Iraq: women's views


"Stronger Women. Stronger Nations - 2008 Iraq Report"
In a report released on March 2, Women for Women International reviews the current situation of women in Iraq.

"It has been five years since the American invasion of Iraq and while the mistakes made there continue to accumulate still no-one has stopped to listen to what this critical mass of the population, women, have to say about solving the problems," said Zainab Salbi of Women for Women International.

The 34-page report compares women's opinions and situations from a survey in 2003 with new data from interviews with 1500 Iraqi women in 2007.

Some of the results, quoted in a BBC report, show the worsening of women's situation in Iraq:

26.9% optimistic about the situation in Iraq

63.9% said violence against them had increased

76.2% said girls in their family were not allowed to attend school

68.3% described the availability of jobs as "bad"

70.5% said their family cannot afford to pay for the necessities

43.6% did not think that the circumstances of women were considered by decision-makers.
Download the report here:


Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq... let's talk war, politics and occupation.

"... I'll meet you 'round the bend my friend, where hearts can heal and souls can mend..."

In August 2003 a blog was started by 'Riverbend': "I'm female, Iraqi and 24. I survived the war. That's all you need to know. It's all that matters these days anyway."

In April 2007 she posted a message saying that her family had finally decided to leave, joining the millions of Iraqis who are refugees in neighboring countries and beyond. That was the last message (as of 2 July '07). She wrote:

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Great Wall of Segregation...

…Which is the wall the current Iraqi government is building (with the support and guidance of the Americans). It's a wall that is intended to separate and isolate what is now considered the largest 'Sunni' area in Baghdad- let no one say the Americans are not building anything. According to plans the Iraqi puppets and Americans cooked up, it will 'protect' A'adhamiya, a residential/mercantile area that the current Iraqi government and their death squads couldn't empty of Sunnis.

The wall, of course, will protect no one. I sometimes wonder if this is how the concentration camps began in Europe. The Nazi government probably said, "Oh look- we're just going to protect the Jews with this little wall here- it will be difficult for people to get into their special area to hurt them!" And yet, it will also be difficult to get out.

The Wall is the latest effort to further break Iraqi society apart. Promoting and supporting civil war isn't enough, apparently- Iraqis have generally proven to be more tenacious and tolerant than their mullahs, ayatollahs, and Vichy leaders. It's time for America to physically divide and conquer- like Berlin before the wall came down or Palestine today. This way, they can continue chasing Sunnis out of "Shia areas" and Shia out of "Sunni areas".

I always hear the Iraqi pro-war crowd interviewed on television from foreign capitals (they can only appear on television from the safety of foreign capitals because I defy anyone to be publicly pro-war in Iraq). They refuse to believe that their religiously inclined, sectarian political parties fueled this whole Sunni/Shia conflict. They refuse to acknowledge that this situation is a direct result of the war and occupation. They go on and on about Iraq's history and how Sunnis and Shia were always in conflict and I hate that. I hate that a handful of expats who haven't been to the country in decades pretend to know more about it than people actually living there.

I remember Baghdad before the war- one could live anywhere. We didn't know what our neighbors were- we didn't care. No one asked about religion or sect. No one bothered with what was considered a trivial topic: are you Sunni or Shia? You only asked something like that if you were uncouth and backward. Our lives revolve around it now. Our existence depends on hiding it or highlighting it- depending on the group of masked men who stop you or raid your home in the middle of the night.

On a personal note, we've finally decided to leave. I guess I've known we would be leaving for a while now. We discussed it as a family dozens of times. At first, someone would suggest it tentatively because, it was just a preposterous idea- leaving ones home and extended family- leaving ones country- and to what? To where?

Since last summer, we had been discussing it more and more. It was only a matter of time before what began as a suggestion- a last case scenario- soon took on solidity and developed into a plan. For the last couple of months, it has only been a matter of logistics. Plane or car? Jordan or Syria? Will we all leave together as a family? Or will it be only my brother and I at first?

