Iraq

Country Overview© Terry Allen

Since 1991, Iraqis have endured ongoing air strikes and 12 years of US-led economic sanctions that resulted in the deaths of over five hundred thousand children. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq in violation of the UN Charter and has continued to defy international law and violate the human rights of Iraqi women and families. The invasion has resulted in the deaths of more than one million Iraqis, empowered Islamist extremists, and spawned a refugee crisis and a civil war.

 

Women's Human Rights in Post-invasion Iraq

Iraqi women cite the lack of personal security as the biggest threat they face since the US invasion. According to the Hague and Geneva Conventions, the US, as an occupying power, was responsible for the human rights and security of Iraqi civilians. But US forces failed to meet this responsibility.

Rape and abductions of women have risen sharply since the invasion. So have "honor killings," in which rape survivors and women who violate conservative social mores are murdered by family members to restore the family's "honor." Many Iraqi women are fighting simultaneously against the US occupation and the rising tide of Islamism, which seeks to monopolize interpretations of Islam in pursuit of a reactionary social and political agenda.


Iraqi women say that the gains won by the Iraqi women's movement in the first half of the 1900s—maintained to a large extent through 1990—are being rolled back.

 

Sectarian Violence in Iraq - Made in the USA

The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 has instigated a civil war. In a country with almost no history of communal violence, US actions helped transform a doctrinal difference between the Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam into a political divide. The US dismantled Iraq's largely secular government bureaucracy in favor of a system that allocated seats in parliament, jobs, and other resources according to ethnic and religious divisions. That system produced the so–called "Shiite list" that swept the first national elections held under US occupation in January 2005 and set the stage for identity-based political groupings in “liberated” Iraq.

In effect, US policy forced Iraqis to compete for scarce resources on the basis of sectarian identity and reoriented Iraqi citizenship on the basis of religion instead of nationality. At the same time, the US armed and deployed openly sectarian Shiite and Kurdish militias to fight Sunnis and police Sunni neighborhoods. The US State Department has acknowledged that this policy has "greatly exacerbated tensions along purely ethnic lines." (Source: Anthony Shadid and Steve Fainaru, "Militias on the Rise Across Iraq," The Washington Post, Aug. 21, 2005)

After igniting the civil war, US policies continued to fuel the violence by giving one side—the Sunni–based insurgency—its raison d'être, while giving the other side—the Shiite–controlled Iraqi security forces—money, weapons, and training. Later, the US also began arming Sunni groups to combat the insurgency. In addition, the US failure to provide security has led many Iraqis to support whatever armed group promises to protect their families and communities.