
Part VII. Violence against Women in Detention
Some of the most hidden arenas of violence against women in Iraq are the hundreds of US- and Iraqi-run detention centers established since the 2003 invasion. Like their male counterparts, Iraqi women have been detained and tortured on the basis of their religious affiliation. But women are also tortured on the basis of their gender. According to Iraqi human rights advocate and writer Haifa Zangana, the first question asked of female detainees in Iraq is, “Are you Sunni or Shia?” The second is, “Are you a virgin?” 
The Abu Ghraib scandal focused almost exclusively on the torture of male prisoners. But the first evidence of abuse in Abu Ghraib came from a letter written by a woman detainee. The letter, smuggled out of the prison in December 2003 (five months before the scandal broke), was signed only with the first name, Noor. It said that women were being systematically raped by US soldiers in Abu Ghraib and that some detainees were pregnant as a result of these rapes.
The secret US military inquiry into Abu Ghraib headed by Major General Antonio Taguba verified many of the letter’s claims. Taguba’s report cites photographs of a US military policeman “having sex” with an Iraqi woman detainee as well as videotapes and photographs of naked female detainees taken by guards. Some of these images were shown to members of the US Congress during the course of the investigation. However, unlike the photographs of men being tortured, Congress has refused to release these images of Iraqi women to the public.
Based on Noor’s letter, Iraqi lawyers gradually uncovered evidence of ongoing and widespread US torture of Iraqi women detainees. Rafida Shalal al-Jbouri, a social researcher at the Center of Rehabilitation for Youth (a division of the Iraqi Justice Ministry) confirmed that occupation soldiers were assaulting and raping women prisoners at Abu Ghraib and al-Tasfeerat prisons.  In 2004, attorney Amal Kadham Swadi asserted that prisoner abuse was occurring across the country, stating that, “sexualized violence and abuse committed by US troops goes far beyond a few isolated cases.”  US-based organizations have also documented the torture of Iraqi women. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) publicized documents in March 2005 citing 13 cases of rape and other forms of torture of female detainees, which were released after a lawsuit brought by a team of human rights organizations, including the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights. No action was taken against any soldier or civilian in any of these cases. 
In addition to sexual violence, evidence of torture of women by US forces includes routine maltreatment, degradation, physical and psychological abuse, and unhealthy and unhygienic conditions. Women detainees have been forced to remove their headscarves, dragged by their hair, made to eat from dirty toilets, and urinated on.  In 2005, UK Member of Parliament Ann Clwyd confirmed a report of US soldiers torturing an elderly Iraqi woman by attaching a harness to her and riding her like a donkey. Women have been kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. Some detainees, still nursing infants at the time of their arrest, were subjected to intense psychological trauma because of the separation from their babies. 
The vast majority of Iraqi women detainees were held by the US military without charges or any semblance of due process. Very few were arrested on suspicion of a crime. Rather, as Newsweek reported in 2004, most of these women were essentially hostages, held by the US “as bargaining chips to put pressure on their wanted relatives to surrender.”  US officials have acknowledged this tactic, which violates the Geneva Convention and other international laws. In addition, US forces have routinely arrested the wives and daughters of male detainees and threatened the women with rape in front of their male relatives in order to coerce the men into confessions. 
One woman who was arrested by the US military because of allegations against her husband is the wife of Iraq’s former Minister of Commerce. While under arrest, this woman (who has chosen to withhold her name) was forced to stir burning human waste in metal containers. A US sergeant warned her that, “If you don’t do it, I will tell one of the soldiers to fuck you.”  Recalling her time in prison, the woman said, “Once I saw the guards hit a woman, probably 30 years old…They pulled her by the hair and poured ice water on her. She was screaming and shouting and crying as they poured water into her mouth. They left her there all night. There was another girl; the soldiers said she wasn’t honest with them. They said she gave them wrong information. When I saw her, she had electric burns all over her body.” 
