How the US invasion affected sectarianism in Iraq

Women in Iraq

“[They] who are running my city, on behalf of God, have destroyed the statues of the city because they are haram [forbidden]. Women’s bodies are shameful, it seems, even if they are made of brass.”
From: “Open Shutters Iraq”

After the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime, there was an increased danger to Iraqi women from Islamist militant and terrorist groups. Women’s groups in Iraq have documented increasing threats by these groups to women, including cases of acid thrown in women’s faces, targeted killings, restrictions of behavior and movement, and pressure to conform to dress code.In 2003, the women of Basra were reported in saying they feared harassment from men and thus restrict movement or were forced to wear a headscarf.


Female students at the University of Basra reported that men would stop at the univeristy gates in groups and if their heads were not covered, begin shouting at them. Reports were stating that Islamist extremists were targeting universities in Iraq through setting bombs on campus, calling for classrooms to be segregated by sex, and attacking female students dressed in Western-style fashions. Pamphlets were found on at some universities declaring: ‘If the boy students don’t separate from the girl students, we will explode the college. Any girl student who does not wear a veil, we will burn her face with chemicals.

Even non-Muslim women are threatened, and some female students have been abducted leaving campus, and threatened if they continued to socialize with male students and did not wear the headscarf.
Suad F: accountant and mother of four who lives in Baghdad neighborhood that was mixed before 2005-2006 sectarian killings said:

“ I resisted for a long time, but last year also started wearing the hijab, after I was threatened by several Islamic militants in front of my house. They are terrorizing the whole neighborhood, behaving as if they were in charge. And they are actually controlling the area….A few months ago they distributed leaflets around the area warning people to obey them and demanding that women should stay at home…I stopped working as an accountant after he invasion because of the lack of security, but I have been helping out in the women’s NGO in the neighborhood…I need to go out. What am I supposed to do now?”

Even marriage between Sunnis and Shiites has become more difficult. According to Iraqi Shiite refugee Rami, who is married to a Sunni woman,

 “After the civil war in 2006, people have to ask if you are Sunni or Shiite before getting married.”

In an interview with Iraqi woman Hadiya, the author of the online blog(now published in a book form), editor Elizabeth Wrigley-Field asks her

A bride in Iraq on her wedding day, who insisted on proceeding with all of the proper rituals of an Iraqi wedding, despite the war.
From: “Open Shutters Iraq”

about sectarianism in Iraq:

Hadiya says:

“Before the war, no one asked for others’ religion. Take me as an example, I didn’t know the difference between Sunni and Shia! Maybe I was just ignorant of these issues, but believe me, others who were more aware of this didn’t care. The war created this moment, when we would be judged according to our religion and faith. I think we are all Iraqi, we were and will always be only Iraqi.”

When in 2005, the new Iraqi constution was drafted, only 9 of the 71 members of the constitutional committee were women, which was a choice of the committee members and representive of the sectarianism which ultimatelly characterized the interim government. Though individuals in Iraq may agree with less representation of women in government, according to Haifa Zangana, author of City of Widows: An Iraqi Women’s Account of War and Resistance, Islam is by no means a religion which is anti-women, rather, it is the corruption of religion which very often condendses women’s righys and interests, so much so that it has become a weapon to control women.

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