The Face of War

U.S.-Occupied Iraq: Women suffer untold violence
March 16, 2007

The radio news magazine “Between The Lines” interviewed Yifat Susskind, communications director with MADRE, an an international women’s human rights organisation based in New York City. Yifat is also author of a report on violence against Iraqi women titled, “Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy: Gender-Based Violence and the US War on Iraq.” The report, made public on March 6 at a meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations, exposes what it calls “the incidence, causes, and legalization of gender-based violence in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion.”

The situation for Iraqi women since that invasion four years ago has deteriorated dramatically by every measure of daily survival: lack of access to clean water, electricity, food, education and jobs. And, as a result of the absence of personal security, women have virtually disappeared from public life in Iraq – yet their disappearance has been barely noted by media coverage of the war, which is not surprising. Our male dominated societies impose violence on women not just through physical brutality but also in a very silent way that makes womens’ submission almost appear to be natural. Pierre Bourdieu called it ‘a symbolic violence’, “a violence that is hardly noticed, almost invisible for the victims on whom it is perpetrated; a violence which is exercised principally via the purely symbolic channels of communication and knowledge (or, to be accurate, mis-knowledge).” While Iraqi women suffer from rape, torture, abduction and murder, the media, ignoring their plight, exclusively focuses on crazed males on both sides playing deadly war games. And when it counts the dead, it only mentions the combatants; women and children literally are un-accounted for.

According to the report, systematic attacks on women and sectarian cleansing are deeply intertwined. One of the main support mechanisms for the violence is a constitutionally enshrined ‘gender apartheid’. Iraq’s constitution, scripted and enacted under the oversight of the U.S. occupation force, has created Sharia law inspired separate and unequal laws for men and women, purely on the basis of gender. And Sharia law also allows unelected, and in some cases self-appointed, people posing as religious authorities to determine the constitutionality of law, on the basis of sometimes very arbitrary and often quite reactionary interpretations of Islamic law.

Read it here.

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