After Jordan or Syria- where then? Obviously, either of those countries is going to be a transit to something else. They are both overflowing with Iraqi refugees, and every single Iraqi living in either country is complaining of the fact that work is difficult to come by, and getting a residency is even more difficult. There is also the little problem of being turned back at the border. Thousands of Iraqis aren't being let into Syria or Jordan- and there are no definite criteria for entry, the decision is based on the whim of the border patrol guard checking your passport.

An airplane isn't necessarily safer, as the trip to Baghdad International Airport is in itself risky and travelers are just as likely to be refused permission to enter the country (Syria and Jordan) if they arrive by airplane. And if you're wondering why Syria or Jordan, because they are the only two countries that will let Iraqis in without a visa. Following up visa issues with the few functioning embassies or consulates in Baghdad is next to impossible.

So we've been busy. Busy trying to decide what part of our lives to leave behind. Which memories are dispensable? We, like many Iraqis, are not the classic refugees- the ones with only the clothes on their backs and no choice. We are choosing to leave because the other option is simply a continuation of what has been one long nightmare- stay and wait and try to survive.

On the one hand, I know that leaving the country and starting a new life somewhere else- as yet unknown- is such a huge thing that it should dwarf every trivial concern. The funny thing is that it’s the trivial that seems to occupy our lives. We discuss whether to take photo albums or leave them behind. Can I bring along a stuffed animal I've had since the age of four? Is there room for E.'s guitar? What clothes do we take? Summer clothes? The winter clothes too? What about my books? What about the CDs, the baby pictures?

The problem is that we don't even know if we'll ever see this stuff again. We don't know if whatever we leave, including the house, will be available when and if we come back. There are moments when the injustice of having to leave your country, simply because an imbecile got it into his head to invade it, is overwhelming. It is unfair that in order to survive and live normally, we have to leave our home and what remains of family and friends… And to what?

It's difficult to decide which is more frightening- car bombs and militias, or having to leave everything you know and love, to some unspecified place for a future where nothing is certain."


Iraqi Women Under Siege is an excellent, fact-filled new 20 page report from the US peace group CODEPINK. Download from:
“The report shows that from 1958 to the 1990s, Iraq provided more rights and freedoms for women and girls than most of its neighbors. Though Saddam Hussein's dictatorial government and 12 years of severe sanctions reduced these opportunities, Iraqi women were active in all aspects of their society. After the occupation, with the exception of women in Iraqi Kurdistan, women's daily lives have been reduced to a mere struggle for survival.

Women Say NO to WAR: Women's Call for Peace: An Urgent Appeal
This international petition for peace was signed by 100,468 people by March 8, International Women's Day, surpassing the 100,000 goal set by Code Pink.
On March 7 Code Pink reported that:

"March 8 anti-war actions (are) planned in 18 countries and 65 cities in the US! In Hyderabad, Pakistan a group will go to their US Embassy with signatures and a message that 'the Pakistani people don't want war in Iraq.' In Cairo, Egypt they are going to both the US and UK Embassies. On the Fiji island of Suva, women have been wearing pink every Wednesday to spread awareness and get more signatures to deliver to the US Embassy on their island. In Venezuela, after hearing the call from President Hugo Chavez to support the Women Say NO To War campaign, a brand new CODEPINK Caracas chapter formed last week and is organizing an action on March 8th..."

"Gold Star Families for Peace" activist Cindy Sheehan and others were arrested as they tried to present the petition at the UN in New York City. See more on Cindy Sheehan and her recent writings.

In Berlin Women and Life on Earth and others delivered petition posters with the signature totals to the US Embassy and German Chancellor, calling for an end to the US occupation of Iraq and a halt to German support for US illegal war-related activity on German soil.

From Women and Life on Earth on International Women’s Day 2006:
It’s not enough for women to say: “That’s enough!”

Who Will Tell Our Stories? By Medea Benjamin, AlterNet. Posted March 2, 2006. A delegation of Iraqi women who lost family members during the invasion want to visit the U.S. The State Department says no way.