The number of women who have endured detention and torture by US occupation forces is unknown. According to Iman Khamas, head of the International Occupation Watch Center, “Since December 2003, there are around 625 women prisoners in Al-Rusafah Prison in Uma Qasr and 750 in Al- Kadhmiya alone. They range from girls of twelve to women in their sixties.”  Even the number of detention centers is a matter of controversy, though it is clear that jails have mushroomed across Iraq since the US invasion. Hajj Ali, director of the Organization for the Defense of Detainees in Occupation Jails, states, “Under Saddam there were 13 prisons. Now there are 36 run by the government and 200 run by the militias. All these have the approval of the American government.”  The US State Department Democracy and Human Rights Bureau put the number of detention centers even higher, at 450. There are also an undisclosed number of secret detention centers, established by the US in violation of international law. 
Redefining Rape: The US Military Commissions Act
No international legal or humanitarian provisions allow torture, even in conditions of war. Perhaps that is why the 2006 US Military Commissions Act (MCA) effectively expunges rape from the definition of torture. The law, championed by President Bush, requires proof of specific intent to commit torture. But motive is very hard to prove in cases of sexual assault because a defendant can always claim that his motivation was sexual gratification rather than torture. The law limits the definition of rape to sexual penetration (most US states and international law use a broader definition). The law also requires physical contact to prove sexual assault, excluding numerous forms of sexual abuse that US forces have committed in Iraq, including forced nakedness and sexual threats and humiliation. Under the law, only forcible or coerced penetration is considered rape. Thus, the Taguba investigation’s photographs of a US military policeman “having sex” with an Iraqi woman would not be evidence of rape, since they do not necessarily document coercion. Yet US federal and international law recognizes that rape occurs whenever the victim does not give free and voluntary consent. In a sexual relationship characterized by an extreme disparity of power (such as that between a prison guard and an inmate) consent becomes a hollow concept. The MCA thereby effectively sanctions violence against women by US forces.
New Jailers, Old Torments
Reports of torture continued after the US shifted responsibility for Iraq’s prison system to the country’s Interior Ministry. In September 2006, the United Nations special investigator on torture reported that torture was worse in US-occupied Iraq than under Saddam Hussein.  According to OWFI, which has conducted a Women’s Prison Watch project since November 2005, “Torture and rape has become a common procedure of investigation in police stations run by the militias affiliated with the government, mostly the Mahdi and Badr militias.”  Amnesty International has demonstrated that US-led multinational forces in Iraq are legally responsible for crimes against detainees, including crimes committed by Iraqi security forces. 
During visits to Kadhmiya Prison, run by Iraq’s Interior Ministry, and other Iraqi-run jails, OWFI took testimonies from numerous women who said they were raped by prison authorities. 
• Zina Akram Khdayir is a 24-year-old woman who went to the police in Baghdad in June 2005 to escape a situation of life-threatening domestic violence. While seeking refuge at the Aminyah Police Station, Zina was raped by a man known to her as Major Saad. She was then forced to confess to “being a terrorist” or face being returned to her family. Zina resolved to file a complaint against Major Saad, but was later offered release in exchange for withdrawing that complaint. She was released in July 2006 without a trial.
• Forty-year-old Khadija Mohammed Mhawish was tortured regularly for more than two years in several different jails. She reported being flogged with cables, having her fingernails pulled out, and being forced to stand naked before prisoners who were urged by guards to rape her. Khadija, who was sexually assaulted in front of her son (also a prisoner), identified the following men as her rapists: Fifth Branch officers Major Raid, Captain Nabeel, First Lieutenant Saad, and non-commissioned officers Abdilamir and Raad.
• Fatma Mohammed Ashur was raped by Ministry of Interior officers Lieutenant Colonel Amir, Captain Riyadh, Military Intelligence non-commissioned officers Hussein and Ziyad, and al-Bayya Police Station officers Lieutenant Colonel Jalal and First Lieutenant Hazza.
• Ilham Mohammed Ridha was tortured in May and August 2005. She was flogged, shocked with electrical cables, and gang-raped by officers in the al-Karrada Police Station for Major Crimes.
