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Template:Tone Islam is the official religion of Iraq with about 95% of the population practicing the faith.

Women’s social status and rights in Iraq have been violated and thrown aside for many years. Making up 65% of the Iraqi population, women are a vital part of the culture.[1] They make up 70% of the agricultural workforce[2] Forced to marry strangers, wear certain types of clothing and give up their education, the women of Iraq are violently oppressed.

With an estimated population of 22,675,617, Iraq is a male dominated society.[3] Although there are many classes and casts within the culture, the official language of Iraq is Arabic. Women hold no power or status mostly because they live in a patrilocal and patrilineal society. She cannot own property and inherits less than half of what a man does only because of her sex.

Historical background

To appreciate women’s achievements in this society, it is important to look at the history of their position in the society and how wars and successions in dynasties and governments have affected their roles.

During the seventh century the lamas as a part of their conquest were fighting the Persians, who were defeated. As Doreen Ingrams, the author of The Awakened: Women in Iraq, noticed, “Arab women [were] shown in the mural tending the wounded or burying the dead. They [were] wearing black clothes similar in design to those worn by the soldiers, however, are in white. In the early days of Islam [women] were considered to be ‘partners’ both in war and in peace” (p. 20). It was a time when women’s help was needed. In particular, a woman called Amina bint Qais “at the age of seventeen was the youngest woman to lead a medical team in one of these early battles.[4] After their victory, the Arabs that began ruling Mesopotamia named that country Iraq. In 750 AD, during the Abbasid Caliphate, women “became renowned for their brains as well as their beauty” (p. 22). However, even then many girls were being captured as slaves. Despite that fact, “many of the well known women of the time were slave girls who had been trained from childhood in music, dancing and poetry. Another feminine figure to be remembered for her achievements was Tawaddud, “a slave girl who was said to have been bought at great cost by Haroun al Rasid because she had passed her examinations by the most eminent scholars in astronomy, medicine, law, philosophy, music, history, Arabic grammar, literature, theology and chess” (p. 23). Moreover, among the most prominent feminine figures was Shuhda who was known as “the Scholar” or “the Pride of Women” during the twelfth century in Baghdad. Despite the recognition of women’s aptitudes during the Abbasid dynasty, all these were reversed in 1258 when Baghdad was attacked by the Mongols. After that, the city of Baghdad was “given over to an orgy of massacre, plunder and devastation […]”[5]. With the departure of the Mongols a succession of Persian rivalries followed until 1553, when the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman captured Baghdad and its provinces, which became parts of the Turkish empire.[6]

The Turks “had inflexible rules concerning women. They enforced the segregation of the sexes, the education of girls was limited and any importance attached to women was generally attributable to the positions held by their husbands”.

However, all these ended with the fall of the Turks. Britain was given the Mandate for administering Iraq by the League of Nations and therefore a new era began in Iraq under British rule. In the 1920’s there was a “major uprising where women took part” (p. 27). In 1932, Iraq was declared independent and in 1958 was declared a Republic as a member of the League of Nations. As Doreen Ingrams argues, instability was dominating the region until 1968 when “the Ba’th Party took control over the President Al Bakr and Iraq began to enjoy a period of stability” (28). Saddam Hussein succeeded Al Bakr as President in 1979.

Education for a woman

Iraq established an education system in 1921 and by the 1970s education became public and free at all levels.[7] This changed in the 1990s when the first Gulf War ensued and economic sanctions caused educational institutions to rapidly debilitate. Girls now account for only 26% of total enrollment in primary and secondary schools and, of those girls, 31% end up dropping out. Families cannot afford the expense of travel each day to and from the school. There are approximately 1,000 schools in the country and almost all are built from straw, mud or tents. 70% of these schools lack clean water.

