Female Oppression in Iraq
The state of women in Iraq has seen many ups and downs in history, but still oppression remains. In this article, we would explore what factors contribute to such oppression as well as what this means for the women in Iraq.
There has been a large significant improvement of women’s lives in Iraq from the 1960s to the early 1980s because of the Ba’ath Party, something that placed Iraq on the forefront of protection of women’s rights in the Middle East before. In 1948, Iraq introduced the first female judge in the Middle East. The improvement of women’s lives was also something that was indicative of the advancement of Iraq’s society as many consider how civilised a community is by how well their women are treated. However, these improvements and the Ba’ath Party’s effort in the history of emancipation of women left little mark as Saddam Hussein’s regime took over in 1979.
Saddam Hussein’s governance led to a general deterioration of the protection of human rights. However, things grew worse for the women as the government consolidated its power and controlled the people by collaboration with Islamic extremists and powerful religious tribal leaders. Particular laws that were set up put women at an even bigger disadvantage and this creates a smokescreen for sex-selective genocide. For instance, Law 101 which states that alleged prostitution is punishable by death. The regime, masquerading their killings as enforcement of this law, killed hundreds of women dissidents as well as female relatives of male dissidents.
When the Saddam regime fell, many women hoped of freedom once again, greatly expecting the fulfillment of the promise of democracy. Promises of democracy, equality and freedom have been largely brushed aside for Iraqi women today. The country is very much under the control of militant groups.
“Basra police chief Gen. Jalil Hannoon told reporters and Arab TV channels in December that at least 40 women had been killed during the previous five months in that city alone.” (Jamil, Dahr, 2008).
"Many professional women have stopped working. They are being forced to stay at home", said Manal Omar, the Iraq director of Women for Women International in November 2004. This climate of fear has caused women to remain at home most of the time. In early 2007, it was found that 70 per cent of girls in Iraq have abandoned their education. Due to the sex-selective killings, women no longer feel safe to go out to study or to work. This is indeed ironic of a democratic state, which by definition, is one that is based on the principles of protection of human rights.
Not only are women abused in the name of Islam, women are subordinated in their homes by their husbands as well. A study done by the NGO, Physicians for Human Rights in 2003 shows that half of both men and women feel that it is right and just for husbands to abuse their wives if she disobeys him. This violence in the family was exacerbated by the regime of Saddam Hussein due to the political pressures and economic hardships.
The female oppression that occurs in Iraq is due largely to the violence against women, such that women are unable to take on larger roles in society, unable to study and work and unable to improve their lives. While we mourn over the loss of many Iraqi women, we have to look towards the future and consider that much has to be done to eradicate the domination of women at the grassroots in Iraq to create a stable and harmonious society.