Coerced Silence and Official Denial
Like women in many parts of the world, Iraqi women often face severe social stigma and even violence at the hands of their families upon release from prison. Amnesty International researchers suspect that Noor, the author of the letter that precipitated the Abu Ghraib scandal, was killed in the name of family honor after her release. Iman Khamas, head of the International Occupation Watch Center, Mohammed Daham al-Mohammed of the Union of Detainees and Prisoners, and Hoda Nuaimi, politics professor at Baghdad University, all separately reported that three young women from western Baghdad were killed by their families after returning from Abu Ghraib pregnant.  The threat of ‘honor killing’ is compounded by the near-total lack of due process under US occupation. With no reliable justice system, some families turn to ‘tribal diplomacy’ to secure the release of relatives from prison.  Tribal leaders are more likely than other authorities to prescribe ‘honor killing’ as a remedy for the perceived disgrace that a woman’s detention casts on her family.
Given the threat of renewed violence, it is not surprising that relatively few Iraqi women have been willing to speak publicly about their ordeals in detention. Yet, despite the intense pressure on women to keep silent, at least nine Iraqi organizations  as well as Amnesty International, the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq, and the Brussels Tribunal have documented the torture of Iraqi women by US and Iraqi forces. Despite this evidence, US and Iraqi authorities routinely hide behind women’s reluctance to testify about abuse, using detainees’ coerced silence to deny allegations of torture. For example, Hassan Jaffar, a senior Iraqi military official, has repeatedly told reporters that women were ‘imagining’ the abuses they recounted. 
US Media Tow the Line
Official denial is reflected in mainstream US media, which has paid little attention to Iraqi women’s experiences of detention. The lack of media coverage is remarkable given that thousands of Iraqi women have been arrested since the US occupation began; that torture by the US military has been infamously documented by the torturers themselves; and that US Vice President Dick Cheney has publicly acknowledged and defended torture in Iraq and elsewhere.  Even during the highly publicized 2006 kidnapping of US journalist Jill Carroll, there was little media curiosity about her captors’ single demand, namely, the release of Iraqi women in US custody.
Those reports that have addressed the issue of women’s torture have implicitly cast doubt on the veracity of the allegations. Some have suggested, for example, that images of women being raped by prison guards are staged pornography rather than evidence of torture.  In fact, there is no firewall between the for-profit production of war-related pornography and the circulation of images of women’s torture. Indeed, several former detainees report that photographs of their rapes have been posted on pornographic Internet sites, propelling their experience of torture into virtual perpetuity.
Other US media stories have chosen to focus on ‘honor killings’ of released detainees rather than on the unlawful detentions that triggered the murders.  These stories divert attention from US crimes of illegal detention and torture of women, implicitly shifting blame to Iraqi society for tolerating ‘honor killing.’ What these reports miss is the ways that crimes of occupation reinforce crimes of honor and how repressive codes of family honor have made all Iraqis more vulnerable to abusive authorities, whether they are US occupiers or their Iraqi successors.
Conclusion: Standing with Iraqi Women in a Time of War
Since the US bombing of Afghanistan in 2001, the Bush Administration has resurrected the hackneyed colonial notion that its military intervention is intended to save Muslim women from their oppressive societies. As Laura Bush has said, “The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women.”  Few Middle Eastern women believe this. (The line is really intended for people in the US.) In Iraq, women know that their work for equal rights has been undermined by British colonialism and, more recently, by US intervention. Throughout the Middle East – and indeed, around the world – the US has preferred to support authoritarian leaders who systematically violate women’s rights.
Despite all of Bush’s talk of bringing women’s rights and democracy to Iraq, the US may ultimately prefer a theocratic dictatorship in Iraq over a true democracy in which the government respects human rights and popular will. After all, if it were up to the majority of Iraqis, how many would have endorsed the country’s new, US-brokered oil law, which effectively puts Iraq’s most valuable resource at the disposal of US-based corporations?  How many Iraqis would have opted for huge, permanent US military bases in their country (whose sole purpose is to enable more US military intervention in the region)? Ultimately, the US-supported attack on women’s rights in Iraq is instrumental to US policy in the Middle East because women’s rights are an integral part of democratic rights and democratic rights threaten US control of the region.
