Hussein Al-alak: War Against Iraqi Women

By Hussein Al-alak
Special to

Just how far is the occupation willing to turn the clocks back, on the rights and civil liberties of women in Iraq, with the forced separation of families and the use of rape as a weapon to humiliate and control the population.

The present day situation is a continuation of “mediaeval traditions”, which is being enforced by the “civilised colonialists”, in a scene which was first described in 1982 by Suad Khari of the Iraqi Women’s League.

During the colonial occupation of Iraq, Dr. Khairi explained, “Under tribal laws the woman could be murdered and the murderer escape punishment”. “Women were “regarded as deficient human beings”.“Women suffered from the consequences of backwardness and dependency, and the cruelty of the mediaeval traditions that the “civilised” colonialists strove to maintain.”

Under the atmosphere of colonial repression, women also took an active role in resisting the presence of British troops, by taking arms to the rebels and actively protesting for the release of those captured. Women also took a leading role in resisting the ill treatment that was being forced upon them by the British occupation, along with mounting a direct challenge to the forced wearing of the veil and for a woman’s right to receive an education.

A story is often told, of one woman whose brother had been taken by the “British authorities“ and she confronted his captors. Throwing the “veil” into the air, this left her long hair flying loose, where she declared to the occupying power that she too, would fight for the freedom of Iraq.

For those uncertain of women’s rights before the 2003 occupation, women’s rights were enshrined within state law and women did participate fully within "Iraqi Society". One major gain was in the 1958 revolution, which brought to power Abdul Karim Qassim and Iraqi women did make regional history by having Naziha Dulaimi, the first-ever female cabinet minister, elected to an Arab government post.

The war against Iraqi women, did not start under the occupation but in truth, after the Gulf War and in the 1990’s, when the “allies” under the auspices of the United Nations, saw the concept of the "Iraqi family" as being a pack of wild dogs in need of being destroyed.

This was demonstrated through the mass genocide of over one million children under the age of five, who lost their lives as a result of “embargo related causes“. Due to Sanctions, Iraq was unable to purchase items such as tampons, pencils, a variety of medication and life saving equipment. This was apparently down to the fact that the UN classed such items as being “Duel Use”, there for could allegedly be used in constructing “weapons of mass destruction“.

According to Sarah Flounders of the US based International Action Centre, items denied to the Iraqi people included; “batteries, X-ray machines, ambulances because they could be used in battles, computers and even enriched powdered milk, which supposedly could be used in germ warfare.”

“Many of the children killed by Sanctions died from diseases carried in impure drinking water." It was estimated before the Gulf War, the vast majority of Iraqi people did have access to potable drinking water, a health service that was described by the UN “as being the best in the region” and each child was guaranteed a free education.

Developing the water supply after the Gulf War, was made virtually impossible for the Iraqi Government, as Flounders points out; “Good drinking water needs pipes, pumps, filtration and chlorine. But Washington defines chlorine as a “Duel-Use” item, as it does the pipes that would be used to carry water.”

A study conducted by Harvard, discovered that after the Gulf War there had been a “fourfold increase in child mortality and a high incidence of health problems among women, including psychosomatic conditions such as sleeplessness and mental disorders.”

In the essay “Women: Honour and Shame“, Dr. Suha Omar described how there was also an increase in domestic violence, with “war traumatised conscripts” returning to Iraq, who “would take out their distress and anger on wives, daughters, mothers and sisters.”

In other words, “Women had to pick up the pieces” because the men were either mentally or physically damaged by the war, with the situation being exasperated by the “drastically worsened economic situation, as victims of the pauperisation of Iraqi society.”

Even Ahmed Chalabi was compelled to give an account of life under the Sanctions, where he described in 1994 to the “Iraqi Opposition“, “A journey through Iraqi countryside today would be a journey of horror through a wasteland of disease, hunger and war … In this rich land of oil and great agricultural potential, millions are subsisting on UN handouts.”

For over a decade now, the human rights of the Iraqi people have been treated by the West, as an “underhand and subversive” measure used by Saddam Hussein, to obtain the equipment to make imaginary “weapons“, which apparently are still being looked for, even though in 1997, a UN weapons inspector declared “Iraq had been disarmed.”

In 1919, Woodrow Wilson wrote how effective “sanctions” could be, with the process being a “peaceful, quiet and lethal remedy”, which “doesn’t take a single human life outside of the country exposed to the boycott, but instead subjects that country to a pressure that, in my view, no modern country can with stand.”

When Madeline Albright, then US secretary of state to Bill Clinton was asked on US television, wherever she believed the deaths of 6,000 Iraqi children a month, was an effective way to “contain” Saddam Hussain, her response was similar to those who now see death, destruction and the rape of women, as being “a price worth paying“, for “freedom and democracy“.
-Hussein Al-alak is an Iraqi writer whose specialist subjects include Human Rights, race and integration and Palestinian refugees.  Hussein was the co-producer of Here’s Tomorrow, a 2006 documentry on the Baqa’a Refugee Camp in Jordan.

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