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Iraqi women organizing under occupation

Women's Rights Activists from the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq participate in a demonstration by the Union of the Unemployed in Iraq. Baghdad July 29, 2003. Photo from German magazine Frankfurter Rundschau.

"Iraqi women have a long and valiant tradition of fighting for their rights. In 1958, 45,000 women demonstrated in the streets for their civil rights--a good decade before the modern American feminist movement was born." flyer of Defense of Iraqi Women's Rights asking support for the independent feminist newspaper Equality, based in Bahgdad, July 2003. Contact: shourash@msn.com or Khayal Ibrahim, 96 Deanscroft Square Sca, ON, MIE4W9, Canada

"We have seen how America attacked Iraq, destroyed its socio-economic infrastructure,
and created a political vacuum, and we have seen how the Islamic fundamental groups
have exploited the situation and are terrorizing women, forcing them to wear Hijab. More
than ever, we are hearing now that they throw acid on women's legs if they are walking
in the streets without wearing socks, or if they are not wearing gloves in this burning
summer, where the temperature reaches 45 degrees! [113 degrees Fahrenheit] ...

The USA brought back to force the most reactionary Islamic norms and values, which are
highly discriminative against women, the USA has empowered them in the so-called
Governing council..." Houzan Mahmoud, "The victims should be punished and the criminal
is set free! This is the fair law of the 'liberators'" in Equal Rights Now! fortnightly paper of
the Iraqi Women's Rights Coalition, August 1, 2003 iss. #5 equalrightsnow@hotmail.com, www.equalityiniraq.com


"Conditions in Iraq were horrific. As they described it, things seem to be getting worse
everyday. There is more than 60% unemployment, and those who work often do not get
paid. Lack of safety and security is rampant. American soldiers are always ready to shoot.... According to the speakers, Iraqi people say the U.S. is causing these problems or that the U.S. just sits by and lets them occur so they can punish the Iraqi people, humiliate them, and break their will to refuse the US occupation...

"They also spoke about how women in Iraq are being kidnapped, raped, murdered, and
victimized through "honor killings." They spoke about how Iraqi women are being forced
to stay home, forced out of their jobs, and forced into wearing the veil. They said they
met Yanar Mohamad and visited her organization and the women's shelter she is running.
Her shelter has become a safe heaven for many women... They had a copy of the women's newspaper El Mosavaat (EQUALITY) and were very impressed with work of the organization."
Mahmood Ketabchi, reporting on speech by Patricia Ackerman and Jodie Evans, two New
York City activists, on a June trip to Iraq. They were part of a United for Peace and Justice and Global Exchange delegation to Baghdad. July 18, 2003.


Commenting on the Iraqi Ruling Council, and the tiny number of women appointed to it, Iraqi Women's Rights Coalition activists condemned the whole process:
"No-one has voted for these women to represent them, just as there have been no elections for the Iraqi people which have led to the establishment of the Iraqi Ruling Council...

"They have no interest in listening to what is happening to Iraqi people, in particular women. They do not what to know if women have been raped, abducted or killed and they will not raise questions about them. They do not want to have women's rights activists--struggling for freedom, equality, and an egalitarian society--to be included in their meetings or to voice the opinions of secular women and men that they are representing. They will therefore be prevented from exposing the realities of the suffering of Iraqi women at the hands of both US/UK soldiers and the Islamic groups. U.S. soldiers have started raping women in villages. ...

"There is hope, however. Iraqi people are becoming more organized and mobilising themselves. They are setting up workers' unions, unemployed unions and women's rights organisations. Many others are on the way to be established with thousands of members. These are the real people of Iraq-the grassroots majority which has been ignored. We hope that all people who believe in freedom will give their full support to the Iraqi people and back them in their struggle for a system of equality to be established in Iraq."
Houzan Mahmoud, "The imposed Ruling Council on Iraqis has no legitimacy!" in Equal Rights Now! paper of the Iraqi Women's Rights Coalition, July 15, 2003, #4. equalrightsnow@hotmail.com, www.equalityiniraq.com