Today, many progressives in the US argue that Iraqis should be free to determine their own political destiny. They look at Iraq, see widespread support for Islamism, and conclude that these are the politics that Iraqis have chosen. What many in the US don’t know is that they are looking at a political landscape shaped in part by US intervention. During the Cold War, while the US propped up Islamist movements throughout the Middle East, it also worked to crush the Left, helping to create an environment largely devoid of strong progressive forces. In Iraq, the US welcomed the Ba’ath Party to power in 1963 by supplying it with lists of Iraqi communists to assassinate.  Thus, the US helped ensure that the Islamists whom they covertly supported were the only viable alternative to the status quo. In 2004, when the status quo was US occupation, support for an Islamist state in Iraq rose from 20 to 70 percent.  The spike shows how quickly a political trend can take hold in a crisis. Interpreting that trend as inevitable and singularly authentic shows the hazards of trying to understand the world without knowledge of history.
The fact that the US has used women’s rights as a rallying point for its wars in the Middle East is sometimes used to fuel the claim that women’s rights are ‘foreign’ to the region and a tool of ‘Western domination.’ We hear that claim from conservatives in Muslim countries who oppose women’s rights. We also hear it from some on the Left who seem to believe that condemning US intervention in Iraq requires defending any group that opposes the US, regardless of that group’s own human rights record. These people glorify the Islamist forces within the Iraqi insurgency (though they themselves would hate to live in a theocracy). They refuse to condemn violations of Iraqi women’s rights simply because those committing the violations are under attack by the US.
Indeed, within the United States, any discussion of gender-based violence in Iraq occurs in a climate of heightened hostility towards Islam and Muslim countries. Right-wing talk-radio is full of platitudes about the plight of Muslim women that are little more than racist diatribes used to justify US intervention. Prominent US military and religious leaders have explicitly cast Bush’s invasion of Iraq as a Christian holy war against Islam – with no censure from the White House.  Clearly, strategies against gender-based violence in the Middle East need to also combat the violence of US foreign policy, confront ‘Islamaphobia’ in the US, and recognize the ways that sexism and racism have been conscripted into Bush’s ‘war on terror.’
Understanding the links between opposing violence against Iraqi women and opposing violence by the US can help address the concern of people who worry that advocating Middle Eastern women’s rights imposes ‘Western values’ on Muslim countries. Here, a fear of condoning ‘cultural imperialism’ leads people to be silent about violence against women. But silence is not a defensible response to grave human rights abuses. Nor is silence necessary to avoid charges of cultural imperialism, for there is nothing inherently ‘Western’ about women’s rights. Women in the Middle East have a century-long history of political struggle, popular organizing, jurisprudence, and scholarship aimed at securing rights within their societies. As Haifa Zangana says, “The main misconception is to perceive Iraqi women as silent, powerless victims in a male-controlled society in urgent need of ‘liberation.’ This image fits conveniently into the big picture of the Iraqi people being passive victims who would welcome the occupation of their country. The reality is different.” 
The assumption that women’s rights are a ‘Western’ concern is not only historically inaccurate, but also overblown. After all, the intellectual foundations of civilization – writing, mathematics, and science – are ‘Eastern.’ Are these pursuits therefore ‘foreign’ and inappropriate in ‘the West’? Human rights, feminism, literature, and science are all aspects of our common human heritage. We should be suspicious whenever one is said to belong – or not belong – to a given people, especially when that designation is used to deny people their rights. The imagined community of ‘the West’ has no monopoly on democracy, women’s rights or any other ‘values’ that the Bush Administration purports to be ‘bringing’ to Iraq.
In the US, right-wing intellectuals like to talk about a ‘clash of civilizations’ dividing the United States from the Middle East. But the real clash is not between ‘Western’ democracies and ‘Eastern’ theocracies; it is between those who uphold the full range of human rights – including women’s right to a life free of violence – and those who pursue economic and political power for a privileged few at the expense of the world’s majority. In this clash, no one is predestined to be on one side or the other by virtue of her culture, religion, or nationality. We choose our position based on our principles and our actions. Those of us who choose to stand in defense of human rights in Iraq must support the efforts of Iraqi women who are struggling for women’s rights within their country and for their country’s right to freedom from US domination and Islamist repression.
