Women in Iraq
May 21, 2003 6:38 AM   Subscribe

Women in Iraq
some worry that women are being sidelined as never before. Thikra Nadr, a novelist in her mid-forties who published a tale about a government that ruined the country through deprivation and war, said she cannot remember a time when women had less visibility or freedom. “The long period of sanctions reduced the role of women in Iraq,” she said as a generator roared across the street from her ground-floor apartment in the middle-class Mansour district. “But this period we’re living in right now has completely canceled the role of women in society.”
Isn't it time that this issue was addressed? Or was the "liberation" talk just another sound bite from the spin machine?
posted by nofundy (19 comments total)
I'm pretty certain the US has liberated the oil. It will take time for the United Nations to get involved in Iraq. It's difficult to address issues typical of UNESCO, etc., when there is wild anarchy and mayhem in the streets. There is now a new dictum to round up all of the Iraqi's weapons, for example. Maybe once Iraqis stop tearing telephone cable out of the ground and return to work, there will be time to speak of women's role in the modern Iraq.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 6:46 AM on May 21, 2003

You make good points The Jesse Helms. The question you address is what to do now that we are in a quagmire. A recent article addresses how this invasion should have been conducted to avoid such an outcome. I'll let the author speak for himself:

If America could "preempt" future threats without overextending its military, as Iraq seemed to show, then the argument for the Bush Doctrine would be vastly strengthened.

But the hawks' gloating proved premature. The generals' argument had never been just about what forces it would take to decapitate Saddam's regime. It was also about being ready for the long, grinding challenge after the shooting stopped. By that measure they have been proven dizzyingly correct. April and May brought daily news reports from Baghdad quoting U.S. military officers saying they lacked the manpower to do their jobs. As the doubters predicted, we may have had enough troops to win the war--but not nearly enough to win the peace.

When victory arrived, we lacked the troops on the ground to prevent Baghdad--and most of the rest of the country--from collapsing into anarchy.
posted by nofundy at 7:01 AM on May 21, 2003

"... now that we are in a quagmire."

posted by jammer at 7:12 AM on May 21, 2003

.... Perhaps worst of all, the prime objective of the entire invasion--to secure and eliminate Saddam's weapons of mass destruction capacity--has been dealt a serious blow. Even Iraq's publicly known nuclear sites had been thoroughly looted before American inspectors arrived, because, once more, not enough troops had been available to secure them. Radioactive material, perhaps enough to make several "dirty bombs," has now disappeared into anonymous Iraqi homes, perhaps awaiting purchase by terrorists. Critical records detailing the history and scope of the WMD program have themselves been looted from suspected weapons sites because too few soldiers were available to guard those places. "There aren't enough troops in the whole Army," said Col. Tim Madere, the officer overseeing the WMD effort in Iraq, in a recent interview with Newsweek. Farce vied with disaster when the inspectors' own headquarters were looted for lack of adequate security.
posted by y2karl at 7:29 AM on May 21, 2003

What did they expect? Not much, I hope
posted by magullo at 7:53 AM on May 21, 2003

During the war women in the US/UK experienced a relative level of equality, in the name of the war effort, when they performed 'mens' jobs'.
This is also the case in the exiled Muslim community of the Western Sahara;
'Saharawi women have played an essential role in running the camps from the beginning. They have developed committees and systems for health care, education, day care, social affairs, resource distribution and play an active role in the political process.'
It seems sad to me if the women of Iraq have missed out on the benefit of 'emancipation'. That could have been one of the few positives to come out of the suffering that they have had to endure, along with the rest of the Iraqi population, over the past 15 years.
posted by asok at 8:14 AM on May 21, 2003

next thing you know, bushco will claim we are making war in order to provide middle eastern women with some temporary measure of equality. that's goddamned laudable!
posted by quonsar at 8:22 AM on May 21, 2003

Maybe it's just me, but I think at present, the focus should probably be on basics like complete access to drinking water, the restoration of electric power and fully staffed and supplied hospitals/medical centers. Then we can get into larger conceptual issues, no?
posted by Dreama at 10:25 AM on May 21, 2003

That is correct Dreama.
And it is exactly what the article talked about, immediate needs trumping any other concerns at the present time. As to how the situation deteriorated to this lowly state of affairs please refer to my reply to The Jesse Helms above.
posted by nofundy at 10:40 AM on May 21, 2003

Why are women's issues "larger conceptual issues"? This is ridiculous. Women's rights are not a philosophical abstract.