The Samarra Bombing and its Aftermath: A New Face on the Civil War? by Phyllis Bennis and Erik Leaver; Institute for Policy Studies; February 28, 2006 ZNet | Iraq

" It remains unclear who was responsible for the attack on the golden-domed Askariya Shi'a mosque in Samarra. In the two days following the bombing over 200 Iraqis were killed, and the country was put under a day-and-night curfew... The spike in sectarian violence does not reflect a sudden danger of civil war. Rather, if it continues to escalate it may lead to a shift from the existing low-intensity political civil war between supporters (reluctant or not) of the U.S. occupation and opponents of that occupation, to a civil war identified largely along sectarian lines..."



Iraqi Mother's Open letter to Cindy Sheehan:

..."Being a mother myself I have been following your campaign to pull out the US armed forces from Iraq. Having lost my son, as yourself, on the same battle-field, IRAQ, but on opposite sides, I felt both compassion and relief to have an ally on the other side..."
17 November 2005


The World Tribunal on Iraq

"The attack on Iraq is an attack on justice, on liberty, on our safety, on our future, on us all"
After two years of hearings and research, the closing session of this international investigation on the causes and effects of the US-led war on Iraq was held in Istanbul, Turkey from June 23-27, 2005.
Press Release about Jury Statement

Four women's voices from the Tribunal

The Most Cowardly War in History: Opening Statement of Arundhati Roy, 24 June 2005

.."The testimonies at the previous sessions of the World Tribunal on Iraq in Brussels and New York have demonstrated that even those of us who have tried to follow the war in Iraq closely are not aware of a fraction of the horrors that have been unleashed in Iraq... The assault on Iraq is an assault on all of us: on our dignity, our intelligence, and our future.

We recognize that the judgment of the World Tribunal on Iraq is not binding in international law. However, our ambitions far surpass that. The World Tribunal on Iraq places its faith in the consciences of millions of people across the world who do not wish to stand by and watch while the people of Iraq are being slaughtered, subjugated, and humiliated."

Towards A New Political Imaginary: Corinne Kumar, Women in Black India, El Taller International, Asian Women’s Human Rights Council
Read this inspiring speech on the informative website of Women in Black Leuven (Belgium)

"Only the imagination stands between us and fear : fear makes us behave like sheep when we should be dreaming like poets...
We must seek new imaginaries from the South : the South not only as third world, as the civilizations of Asia, the Arab world, Africa, Latin America; but the South as the voices and movements of peoples, wherever these movements exist; the South as the visions and wisdoms of women..."

Eve Ensler's Letter to America, written at the close of the Tribunal. She challenges America to wake up and act.

"Dear America,
I am longing to reach you-crossing this river of indifference and consumption and denial. I am trying to find you, reaching out through the desperate limitations of words and descriptions, swimming through the rhetoric of terror and God..."

Jodie Evans reports for CodePink
Also on Alternet:

Views on Iraq

"Anti-war organizing that began within days of September 11th and kicked into high gear in the run-up to Bush's war in Iraq is paying off..." writes Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies in a widely circulated article: Tipping Point, 28 June 2005 See other articles by Phyllis Bennis

28 June: Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) offered the following statement in response to President Bush’s speech on Iraq 

"The President misled the American people about this war, and he has no credibility on Iraq. There were no Weapons of Mass Destruction. There was no connection between Saddam and al Qaeda. There was no post war planning, and our nation is less safe as a result..."

20 June 2005: Phase II of the Anti-War Movement
By Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK, on 

"For the history books, mark down June 2005 as the moment the US movement against the occupation of Iraq got its second wind. In June, the US public became solidly anti-war, Bush's approval rating took a nosedive, and a significant number of Congresspeople started to call for an exit strategy..."

Oil-For-Food is Small Potatoes
By Molly Ivins, AlterNet. Posted April 1, 2005.