72. Partick Cockburn, ‘Iraq is Disintegrating as Ethnic Cleansing Takes Hold’, The Independent, May 20, 2005.
73. Anthony Shadid and Steve Fainaru, ‘Militias on the Rise across Iraq’, The Washington Post, Aug. 21, 2005.
74. Solomon Moore, ‘The Conflict in Iraq: Killings by Shiite Muslims Detailed’, The Los Angeles Times, Sep. 28, 2006.
75. Article 41 of the constitution states: “First: The followers of all religions and sects are free in the: A. Practice of religious rites, including the Husseini ceremonies (Shiite religious ceremonies); B. Management of the endowments, its affairs and its religious institutions. The law shall regulate this. Second: The state guarantees freedom of worship and the protection of the places of worship.”
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/12/AR2005101201450.html, accessed Feb. 7, 2007
76. MADRE, ‘MADRE Opposes Abolition of Iraqi Women’s Human Rights in Draft Constitution’, July 20, 2005 [emphasis added].
77. Hamza Hendawi, ‘Gunmen Kill 8 Women and Girls Working in Field Outside Baghdad, Then Kidnap 2 Teenagers’, Associated Press, Oct. 13, 2006.
78. Sabrina Tavernise, ‘As Trust Vanishes, Many Iraqis Look to Gunmen as Protectors’, The New York Times, Oct. 21, 2006.
79. James Glanz, ‘U.S. Said to Fail in Tracking Arms for Iraqis’, The New York Times, Oct. 30, 2006.
80. Wenona Giles and Jennifer Hyndman, eds., Sites of Violence (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), 32.
81. Sabrina Tavernise and Qais Mizher, ‘The Struggle for Iraq: Daily Life; In Iraq’s Mayhem, Town Finds Calm through Its Tribal Links’, The New York Times, July 10, 2006.
82. Tavernise and Mizher, ‘The Struggle for Iraq’.
83. UN News brief, ‘UN Refugee Agency Increasingly Concerned at Surging Exodus Due to Violence’, Oct. 13, 2006.
84. ‘Iraq’s Refugees’, Editorial, The New York Times, Jan. 31, 2007.
85. ‘Iraq’s Refugees’.
86. The Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, ‘International Campaign to End Rape, Abduction, and Killings of Women in Iraq’, Oct. 30, 2003.
87. Houzan Mahmoud, ‘A Dark Anniversary’, Guardian Unlimited, Sep. 27, 2006.
88. Anissa Helie, ‘The U.S. Occupation and Rising Religious Extremism: The Double Threat to Women in Iraq’, Women’s World, June 24, 2005.
89. For more on information on attacks of the Christian minority, see the Associated Press, Nov. 13, 2004.
90. Jennifer Copestake, ‘Gays Flee Iraq as Shia Death Squads Find a New Target’, The Observer, June 8, 2006.
91. Basim al-Shara’a, ‘Baghdadi Gays Fear for their Lives’, Electronic Iraq, Oct. 23, 2006.
92. Doug Ireland, ‘Shia Death Squads Target Gay Iraqis’, Gay City News, March 23, 2006.
93. al-Shara’a, ‘Baghdadi Gays’.
94. ‘Wolf Brigade Heroes to Iraq Shiites’, Knight Rider News, May 22, 2005.
95. London Guardian, quoted in A.K. Gupta, ‘Unravelling Iraq’s Secret Militias: Ruthless U.S. Tactics are Propelling the Country toward Civil War, A Special Report’, Z Magazine 18(5), 2005.
96. Gupta, ‘Unravelling Iraq’s Secret Militias’.
97. Ireland, ‘Reality Television Hits Iraq: Lynch-Mob “Justice” Encouraged by U.S.-Financed Iraqi TV’, TomPaine.com, March 28, 2005.
98. ‘Iraqi Prisoner Details Abuse by Americans’, China Daily, May 3, 2004.
99. Haifa Zangana, ‘The Height of Humiliation’, Middle East Online, June 26, 2006.
100. Monitoring of Human Rights in Iraq Network, ‘The Second Periodic Report of Monitoring Net of Human Rights in Iraq’, Nov. 20, 2005.
