by Yanar Mohammed / Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq –
The following letter was written by Yanar Mohammed to Mr. Paul Bremer, the chief American administrator for the Coalition Provisional Authority, the official ruling body in Iraq at this time. CPT workers have spoken to many Iraqi women who have the described the insecurity of women under the occupation. Many refuse to leave their houses due to matters of safety. The situation is more danderous than under the previous regime. CPT workers have worked with the author of this letter and endorse its contents. You may want to share the main thrust of this letter with your legislative representation or seek wider discussion for this very serious matter.
BAGHDAD (August 24, 2003) — The four months since your troops have taken over in Iraq, proved to have exploded unprecedented violence against women. Hundreds of women endured the pain and sufferings of being kidnapped, raped and sometimes sold. This violence is still a daily occurrence, especially in the streets of Baghdad without attracting the least attention of your troops.
One of the justifications announced by the US administration as a pretext for the military attack was introducing a new era of freedom for women and men in Iraq. Nevertheless, all the subjugation and humiliation that we experienced since your arrival expresses bluntly the falseness of your claims.
Despite ‘Liberation,’ Streets are Still ‘No-woman Zones’
One of the main aspects of these new times, similar to the Baath era, was the discrimination and assaults against women, whether organized by professional gangs or individual crimes supported by male chauvinism unleashed and unobserved by your authorities, consequently turning the streets into no-women zone. The moment a women steps out to the streets, she is an immediate target to humiliation, sexual assault and abduction. The mere fact of her being a women is reason enough for all to invade her humanity and pride unresistantly.
Moreover, hundreds of women and girls were subject to physical assault to be followed by killing sometimes, in spite of devastating ordeal of experiencing rape. This brutal discrimination against women is a daily occurrence under your extensive military existence. After many months of your administrative supervision for founding governmental institutions such as Iraqi police, we do not witness any importance given to the issue of women’s insecurity.
• We demand that you undertake your responsibility of providing us with security as a basis for decent life for more than half of the Iraqi society. We demand the set-up of security guards and patrols in every main street and community center on a twenty four/seven basis.
• We also demand heavy sentences and penalties against sex offenders, on condition that we see concrete results on the streets and not only on paper.
• We demand an administrative and legislative process that grants dignity and self-esteem for women. We will not tolerate your compromise with misogynist reactionary groups that throw the blame on women when they want to justify discrimination, thereby exploiting the violence to force women into historic religious dress code that defies freedom and humanity of women. In case the women do not respond, they are regarded as offenders rather than victims. In other words, we find your cooperation with backward political groups such tribal heads or political Islamists outrageous as the first price paid being the freedoms of women.
Women need a society that supports and empowers their pride and self-esteem. We expect an immediate response to our demand of deserving a secure environment and will not accept continued deterioration of women’s status in Iraq.
You must be aware that you are responsible for this situation. We expect a written answer to our concerns.
— Yanar Mohammed
Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq
The Christian Peace Team (CPT) maintained a continuous presence in Iraq from October 25, 2002 until April 1, 2003. On April 16, team members returned to Baghdad with supplies and a re-newed direction as described by Stewart Vriesinga: “We plan to renew contacts with our friends and neighbors in Baghdad, hear their stories of the invasion and its aftermath, and hold prayer vigils at military checkpoints and other areas of tension.” http://www.cpt.org