We're now squarely in the land of unintended consequences
August 16, 2006

Creating a new Taliban in Iraq

It is beginning to look like the war in Iraq has created a new Taliban. Women in Baghdad are being intimidated into giving up the right to choose whether to be veiled or not, the right to drive, and the right to simply go outside.

See the blog "Baghdad Burning"
by "Riverbend"
Saturday, August 05, 2006

For me, June marked the first month I don't dare leave the house without a hijab, or headscarf. I don't wear a hijab usually, but it's no longer possible to drive around Baghdad without one. It's just not a good idea. (Take note that when I say 'drive' I actually mean 'sit in the back seat of the car'- I haven't driven for the longest time.) Going around bare-headed in a car or in the street also puts the family members with you in danger. You risk hearing something you don't want to hear and then the father or the brother or cousin or uncle can't just sit by and let it happen. I haven't driven for the longest time. If you're a female, you risk being attacked.
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Posted by ellen at August 16, 2006 05:39 PM

...There are no laws that say we have to wear a hijab (yet), but there are the men in head-to-toe black and the turbans, the extremists and fanatics who were liberated by the occupation, and at some point, you tire of the defiance. You no longer want to be seen. I feel like the black or white scarf I fling haphazardly on my head as I walk out the door makes me invisible to a certain degree- it's easier to blend in with the masses shrouded in black. If you're a female, you don't want the attention- you don't want it from Iraqi police, you don't want it from the black-clad militia man, you don't want it from the American soldier. You don't want to be noticed or seen.

United States is no help to Iraqi women By BONNIE ERBE Wednesday, April 19, 2006
... women's basic rights under the Hussein regime were guaranteed in the constitution and more importantly respected, with women often occupying important government positions. Now, although their rights are still enshrined in the national constitution, activists complain that, in practice, they have lost almost all of their rights."

Moreover, leaders of women's groups say that in Iraq's new government, more men in power follow conservative Sharia (to wit, Islamic law) on women's rights and on their role in society. . .

The report says more men are ordering women to "take the veil" (wear coverings from head to toe), and fewer women are working in professional jobs than when Saddam was in power.

The plight of women in Iraq

by Natasha Walter

To show the negative effects of these developments on women, Zeina travels to Basra. It will not come as news to those who have followed developments in southern Iraq that women are being forced to wear the hijab and prevented from living their lives freely. But it brings these developments home when we see young women and their families talking about being sent bullets and death threats because they played sport or did not wear a headscarf. As Zeina emphasises, this kind of experience is new to most women in Iraq, who enjoyed economic and social freedom before the occupation. "A while ago, I was looking at photographs of my aunt in college in the 60s, wearing pants and sleeveless tops, playing sports in the college yard; and then I looked at the photographs of the women in college today, and they are covered in black from head to toe, their faces also covered."

In Baghdad, women fear everyone
by Joan Ryan
Thursday, January 27, 2005

But over lunch in San Francisco this week, she said her recent visit to Baghdad from her current home in Washington, D.C., was unlike anything she has experienced. She so feared assassination she slept in a different house every night. For the first time in her life, she covered herself with a traditional Muslim scarf when she went outside, afraid of the religious fundamentalists who have been attacking, kidnapping and killing women in professional and leadership roles.

Salbi knows 14 Iraqi women -- businesswomen, translators, activists, journalists, public officials -- who have been slain in the past 10 months. While Salbi was in Baghdad in October, one friend, a pharmacist, was kidnapped and killed; her body found 10 days later on a highway. Her head had been wrapped in a scarf, something she never wore.

Insecurity Driving Women Indoors
(New York, July 16, 2003)

The insecurity plaguing Baghdad and other Iraqi cities has a distinct and debilitating impact on the daily lives of women and girls, preventing them from participating in public life at a crucial time in their country's history, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 17-page report, "Climate of Fear: Sexual Violence and Abduction of Women and Girls in Baghdad," concludes that the failure of Iraqi and U.S.-led occupation authorities to provide public security in Iraq's capital lies at the root of a widespread fear of rape and abduction among women and their families.

"Women and girls today in Baghdad are scared, and many are not going to schools or jobs or looking for work," said Hanny Megally, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch. "If Iraqi women are to participate in postwar society, their physical security needs to be an urgent priority."

Betwixt and between
For young women in Baghdad, it's a disorienting time to be a teen

By Ilana Ozernoy

But more than just a fad or symbol of faith, the hijab , along with long-sleeve shirts and loose skirts, has become a means of security, providing young women the shapeless anonymity that will let them blend into the crowd and out of the eyes of would-be assailants. Fatin Abbas, 17, puts it simply: "People look at me if I wear my hair down. But no one looks at me if I wear a hijab. ". . .

. . .Peer pressure. There is also social pressure to conform--not just from troublesome clerics but also from other women. For Leila Ali Hussein, 20, covering herself from head to toe was a hard-won imperative. "After the fall of the regime, I started covering my face completely," says Leila, who will reveal her bright eyes and toothy grin to only a few close relatives and female friends. She says under Saddam, dressing so conservatively aroused suspicion, if not persecution. Leila's family has suffered hard times since the start of the war. . .

. . .Despite her extreme views, Leila is like many teenage girls. Her walls are covered with pictures of her idol (in this case, the wagging finger and irascible face of the militant street cleric Moqtada al-Sadr). She yearns for a father figure, dreams of a greater role in society, and cries when she doesn't get her way. She is impressionable, motivated, and outraged, and it wasn't long before she found an outlet for her angst in religious extremism. She stopped listening to music, which she now considers un-Islamic, and started praying. She enrolled in religious classes at a Sadr City mosque and reinvented herself as a "warrior."

Just in case you need a reminder of what life was like for women under the Taliban:
Buried Alive: Afghan Women Under the Taliban

. . .Before the Taliban ban on female employment, 70 percent of the teachers in Kabul were women, as were 50 percent of the civil servants and
university students, and 40 percent of the doctors. . .

. . .Why does the regime insist that women be confined at home? Reducing
women to mere objects, the minister of education says, "It's like having a
flower, or a rose. You water it and keep it at home for yourself, to look at
it and smell it. It [a woman] is not supposed to be taken out of the house
to be smelled." Another Taliban leader is less poetic: "There are only two
places for Afghan women: in her husband's house, and in the graveyard.". . .

. . .I have been visiting and reporting on Afghanistan since 1984, and have
traveled extensively throughout the country, but it was only during my visit
last fall that I saw for the first time legions of women and children reduced
to beggary, the result of the Taliban's ban on women's employment. . .

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