In the port of Basra, Iraq's second largest city, the walls are covered with graffiti. The message, written in red, is clear: women who wear too much make-up or do not cover your hair: you are risking your life. Too late, sadly, for some. Around forty women have already been killed for this offence in the past year. Their bodies are often found in rubbish bins, decapitated or mutilated, and accompanied by messages like ‘killed for adultery' or ‘killed for violating Islamic law'.
These crimes have shocked Iraqi bloggers. Most of them condemn the events, but they're divided over the reasons behind the atrocities. Opposed to the occupation, the blog of the Iraqi women's association asserts that the U.S. and their allies are manipulating this affair so that they can depict Iraqis as an uncivilised and violent people. ‘Treasure of Baghdad', an exiled Iraqi blogger, despairs to see Basra fall into the hands of a ‘new Taliban'. And American editor and journalist Robert Stein questions the responsibility of George Bush's government in this chaos.
We condemn all violence against women and ultimately blame the occupying countries for it. We ask ourselves why their governments are suddenly interested in women's welfare. What is their real political motive? We assert that the fight for women's rights must not be manipulated by political issues and we condemn the western media for attempting to demonise the Iraqis as a nation of uncivilised and violent people, prepared to massacre their own women and children."
8 December 2007
Moqtada al-Sadr's men were the first to deny their involvement in these high-profile deaths. Salam al-Maliki, a close contact of the Islamic leader, declared in al-Arabiya that the police are exaggerating the story. He added that some Christian and Muslim women dress incorrectly at university, but that they're not forced to wear the Hijab. But women there are saying the opposite...(...).
The women in Basra need help. I call on humanitarian organisations and women's rights NGOs to make sure that my country's women don't fall into the hands of the Taliban. There's no point in putting my trust into male Iraqi politicians to take on the problem, when they're extremists themselves (...)."
7 December 2007
Post your questions to Treasure of Baghdad, our Observer for Iraq.
As American politicians debate the future of the country we invaded almost five years ago, what is happening in Basra, "known for its mixed population and night life" under Saddam Hussein, is a chilling reminder of what we will leave behind, no matter how well the Surge works.
Can the sectarian madness we unleashed be negotiated away by Nouri al-Maliki [Prime minister of Iraq] in Baghdad? (...).
When President Bush makes his next self-congratulatory speech about bringing the blessings of democracy to Iraq, someone should ask him about the women of Basra (...)."
11 December 2007