"Some days, it's hard to pick the outrage du jour, but hypocrisy is always an inviting target, and the United Nations oil-for-food scandal provides a two-fer..."


The Invasion of Falluja: A Study in the Subversion of Truth
Mary Trotochaud and Rick McDowell,
American Friends Service Committee's representatives in Iraq. Their home is in Baghdad, but they are temporarily living in Amman, Jordan.

"The illegal invasion, occupation, and subsequent violence perpetrated on the people of Iraq has lent considerable evidence to the assertion that truth is the first casualty of war.

It's hard to get past the US Administration's rhetoric that the siege of Falluja was an operation of pacification to ensure the Iraqi population's participation in free and democratic elections planned for late January. Is it not Orwellian that annihilation and occupation have been redefined to represent pacification and liberation? One wonders if the entire nation of Iraq isn't being destroyed in the name of saving it.

Falluja should go down in history as a case study on how truth is subverted, co-opted, buried, and ignored..."

For more on Falluja:  

A view of the situation of women in war-torn Iraq from Houzan MahMoud, an Iraqi living in Britain and United Kingdom head of the
Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq
. This article was first published in The Independent in Britain. 30 January 2005, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Iraqi women find election a cruel joke
By Houzan MahMoud

" I am an Iraqi woman, and I am boycotting the elections. Women who do vote will be voting for an enslaved future. Surely, say those who support these elections, after decades of tyranny, here at last is a form of democracy, imperfect, but democracy nevertheless? ...

Honoring Marla Ruzicka
The senseless violence that surrounds -- and is caused by -- the US occupation of Iraq is brought home again, with the death of a young activist working for compensation for civilian victims of the war. Visit her organization's website for a visual display honoring her life and work, The Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict: "CIVIC is a small organization working to obtain U.S. Government assistance for communities and families in need, while helping to shine a spotlight on the human costs of war." CIVIC Worldwide

A few of many articles written by those who knew her:
Remembering a Friend Killed in Iraq
Medea Benjamin, Kevin Danaher, AlterNet
Marla Ruzicka was a bright, shining light whose work focused on trying to bring some compassion into the middle of a war zone.

Fighting through cynicism
Remembering Marla Ruzicka as someone who didn't let the warmongers impede her quest for justice
By Camille T. Taiara, San Francisco Bay Guardian

Just before her death, Marla Ruzicka wrote about the importance of recording and publicly releasing Iraqi civilian casualty numbers.
Why Numbers Matter
By Marla Ruzicka, AlterNet. Posted April 20, 2005. 

What Are We Fighting For? By Lakshmi Chaudhry
27 January 2005, Alternet
An excellent interview: writer Naomi Klein talks about the US presidential election, the failure of the Kerry campaign and its effects on the continuing war in Iraq. Several quotes:

..."First of all, I believe that an anti-war campaign could have won the election. But even if you think I'm crazy, I believe that an anti-war campaign would have done a better job at losing the election (laughs). Elections are also moments where issues get put on the national agenda. If there had been (an anti-war) candidate with courage, for instance, it would have been impossible for Bush to name Alberto Gonzales as his candidate for attorney general. It was Kerry's silence more than Bush's win that allowed Bush to make such a scandalous appointment.

When the siege in Fallujah happened (days after the election), and the violations of the Geneva Convention were at a completely new level, there were no questions raised in the mainstream press. The New York Times reported these incidents without even an editorial or interview of experts on international law about whether it was legitimate to attack all the medical care facilities and so on. This to me is Kerry's legacy... We need to develop an agenda based on the demands coming from Iraq for reparations, for total debt erasure, for complete control over the oil revenues, for a cancellation of the contracts signed under the occupation, and so on. This is what real sovereignty would look like, real self-determination — we know this...""Shock and awe were what our military promised the Iraqis. And shock and the awful are what these photographs announce to the world that the Americans have delivered: a pattern of criminal behavior in open contempt of international humanitarian conventions..."

