Talking Points

MADRE Talking Points on Iraq: Six Years of "Liberation" and an Epidemic of Violence Against Women

Posted on: Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Keywords: Iraq, Middle East, Peace Building

Unleashing a Campaign of Violence

  • Since the US invasion of 2003, Iraqi women have endured a public campaign of harassment, beatings, abduction, rape, and assassinations.
  • The main perpetrators are militia fighters who see violence against women as a way to enforce their vision of Iraq as an Islamist state.
  • Anyone perceived to challenge that vision is in danger from the militias. Women professionals, artists, intellectuals, lesbians, and human rights activists have been specifically targeted.
Revoking Women’s Rights
  • The largest Islamist militias are the armed wings of Iraqi political parties brought to power by the US.
  • In 2003, US authorities hand-picked Islamist leaders to sit on the Iraqi Governing Council. The Council was presented in the US as the gateway to Iraqi democracy, yet these US appointees openly declared their intent to restrict women’s rights.
  • Once empowered, Islamists quickly moved to rescind Iraq’s 1959 family law which guaranteed women equal rights in crucial areas of life.
  • They also produced a constitution—with strong backing from the US—that discriminates against women in numerous ways.
Arming the Killers
  • In 2005, under a policy called the “Salvador Option,” the Pentagon began providing money, weapons, and military training to Shiite militias known to attack women wherever they patrolled.
  • Since early 2007, the US has also funded Sunni militias, including groups that murder women who do not dress or behave to their liking.
Fighting Back
  • Six years of occupation have demonstrated that the Bush Administration’s rhetoric about “liberating” Iraqi women was never more than an excuse for invading Iraq.
  • President Obama has pledged to draw down US military presence in Iraq but plans to leave as many as 50,000 troops through 2011.  
  • A recent poll shows that more than 80% of Iraqis support US withdrawal from Iraq.
  • Half-measures and partial reduction of US military forces are inadequate.  MADRE calls on the Obama Administration to:
    1. Withdraw all US troops, US-paid foreign mercenaries and contractors.
    2. Immediately close all US military bases and turn them over to Iraq.
    3. Renounce all efforts to control Iraq's oil resources.
    4. Assume responsibility for the humanitarian crisis that the US has caused in Iraq.
    5. Fund an Iraqi-led reconstruction process and uphold UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which calls for the full participation of women in all phases of reconstruction.
Partners for Peace
  • Many Iraqi women and men reject both the violence of US occupation and the repression of Islamist ideologues boosted to power by the occupation.  
  • These Iraqis have a vision of a multi-cultural, pluralistic Iraq grounded in genuine democracy and human rights. They share the broad progressive values of many in the anti-war movement and they deserve our support.

Learn more about Iraqi women demanding peace and women’s human rights and MADRE’s partnership with the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq.


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