If it is easier to stomach, call them human rights - "basic" rights like access to water and power.
posted by birgitte at 10:53 AM on May 21, 2003

The Iraquis are going to have to fix some of this stuff on their own. We didn't create ALL of these issues through an invasion. There were many problems before, many problems during, many problems to come. The US wasn't, isn't and won't be responsible for all of it and we shouldn't be expected to "fix" it all either.

Plus... isn't the woman, cited in the original post, comparing a long period of sanctions to a month or so of post-war recovery? Hardly seems fair to come to any dramatic conclusions about the role of women in the "new Iraq".
posted by Witty at 11:40 AM on May 21, 2003

Maybe once Iraqis stop tearing telephone cable out of the ground and return to work, there will be time to speak of women's role in the modern Iraq.

I think at present, the focus should probably be on basics... Then we can get into larger conceptual issues, no?

Ah yes, women's issues always come at the bottom of the list. In the 19th century, we had to solve the race issue before we could worry about female suffrage. After WWII, women had to get out of the work force because returning GIs needed jobs. It's always something. Especially in the Middle East.
posted by languagehat at 12:34 PM on May 21, 2003

I'm sure that the role of women in Iraq will be addressed long before the role of dog in Iraq gets any attention at all. So, perhaps that will give you some comfort languagehat.... pffft.
posted by Witty at 12:47 PM on May 21, 2003

You mean... women are more important than dogs? Whew!
*wipes brow with relief*
I don't know what I was thinking. Thanks for reassuring me.
posted by languagehat at 1:29 PM on May 21, 2003

nofundy, we are basically in agreement (for the first time ever?) that at this point, coalitiion forces need to take responsibility for controlling the chaos in Iraq, though I don't know that you and I would agree that they are making efforts to do just that.

My point, however, was much of what was said in the article. "As soon as the country gets running and the electricity comes back, things will fall into place and women will start shopping around for a niche." It's a little early to consider this a crisis, just yet.

Ah yes, women's issues always come at the bottom of the list.

Not at the bottom of the list, no. Somewhat lower on the list than potable water, power and general law and order in the streets, yes.
posted by Dreama at 2:04 PM on May 21, 2003

Hmmm, seems to me that if you are going to rebuild a society the infrastructure restoration needs to go hand in hand with the political/social/cultural. Not that the comparison is totally valid, but the Western occupiers of Germany and Japan after WWII went right to work on values, along with the cleaning up and rebuilding. Basic law and order issues and societal attitudes toward women are often connected, after all.
posted by gudrun at 8:54 PM on May 21, 2003

Women’s Liberation: Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran
Thursday, May 22, 2003
8:30-11:00 a.m.
National Press Club, 14th and F Sts., NW
posted by sheauga at 3:38 AM on May 22, 2003

Iraq's Silenced Majority by Zainab Al-Suwaij, executive director of the American Islamic Congress and a delegate to the United States-organized conference in Baghdad to determine a new government for Iraq.
We must heal these wounds of division and mistrust within Iraqi families and between various groups. This means that wherever the Baath Party worked to destroy the institutions of civil society, all Iraqis, including women, should be given a role in rebuilding and healing — from government ministries to the oil industry to education to the legal system.

America is struggling to create order amid the power vacuum in Iraq. Building democracy is a long-term process, but enabling women to lead and participate in all aspects of Iraqi society can begin immediately. Imagine an Iraq where women are represented throughout the public and private sectors, and then imagine the example this will set for the entire region.

Helping to build a free government out of the rubble of tyranny is thrilling. You feel and see history being created all around you. But this history will endure only if all Iraqis are part of it.
posted by languagehat at 8:32 AM on May 23, 2003

That's great... and I totally ageree. I just think it's a bit early to be moaning about the lack of participation in the rebuilding process. This process will last a good decade or more. There's plenty of time for everyone to get involved. The war has been over for ~month... soldiers and civilians are still dying.
posted by Witty at 10:56 AM on May 23, 2003

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