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Honor Killings Continue in Iraq

Honor Killings Continue in Iraq


by Bhumika Ghimire

Here in the United States, the media, political establishment on both Republican and Democratic side, television pundits are vigorously touting the “success” of the US military in curbing violence in Iraq . Even those who are against the Iraq war, are now accepting the rhetoric that the “surge has worked”. This cheerful bunch is conveniently ignoring the surge violence against Iraqi women and girls, relegating the scary rise of crimes against women as “collateral damage”.

During the Saddam regime, Iraqi women were comparatively more liberated than their Arab counterparts. After the US invasion of Iraq and subsequent rise in violence, sectarianism and religious fundamentalism have all but wiped out the gains made by the Iraqi women. Saddam’s regime was no heaven but what have the Americans done for Iraqi women?

George Bush promised a free Iraq where citizens will exercise their democratic rights, when the American troops invaded the country. That freedom never materialized for the Iraqi women. They are being murdered in record numbers-for honor.

Barbaric practice of “honor killing” is rising in Iraq . Even in the more liberal Kurdish areas of the country the practice continues. According to a recent The Observer article, the city of Basra has seen 70% increase in honor killings. This year 81 women have been killed, compared to 47 last year.

Fathers, husbands, family members hire hit men openly to kill their daughter, wife, or a relative for bringing “shame” to the family. Often these women are victimized for refusing to agree to an arranged marriage, falling in love or when they are raped. They are killed if they dare to think for themselves, when they ask for justice.

But “honor killing” is not a priority for the Americans in Iraq or the Iraqi government. Those who commit the murders or hire hit men to do the dirty job are routinely released with very little or no punishment. Local law enforcement is influenced by strong religious fundamentalists, who now have even bigger clout (thanks to the Americans). They don’t see crimes against women as serious enough. Some reports suggest that in couple of instances of honor killing in Basra , the policemen congratulated the murders for protecting their family honor.

Local militia and religious fanatics are being armed by the US for security purpose, which means that those who view women as second class citizens are being strengthened. It does not come as a surprise then that following the US lead invasion of Iraq ; just three voluntary organizations helping women out of twelve are open in Basra . Women are being forced to hide behind the four corners of their home, fearing violence or worse.

Kurdistan , which has been praised for being an oasis for democracy and progressive thought, has not remained untouched. Here though the story has a little twist, modern technology is being used to intimidate and harass women and girls.

According to Patrick Cockburn of The Independent, in Kurdistan growing number of women and girls are being targeted after “evidence” of an “illicit act” appears through mobile phone pictures. Readily available mobile phones have pushed up the number of “honor killings” in the area.

As Iraqi women are killed for “honor”, America and its allies keep their focus on military success. Honor killing is not a priority. Incoming Obama administration has promised to end the war but is silent on the situation of women. How many more murders is it going to take for the US to take this issue seriously?

Sources:
Guardian, UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/nov/30/iraq-honor-killings-women

Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/how-picture-phones-have-fuelled-frenzy-of-honour-killing-in-iraq-829934.html

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