Marriage

By law, a woman has to be fifteen years or older to get married. Marriage and family are necessities for economic needs, social control and mutual protection within the family. Traditionally, parents arrange marriages for their children; however, in less conservative groups children can pick their partners. When a woman is looking for a husband, many parents find cousins to be ideal partners because it keeps the wealth within the family. Consent from girls is becoming more important within this social contract and, nowadays, it is rare for the girl to not have met the man.

Ever since 1982 women have been forbidden to marry a non-Iraqi man because a marriage must be within the same kin group. In March 2008 an Iraqi 17-year-old girl was violently murdered by her father and two older brothers for becoming friendly with a British soldier. When her mother ran away out of defiance of such a cruel act, she was found dead on her street, shot in the head twice. The father was released after two hours of questioning from the Iraqi police force and was neither charged nor tried with the murder of his own daughter, although he had confessed to killing her.[8] This is an example of the systematic discrimination and violence women face every day for the simple sin of being a woman.

In the Muslim faith, marriage is a civil contract between the two families.[9] Men pay a dowry to the bride and her family, which consists of two parts: one to her family when they are first married and two to her if they are ever divorced. There are also two parts of the wedding, which includes the engagement party called the "kuutbah" and the wedding ceremony or contract signing, the "katb al-kitab".[10]

There are two forms of Muslims in Iraq, the Shiites, which account for the majority of the country, and the Sunnis.

When a married girl leaves her family she becomes a loyal member of her husband’s family. This is where oppression of women becomes very prevalent. She has to relinquish loyalty to her own father and brothers and identify herself solely with her husband's family. In practice, a woman still keeps ties with her blood family and, if there is a marital dispute, she can leave and live with her family if the husband allows.[11]

Polygamy is the practice of men taking more than one wife. This custom is not practiced often in Iraq, making up only 2% of the population. A man is allowed to have a maximum of four wives and of the 2% that practice this tradition it is very rare to see a husband with more than two brides. A marriage to a second wife requires the consent of the first wife.[12]

Divorce is a very modern practice in Iraq.[13] It was not always this easy to escape from a marriage; however, over time, repeated divorce has become common in some urban areas. A man may remarry right away, but a woman cannot for three months, traditionally, because she has to make sure she is not pregnant. Divorced women usually return to their father or brother’s homes where she receives the second half of her wedding dowry. Children of divorced parents belong to the father, but mothers usually raise them until they are eight or nine before giving them to the fathers.[14]

The veil

The Islamic headscarf, known as a veil or hijab, is a loose cloth topped by a scarf worn around the head and under the chin, covering all hair and both ears.

The Veil was considered to play a major role in the Muslim culture. Like Valentine M. Moghamad argues, "the veil or not to veil is a recurring issue in Muslim countries. Polemics surrounding hijab (modest Islamic dress for women) abound in every country"[15]. In general, despite its lost significance, Doreen Insgrams argues that even though "many women are still veilled, [...] the veil has lost its significance and has become nothing more than a habit that some find difficult to discard"[16].

Abuse of women since the invasion.

Many people feel it is due to the ongoing terror wrought in this land that brings so much oppression to women. Prior to the arrival of forces in Iraq, Iraqi women were free to wear whatever they liked and go wherever the chose.[17] The Iraqi constitution of 1970 gave women equality and liberty in the Muslim world, but since the invasion, women’s rights have fallen to the lowest in Iraqi history.[18]

Since the invasion in 2003 "Iraqi women have been brutally attacked, kidnapped and intimidated from participating in the Iraqi society"[19]. Another attack on women's rights was done by Yanar Mohammed, an Iraqi feminist who "asserts unequivocally that war and occupation have cost Iraqi women their legal standing and their everyday freedom of dress and movement"[20]. She continues by arguing that "The first losers in all these were women" [21].

Arising from their fear of being raped and harassed, women have to wear not only the veil, but must also to wear the black dress in order not to attract attention. In an online edition of Guardian, the reporter Mark Lattiner reports that despite promises and hopes given to the Iraqi population that their lives were going to change, Iraqi women's lives "have become immeasurably worse, with rapes, burnings and murders [now] as a daily occurrence"[22].