Regarding the Torture of Others a powerful critique of U.S. torture in Iraq by Susan Sontag

"Shock and awe were what our military promised the Iraqis. And shock and the awful are what these photographs announce to the world that the Americans have delivered: a pattern of criminal behavior in open contempt of international humanitarian conventions..."

The costs of war

November 2004, Western Massachusetts

War affects everyone, not just those directly involved in the fighting.

The National Priorities Project website shows the ever-updated dollar costs to US taxpayers -- and what could be done with those funds -- instead of destruction.

The War has cost 100,000 Iraqi lives: Lancet study 29 October 2004: The first scientific study of the human cost of the Iraq war suggests that at least 100,000 civilians have lost their lives since their country was invaded in March 2003. More than half of those who died were women and children killed in air strikes, researchers say. Iraqi people are now 58 times more likely to die a violent death.
Download 8 page study at:

The Iraq Body Count Project:
"an independent and comprehensive public database of media-reported civilian deaths in Iraq resulting directly from military action by the USA and its allies..."

Iraq Coalition Casualty Count
A detailed listing of the killed and wounded among the occupying forces in Iraq.

The terrible totals grow. Turners Falls, Massachusetts, November 2004

US military casualties: 10,000+ wounded as New Year starts

4 January 2005: "The number of U.S. troops wounded in Iraq since the start of the war in March 2003 has surpassed 10,000, the Pentagon said Tuesday in a delayed update of its casualty data. Of the 10,252 total wounded, the Pentagon said 5,396 were unable to return to duty and 4,856 sustained injuries that were light enough to allow them to resume their duties...

The number of U.S. military deaths in Iraq stood at 1,335 on Tuesday, according to the Pentagon." Read full story at:

The Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors supports and promotes individual and collective resistance to war and preparations for war.



Veterans for Peace Veterans Working Together for Peace & Justice Through Non-violence. Wage Peace!

Gold Star Families for Peace
We as families of soldiers who have died as a result of war are organizing to be a positive force in our world to bring our country’s sons and daughters home from Iraq, to minimize the “human cost” of this war, and to prevent other families from the pain we are feeling as the result of our losses.

48 Vermont Towns Vote Against Iraq War, Call for State's National Guard to Come Home
Wednesday, March 2nd, 2005
In Vermont, 48 town meetings voted last night to condemn the war in Iraq and to call on political leaders to bring home the state's National Guard. Vermont has lost more soldiers per capita than any state, and has the second highest mobilization rate for its National Guard and reservists.

Background on Iraq and Iraqi women: Country Profiles, Reports and Fact Sheets from the United Nation's UNIFEM

For more information on Iraq: Iraq Occupation Watch website has a special women's page; see also Alternet's War on Iraq site, with further links; Information Clearing House; Robert Fisk Website This site was launched by a 22-year-old veteran from Peaks Island, Maine who was granted conscientious objector status from the Army last November, and is sharing what he learned with others. Perry O'Brien served a tour in Afghanistan as an airborne medic before he was honorably discharged.
for longer report on site See also: Veterans for Peace (Maine)

Organisation for Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) - a women's a women's political organisation working in Iraq, advocating Iraqi women’s rights and setting up women's shelters etc. Publishes a regular newsletter.

Act Together: Women's Action for Iraq "We are a group of UK-based Iraqi and non-Iraqi women. We formed in 2000 to campaign against the economic sanctions on Iraq and, since late 2001, also campaigned against the US/US invasion of Iraq. Now our focus is on the occupation and the support of independent grassroots women’s initiatives in Iraq."

Future of Iraq Portal "A linksite focusing on empowering the Iraqi people" offers hundreds of links on Iraq and issues of war and peace in the region.

In 2003, Dick Cheney's former firm Halliburton received contracts from the Department of Defense worth $4.3 billion. See
The Center for Public Integrity's chart:
Post-War Contractors Ranked by Total Contract Value in Iraq and Afghanistan From 2002 through July 1, 2004