Women’s Rights in Iraq
The opinion piece by my wife, Shahin Cole, and myself in the LA Times on Sunday on women’s rights in Iraq is available for the moment at google’s news service. This is part of what we say:
“The adoption of the new Fundamental Law, or interim constitution, by the Governing Council raised many questions about the future treatment of women. A recently published Arabic draft of the document contains many passages supportive of women’s rights. These paragraphs, however, may conflict with other provisions. The law says that Islam is the official religion and that it is “a fundamental source” of legislation. It also bars laws that would directly contradict the Muslim legal code, or Sharia. The prominence of Islam need not undercut women’s rights, but if the Fundamental Law is interpreted in a fundamentalist or patriarchal way, women could be harmed.
Also of interest is another recent op-ed on the condition of women, which looks more at the economic and security issues than we do (our charge was to consider the impact of the interim constitution). See Houzan Mahmud, “An empty sort of freedom”.
She writes ” From the start of the occupation, rape, abduction, “honour” killings and domestic violence have became daily occurrences. The Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (Owfi) has informally surveyed Baghdad, and now knows of 400 women who were raped in the city between April and August last year. A lack of security and proper policing have led to chaos and to growing rates of crime against women. Women can no longer go out alone to work, or attend schools or universities. An armed male relative has to guard a woman if she wants to leave the house. Girls and women have become a cheap commodity to be traded in post-Saddam Iraq. Owfi knows of cases where virgin girls have been sold to neighbouring countries for $200, and non-virgins for $100. “