Research Paper: Women in Iraq

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Women in Iraq

Brief History of Iraqi Women

The area known as Iraq is referred to as the "cradle of civilization" dating back 5,000 years to the civilization of Mesopotamia. It was Mesopotamia that left ancient artifacts and the first known written laws called the Code of Hammurabi (Iraq History). During this time period, women were considered "partners" in war and in peace (Iraq). They were needed for medical care during wars and one Iraqi female, Amina bin Qais, 17, was the youngest to lead a medical team (Iraq). It must be remembered that even then, girls were often taken as slaves (Iraq).

Eventually Islam became the accepted religion in the area which was strict and unbending toward women. With the invasion of the Mongols in 1258, Baghdad became the scene of massacre, devastation and plunder (Iraq). Women were taken as slaves, raped and killed all in an effort control and rampage the region (Iraq). The Mongols were defeated in 1553 by the Ottoman Empire, led by Sultan Suleiman who captured Baghdad (Iraq) Also known as "the Turks," they had very strict rules regarding women. The sexes were separated, girls received little education and if a woman was noticed for some achievement, it was attributed to her husband's status (Iraq).

Iraq continued to worship Islam throughout this time period and eventually after World War II, the Turkish Empire collapsed (Iraq). This resulted in the League of Nations giving Great Britain the mandate to administer Iraq (Iraq). In 1958, Iraq became a member of the League of Nations and the Ba'th Party took control of the presidency which resulted in more stability (Iraq). In July 1977, Saddam Hussein (Iraq).

Status of Women under Saddam

The most unusual time for women under Saddam occurred during the Iran-Iraq war. Women had to study and work in positions typically reserved for men because so many of the men were in the military (Countries and their Culture-Iraq). Women held jobs as factory workers, dentists and physicians (Countries). Those women who did not voluntarily enter the workforce were instead drafted and then lost 1/3 of their salary to the war effort Countries.

The General Federation for Iraqi Women (GFIW) under the Ba'th Party, claimed to organize women, promote reading and higher education and encouraged women to join the workforce (Countries).

In 1977, the GFIW supported a new law that allowed women to become a military officer if she held a degree in dentistry, medicine of pharmacy (Countries). This of course had no impact on women individually when addressing issues such as polygamy, divorce or inheritance Countries. Indeed, the severe loss of men after the Iran-Iraq War caused in the government offering grants to men if they would marry a widow and as a result polygamy went on a steep climb (Countries).

Saddam used terror and violence to achieve his goals in culture and society (Culture in Post-Saddam Iraq). He exercised strict control over creativity, society and in every day life which resulted in fear, beatings and death (Culture).

Under Saddam, it is believed that the GFIW functioned in the interest of the government, not women Countries. Even when the first woman (in any Arab country) was elected to parliament, it was viewed as a device to make others think that the Iraqi government was a progressive one (Countries). Her achievement had little to no impact for Iraqi women in general (Countries).

The real issue has been the worship of Islam. As the state religion, Islamic law has allowed women to be humiliated, raped, beaten and even killed (Countries). The least of these punishments regards worship in mosques (Countries). If a women happens to be permitted to worship there, they are segregated from the males (Countries). Marriage under Saddam continued to be decided by the bride's father and this was also made part of the cultural practices of Islam in Iraq (Countries). The Saddam government did pass a law that allowed magistrates to overrule the father's choice (Countries). However, the father was still granted the right to choose the next potential groom (Countries). Also in contradiction to actual Islamic law, divorce was normally permitted for the husband only and due to the financial grants from the Saddam government, polygamy continued to rise (Countries). In 1982, a law was passed that prohibited Iraqi women from marrying non-Iraqi men and if they were already married to one, the husband could not inherit (Countries). These are just a few of the tremendous failings permitted by the Iraqi mullahs and imams in direct contradiction of the Koran combined with the terror of the Saddam government (Countries).

Iraqi Women in post-Saddam Iraq

After the United States invaded Iraq, Saddam was toppled from power and eventually captured. The removal of Saddam and the Ba'th Party caused intellectuals to come out from hiding and girls being allowed to attend school (Post-Saddam Conference Series). However, there is still a belief by the Iraqi people that the new government and the United States coalition have failed to improve security (Culture).

The surprising part of the "new" Iraq includes those who continue to hold women to Islamic law (Culture). One writer, a woman named Fatima Rahin Nasir, recently wrote that "the veil protects chastity and honor and is not a punishment from God" (Post-Saddam) . She went on to say that those who do say such negative things have "sick minds" (Post-Saddam). Another article written by a Kufe University Law school scholar, Grufran Dikan Abbas, says women can avoid having deformed children by following the "culture of marriage" as set out by the Prophet and later imams (Post-Saddam). The culture of marriage relates to Islamic law which is quite clear on marriage (Islamic Marital Jurisprudence). The Islamic law specifically requires a contract for marriage and includes the requirement that both parties be able to provide informed legal consent (Islamic). Additional provisions include prohibiting marriage to very close blood relatives and also includes prohibition of marriage between individuals who were breastfed by the same woman, such as a wet nurse (Islamic). Divorce is described as a last resort and is the most disliked of permissible things in Islam but either party is supposed to have the right to seek a divorce (Islamic). There is no mention of the veil or deformed children in Islamic Jurisprudence (Islamic). Abbas also says that the groom should, before consummation of the marriage, ask God to bless the marriage and prevent the devil's intervention (Post-Saddam)..

Another truly horrifying cultural phenomenon is honor killings. Honor killings or customary killings are often utilized primarily against females around the world, but also targets homosexuals of either sex (Honor Killing). The majority of the killings are perpetrated in Muslim countries (Honor). Honor killings are defined by the Human Rights Watch as:

Honor killings are acts of violence, usually murder, committed by male family members against female family members, who are held to have brought dishonor upon the family. A woman can be targeted by (individuals within) her family for a variety of reasons, including refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of sexual assault, seeking a divorce-even from an abusive husband- or (allegedly) committing adultery. The mere perception that a woman has behave in a way that "dishonors" her family is sufficient to trigger an attack on her life (Honor).

This continues to be practiced in Iraq even after the invasion. In 2006, approximately 133 women were killed in one city, just one, Basra, Iraq (Honor). Of these killings, 47 were alleged honor killings and 79 were for violations of "Islamic Teachings" (Honor). In Iraq, honor killings are conducted by armed groups, not the government, against women who are politically active and those who failed to follow a strict dress code in additional to traditional cultural killings (Honor). Honor killings are about dishonor to family or society, not domestic violence because an entire family can become involved in planning the murder (Chesler, Phyliss). The targeted woman is warned repeatedly, sometimes for years, that her behavior such as refusal to marry her chosen groom or becoming too westernized, will result in her killing (Chesler). She cannot hide easily since neighbors, imams and others will report her whereabouts to the family (Chesler). Great Britain has passed legislation and now has a program to hide these woman which is similar to the United States Federal Witness Protection Program (Chesler). The fact that such killings occur and are kept secret makes it even more difficult to obtain information from perpetrators because they will lie, claim it was suicide or that the person is missing in an effort to keep further dishonor from their family (Chesler). There have been some improvements in the status of women but the future is not necessarily favorable due to the endemic problems with individual interpretation of the Koran.

The Past and the Future of Iraqi Women

Iraqi women have survived more than one invasion of their region, from the Mongols to the Turks and even now the occupation by the United States. In… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Women in Iraq.  (2010, July 10).  Retrieved May 21, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/women-iraq/5126

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"Women in Iraq."  Essaytown.com.  July 10, 2010.  Accessed May 21, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/women-iraq/5126.