Women's social life

Valentine M. Moghadam, author of Modernizing Women: Gender and Social Changes in the Middle East, argues that women were the first whose social life was affected by the economy and in cases of war. The "onset of the war with Iran brought about a toughening of the state's position on women." Women were not allowed to travel without their husbands, fathers, or guardians and their role was to bear children.[23] In general in cases of war, as Nadje Sadig Al-Ali, author of Iraqi Women: Untold Stories from 1948 to the Present, argues, "women carried the conflicting double burden of being the main motors of the state bureaucracy and the public sector, the main breadwinners and heads of households but also the mothers of 'future soldiers'[24]. Moreover, Saddam Hussein, "in an attempt to maintain legitimacy after the Gulf War by appeasing conservative patriarchal constituencies, brought in anti-woman legislation, such as the 1990 presidential decree granting immunity to men who had committed honour crimes"[25]. By legalizing these so called honor killings women's roles and their social status in the society, were further undermined during Saddam Hussein's presidency.

As noted by Yasmine Husein, author of Women in Iraq, the traditional role of women in Iraq is confined mainly to domestic responsibilities and nurturing the family. The wide scale destruction of the Iraq's infrastructure (i.e., sanitation, water supply and electricity) as a result of war and sanctions worsened their situation. Women in the process, assumed extra burdens and domestic responsibilities in society, as opposed to their male counterparts.[26]

Like in many Muslim societies, there has been strong resistance faced in the struggle to liberate women and their social status. ("Our women are different from your women!")- a phrase used to support the above ideologies. Due to the Western media's obsession with women's oppression and symbols of Islam however, there has been some significant differences in women's current status, as opposed to the situation prior to the Iraq invasion.[27]

References

Template:Ibid

  1. Al-Jawaheri, Yasmin H. Women in Iraq. New York: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2008. 37-51. Print.
  2. Harris, George L. Iraq: It's People, It's Society, It's Culture. New Haven, CT: Hraf Press, 1958. 11-17. Print.
  3. Iraqi Women: Facts and Figures Ed. Jon Holmes. Inter-Agency Information and Analysis Unit, 18 Feb. 2004. Web. 13 Jan. 2010. <http://www.unis.unvienna.org/pdf/factsheets/Iraqi_Women_Facts.pdf>.
  4. Doreen Insgrams, The Awakened: Women in Iraq. (Third World Centre for Research and Publishing Ltd., Lebanon, 1983),21
  5. Anthony Nutting, The Arabs. (Hollis and Carter, 1964), p. 196
  6. Doreen Insgrams, The Awakened: Women in Iraq. (Third World Centre for Research and Publishing Ltd., Lebanon, 1983), 25
  7. Lancasten, Janine L. Education in Iraq Knsldfns. Admaveg, 2000. Web. 17 Jan. 2010. <http://www.nationsencyclopedia.com/Asia-and-Oceania/Iraq-EDUCATION.html>.
  8. Sarhan, Afif , and Caroline Davies. 'My Daughter Deserved to Die for Falling in Love' The Guardian, 11 May 2008. Web. 21 Jan. 2010. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/may/11/iraq.humanrights>.
  9. Stone, Peter G., and Joanne F. Bajjaly, eds. The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq. Rochester, NY: The Boydell Press, 2008. 24-40. Print.
  10. Iraq . Baltimore: The Lord Baltimore Press, 1946. 26-34. Print.
  11. Raphaeli, Nimrod . Culture in Iraq Middle East Forum, July 2007. Web. 13 Jan. 2010. <http://www.meforum.org/1707/culture-in-post-saddam-iraq>.
  12. Harris, George L. Iraq: It's People, It's Society, It's Culture. New Haven, CT: Hraf Press, 1958. 11-17. Print.
  13. Al-Jawaheri, Yasmin H. Women in Iraq. New York: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2008. 37-51. Print.
  14. Stone, Peter G., and Joanne F. Bajjaly, eds. The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq. Rochester, NY: The Boydell Press, 2008. 24-40. Print.
  15. Valentine M. Moghadam. Modernizing Women: Gender and Social Change in the Middle East. (Lynne Rienner Publishers, London, 1993), 25
  16. Doreen Insgrams, The Awakened: Women in Iraq. (Third World Centre for Research and Publishing Ltd., Lebanon, 1983),87
  17. Al-Ali, Nadje, and Nicola Pratt. What Kind of Liberation: Women and the Occupation of Iraq. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2009. 105-107. Print.
  18. Al-Ali, Nadje, and Nicola Pratt. What Kind of Liberation: Women and the Occupation of Iraq. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2009. 105-107. Print.
  19. Ghali Hassan, 'How to Erase Women's Rights in Iraq', (Global Research, October, 2005)
  20. Guernica, 'First Victims of Freedom (Magazine of Arts and Politics, May, 2007)
  21. Ibid
  22. Mark Lattimer, 'Freedom Lost" (The Guardian,December, 2007)
  23. Valentine M. Moghadam. Modernizing Women: Gender and Social Change in the Middle East. (Lynne Rienner Publishers, London, 1993),58
  24. Nadje Sadig Al-Ali. Iraqi Women: Untold stories from the 1948 to the Present (Zed Books, London, 2007), 168
  25. Nadje Sadig Al-Ali. Iraqi Women: Untold stories from the 1948 to the Present (Zed Books, London, 2007),202
  26. Yasmine Hussein, Al Jawaheri (2008), Women in Iraq, London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 118-119
  27. Nadje Al-Ali & Nicola Pratt (2009), What Kind of Liberalisation: Women and the occupation of Iraq: California: University of California Press, 13-15

