MADRE News

Choose a news category:

Iraqi Police Commit Rape; Armed, Trained, and Funded by the US

Posted on: Thursday, February 22, 2007

Keywords: Women's Health, Combating Violence Against Women, Iraq, Middle East

A version of this article was published by TomPaine.com

The international news media is flooded with images of a woman in a pink headscarf recounting a shattering experience of rape by members of the Iraqi National Police. Most of the coverage has focused on her taboo–breaking decision to speak publicly about the assault, but has ignored the context for understanding—and combating—sexual violence by Iraqi security forces.

As Iraqi women's organizations have documented, sexualized torture is a routine horror in Iraqi jails. While this woman may be the first Iraqi rape survivor to appear on television, she is hardly the first to accuse the Iraqi National Police of sexual assault. At least nine Iraqi organizations (including Women's Will, Occupation Watch, the Women's Rights Association , the Iraqi League, the Iraqi National Association of Human Rights, the Human Rights' Voice of Freedom, the Association of Muslim Scholars, the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Iraqi National Media and Culture Organization) as well as Amnesty International, the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq, and the Brussels Tribunal have documented the sexualized torture of Iraqi women while in police custody. And as this case attests, sexual violence is woven into the fabric of the civil war now raging across Iraq. According to Iraqi human rights advocate and writer Haifa Zangana, the first question asked of female detainees in Iraq is, "Are you Sunni or Shia?" The second is, "Are you a virgin?"

On March 6, MADRE will release a report that documents the widespread use of rape and other forms of torture against women detainees in Iraq by US and Iraqi forces. The report includes testimonies of numerous rape survivors, collected by the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI). 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.

By early 2005, as the "cakewalk" envisioned by US war planners devolved into the quagmire that has become the Iraq War, the US began to cultivate Shiite militias to help battle the Sunni-led insurgency. According to Newsweek, the plan was dubbed the "Salvador Option," recalling the Reagan Administration's use of militias to bolster right-wing regimes in 1980s Central America. But by late 2005, once the Iraqi militias had become notorious as thugs and sectarian death squads, we stopped hearing so much about the military training that these groups had received under the command of Colonel James Steele during John Negroponte's stint as US Ambassador to Iraq.

Neither have we heard about how the US allowed the government it installed in Baghdad to hand control of the country's security forces to the militias. Today, the Mahdi Army controls the police forces of Baghdad and Basra, Iraq's two largest cities. The Badr Brigade is headquartered in Iraq's Ministry of Interior, which directs the country's national police, intelligence, and paramilitary units. And the United Nations special investigator on torture is reporting that torture in Iraq is worse now than under Saddam Hussein.

It's no surprise that we're hearing allegations of rape against the Iraqi National Police, considering who trained them. DynCorp, the private contractor that the Bush Administration hired to prepare Iraq's new police force for duty, has an ugly record of violence against women. The company was contracted by the federal government in the 1990s to train police in the Balkans. DynCorp employees were found to have systematically committed sex crimes against women, including "owning" young women as slaves. One DynCorp site supervisor videotaped himself raping two women. Despite strong evidence against them, the contractors never faced criminal charges and are back on the federal payroll.

Contrary to its rhetoric and its international legal obligations, the Bush Administration has refused to protect women's rights in Iraq. In fact, it has decisively traded women's rights for cooperation from the Islamists it has helped boost to power. Torture of women by police recruits armed, trained, and funded with US tax dollars is one symptom of this broader crisis.

By Yifat Susskind, Communications Director


« Back to "Press Room" Next Article »



Article Tools
Increase Font Decrease Font Reset Font Print Page Email Page


Archives

"Press Room" Home October 2014 September 2014 August 2014 July 2014 June 2014 May 2014 April 2014 March 2014 February 2014 January 2014 December 2013 November 2013 October 2013 September 2013 August 2013 July 2013 June 2013 May 2013 April 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 November 2012 October 2012 September 2012 August 2012 July 2012 June 2012 May 2012 April 2012 March 2012 February 2012 January 2012 December 2011 November 2011 October 2011 September 2011 August 2011 July 2011 June 2011 May 2011 April 2011 March 2011 February 2011 January 2011 December 2010 November 2010 October 2010 September 2010 August 2010 July 2010 June 2010 May 2010 April 2010 March 2010 February 2010 January 2010 December 2009 November 2009 October 2009 September 2009 August 2009 July 2009 June 2009 May 2009 April 2009 March 2009 February 2009 January 2009 December 2008 November 2008 October 2008 September 2008 August 2008 July 2008 June 2008 May 2008 April 2008 March 2008 February 2008 January 2008 December 2007 November 2007 October 2007 September 2007 August 2007 June 2007 May 2007 April 2007 March 2007 February 2007 January 2007 December 2006 November 2006 October 2006 September 2006 July 2006 June 2006 April 2006 March 2006 January 2006 December 2005 November 2005 September 2005 August 2005 July 2005 April 2005 March 2005 November 2004 October 2004 April 2004 March 2004 January 2004 December 2003 October 2003 September 2003 June 2003 April 2003 January 2003 September 2002 June 2002 January 2002 November 2001 October 2001 September 2001 August 2001 January 2001

Contact

Kat Noel, Website & Media Coordinator
PHONE: +1 212 627 0444
EMAIL: media@madre.org

To sign up to receive MADRE media alerts, click here.

Bring MADRE to You