A new article in the Guardian, “Revealed: Pentagon’s link to Iraqi torture centres,” purports to bring to light the links between the Pentagon and Iraqi militias responsible for killing and torturing innocent civilians. The article refers to hundreds of incidents in which US military personnel were made aware of Iraqi forces torturing and abusing detainees and did nothing to intervene. But this news is not a surprise to many human rights groups–nor does it tell the whole story.

In February 2007, I wrote an op-ed ahead of the release of a MADRE report on gender-based violence in Iraq:

Since November 2005, OWFI has conducted a Women’s Prison Watch project and has found that, “Torture and rape are common procedure of investigation in police stations run by the militias affiliated with the government, mostly the Mahdi and Badr militias,” according to their summer 2006 report.

These are the same sectarian Shiite militias that are prosecuting Iraq’s civil war, the same militias that stepped into the power vacuum created by the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and the same militias that have been systematically attacking women in their bid to establish an Islamist theocracy. Since 2003, the political leadership of these militias has been handed control of the Iraqi state by the US, while the militants themselves have waged a campaign of assassinations, rapes, abductions, beheadings, acid attacks, and public beatings targeting women, particularly women who pose a challenge to the project of turning Iraq into a theocracy. As the occupying power in Iraq, the US was obligated under the Hague and Geneva Conventions to provide security to Iraqi civilians, including protection from gender-based violence. But the US military, preoccupied with battling the Iraqi insurgency, simply ignored the reign of terror that Islamist militias have imposed on women.

Even as the information is being brought back to light around the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, the critical link between the US’ role in training and funding this violence and the deteriorating status and increasing abuse Iraqi women have faced over the last decade is still missing. We have an obligation to the women of Iraq. We must continue to stand with them and help them build the peaceful nation for which they have struggled for so long.

Click here to watch my recent interview on HuffPost Live about conditions for women in Iraq.

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