Women’s Rights in Iraq Not Better Off

Response to Chicago Tribune’s “Turkish Women Berate U.S. at Hughe’s Talk on Iraq War”

It is fair to say that women in many parts of the Muslim world have been prevented from receiving equal rights with men. But it is not fair to say that the rights of women in Iraq have somehow gotten better because of the presence of American troops in the country, an idea Karen Hughes tried to sell to Muslim women who oppose the war in Iraq.

For many Muslim feminists, their concern over the war in Iraq is a valid one. Not only did the U.N. estimate that more than 39,000 civilians have died in Iraq as a direct cause of combat since the U.S. invasion, but the human rights organization Iraqiyun, estimates that 55 percent of those killed have been women and children. It is true that women were tortured and killed under Saddam’s regime, but the continuing violence in the region, even after Saddam, is making normality for women unobtainable.

The question should not be whether things are “better” for women now than under Saddam, rather are things at a good standard for women now? Amnesty international has found that the amount of rapes, abductions, and killings of Iraqi women has increased since the invasion of Iraq, and these incidents have restricted the movement of women to their work and school because they fear for their lives. Women rights activists are often threatened and even killed in Iraq today. Also women have been sexually abused and threatened by U.S. forces. In fact, after a massive gain in women’s rights in the 1980’s, women’s rights had its biggest fall after the first Gulf War. So, with evidence from highly respected organizations, I think it is safe to say that the conditions for women in Iraq is far from good, and even to say that it is better than under Saddam’s government may be too hasty of a conclusion.