[S]ince the 2003 invasion, advances that took 50 years to establish are crumbling away. In much of the country, women can only now move around with a male escort. Rape is committed habitually by all the main armed groups, including those linked to the government. Women are being murdered throughout Iraq in unprecedented numbers.So-called "honor killings" have risen dramatically. Because there is no state government to regulate the safety of women, cultural and religious factions have taken it upon them selves to enforce rules as they see fit:
In October the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (Unami) expressed serious concern over the rising incidence of so-called honour crimes in Iraqi Kurdistan, confirming that 255 women had been killed in just the first six months of 2007, three-quarters of them by burning. An earlier Unami report cited 366 burns cases in Dohuk in 2006, up from 289 the year before, although most were not fatal. In Irbil, the emergency management centre had reported 576 burns cases since 2003, resulting in 358 deaths.We keep hearing from this administration that violence is down in Iraq. Just a week ago, General Petraeus seemed guardedly optimistic about the situation in Iraq, saying that there is improvement, although there is still a great deal of danger still. The drumbeat from the White House, however, is still "stay the course" (although I haven't heard that phrase in a while, have you? In fact, I think the trend has been: "Mission accomplished," Stay the course," and now "Guarded optimism.").
The Iraqi penal code prescribes leniency for those who commit such crimes for "honourable motives", enabling some of the men involved to get off with no more than a fine.
[A] man from Kirkuk ... accused his sister of adultery. "When we asked him why he wanted to kill his sister, he said, 'Because it is now a democracy in Iraq'. He thought that democracy meant he could do whatever he wanted." But the man's stupidity hid an important point: under the new system of government developing in Iraq, family disputes are increasingly settled not in state courts but by local tribal or religious authorities.
So while those in office and those running for office would tell us that things are improving Iraq, I remind them of the words of Abigail Adams: Remember the ladies.
UPDATE: From Human Rights Watch, more background on the deterioration of women's lives in Iraq since U.S. involvement there:
Historically, Iraqi women and girls have enjoyed relatively more rights than many of their counterparts in the Middle East. The Iraqi Provisional Constitution (drafted in 1970) formally guaranteed equal rights to women and other laws specifically ensured their right to vote, attend school, run for political office, and own property. Yet, since the 1991 Gulf War, the position of women within Iraqi society has deteriorated rapidly. Women and girls were disproportionately affected by the economic consequences of the U.N. sanctions, and lacked access to food, health care, and education. These effects were compounded by changes in the law that restricted women's mobility and access to the formal sector in an effort to ensure jobs to men and appease conservative religious and tribal groups.And from the Washington Post recently:
Before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, was known for its mixed population and night life. Now, in some areas, red graffiti threatens any woman who wears makeup and appears with her hair uncovered: "Your makeup and your decision to forgo the headscarf will bring you death."
Khalaf said bodies have been found in garbage dumps with bullet holes, decapitated or otherwise mutilated with a sheet of paper nearby saying, "she was killed for adultery," or "she was killed for violating Islamic teachings." In September, the headless bodies of a woman and her 6-year-old son were among those found, he said. A total of 40 deaths were reported this year.