Bibliography

Al-Ali, Nadje, and Nicola Pratt. What Kind of Liberation: Women and the Occupation of Iraq. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2009. 105-107. Print.

Al-Jawaheri, Yasmin H. Women in Iraq. New York: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2008. 37-51. Print.

Arlandson, James M. Domestic Violence In Islam American Thinker, 6 June 1999. Web. 11 Jan. 2010. <http://www.answering-islam.org/Authors/Arlandson/beating.htm>.

Fernea, Elizabeth W. Guests of the Sheik. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1969. 12-13. Print.

Harris, George L. Iraq: It's People, It's Society, It's Culture. New Haven, CT: Hraf Press, 1958. 11-17. Print.

Iraq . Baltimore: The Lord Baltimore Press, 1946. 26-34. Print.

Iraqi Women: Facts and Figures Ed. Jon Holmes. Inter-Agency Information and Analysis Unit, 18 Feb. 2004. Web. 13 Jan. 2010. <http://www.unis.unvienna.org/pdf/factsheets/Iraqi_Women_Facts.pdf>.

Khan, Noor, and Heidi Vogt. Taliban Throws Acid on Schoolgirls Sweetness & Light, Nov. 2001. Web. 20 Jan. 2010. <http://sweetness-light.com/archive/iraqi-school-girls-attacked-with-acid>.

Lancasten, Janine L. Education in Iraq Knsldfns. Admaveg, 2000. Web. 17 Jan. 2010. <http://www.nationsencyclopedia.com/Asia-and-Oceania/Iraq-EDUCATION.html>.

Raphaeli, Nimrod . Culture in Iraq Middle East Forum, July 2007. Web. 13 Jan. 2010. <http://www.meforum.org/1707/culture-in-post-saddam-iraq>.

Sarhan, Afif , and Caroline Davies. 'My Daughter Deserved to Die for Falling in Love' The Guardian, 11 May 2008. Web. 21 Jan. 2010. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/may/11/iraq.humanrights>.

Stone, Peter G., and Joanne F. Bajjaly, eds. The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq. Rochester, NY: The Boydell Press, 2008. 24-40. Print.


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