101. Luke Harding, ‘The Other Prisoners’, The Guardian UK, May 20, 2004.
102. Zangana, ‘Women of the New Iraq’, Alternet, Aug. 16, 2005.
103. Annia Ciezadlo, ‘For Iraqi Women, Abu Ghraib’s Taint’, Christian Science Monitor, May 28, 2004.
104. Zangana, ‘The Height of Humiliation’.
105. Mohammed Bazzi, ‘US Using Some Iraqis as Bargaining Chips’, Newsweek, May 26, 2004.
106. See for example: paragraph 36 of the International Committee of the Red Cross’ ‘Report of the International Committee of the Red Cross on the Treatment by the Coalition Forces of Prisoners of War and other Protected Persons by the Geneva Conventions in Iraq During Arrest, Internment and Interrogation’, Feb. 2004. OWFI reports the case of Ahmad Ibrahim Mahmoud Al Jibouri of Kirkuk. He was arrested for allegedly trying to shoot down a US helicopter. In detention, US soldiers raped his wife and daughter in front of him in order to illicit his confession. His wife was detained for two-and-a-half years. (OWFI Summer 2006 Report, 11).
107. Tara McKelvey, ‘Unusual Suspects’, American Prospect Online, Feb. 1, 2005.
108. McKelvey, ‘Unusual Suspects’.
109. McKelvey, ‘Unusual Suspects’.
110. Zangana, ‘The Height of Humiliation’.
111. See Article 9 of the United Nations International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights, as well as the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
112. ‘Torture in Iraq “worse than under Saddam”‘, Guardian Unlimited, Sep. 21, 2006.
113. OWFI Summer 2006 Report, 7.
114. Amnesty International, ‘Iraq: UN Security Council should ensure full accountability for Multinational Force Abuses’, June 14, 2006.
115. OWFI Summer 2006 Report.
116. Rouba Kabbara, ‘Human Rights Groups: Iraqi Women Raped at Abu Ghraib Jail’, Middle East Online, May 29, 2004.
117. Scheherezade Faramarzi, ‘Female Prisoners Key in Iraq Hostage Drama’, Associated Press, Jan. 21, 2006.
118. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, ‘Iraq: Activists Call on Army, Police to Respect Women’s Rights’, IRIN News, Feb. 8, 2006;
and: Zangana, ‘The Height of Humiliation’; The nine organizations include: Women’s Will, Occupation Watch, the Women’s Rights Association, the Iraqi League, the Human Right’s Voice of Freedom, the Association of Muslim Scholars, the Iraqi Islamic Party, the Iraqi National Media and Culture Organization, and the Iraqi National Association of Human Rights. The Iraqi National Association of Human Rights’ report on Oct. 29, 2005 documented that women held in Interior Ministry detention centers are subject to “systematic rape by the investigators and to other forms of bodily harm in order to coerce them into making a confession.” The Ministry of Justice confirmed the accuracy of the report.
119. UN ‘Iraq: Activists Call on Army’.
120. Mark Tran, ‘Cheney Endorses Simulated Drowning’, The Guardian, Oct. 27, 2006.
121. Susan J. Brinson, ‘Torture or “Good Old American Pornography”?’, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 50(39), June 4, 2004: B10-B11.
122. Lila Rajiva, ‘Iraqi Women and Torture, Part One: Rapes and Rumours of Rape’, Dissident Voice, July 27, 2004.
123. Radio address, Nov. 17, 2001.
124. Antonia Juhasz, ‘It’s Still About The Oil’, TomPaine.common sense.
125. Andrew Cockburn and Patrick Cockburn, Out of the Ashes (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2000).
126. Naomi Klein, ‘You Can’t Bomb Beliefs’, The Nation, Sep. 30, 2006.
127. Giles Fraser, ‘The Evangelicals Who Like to Gift-Wrap Islamophobia: The World’s Largest Children’s Christmas Project Has a Toxic Agenda’, The Guardian, Nov. 10 2003;
In Oct. 2003, General William Boykin, US deputy undersecretary of defence for intelligence, described the US as waging a holy war against “the idol” of Islam’s false god and “a guy called Satan” who “wants to destroy us as a Christian army.”
128. As quoted in: Huibin Amee Chew, ‘Occupation is Not (Women’s) Liberation Part I’, ZNet, March 24, 2005.
Yifat Susskind, Associate Director of MADRE, was born and raised in Israel, and was active in the Israeli women's peace movement for several years. She has been featured as a commentator on CNN, National Public Radio, and BBC Radio. Ms. Susskind has written for the Middle East Research & Information Project (MERIP) and has been profiled in Ms. Magazine and the New York Daily News.