Why Women Are Less Free After Iraq War
Who was it that said something like: You can judge a country by how it treats it’s women and children???
Violence against women — and the lack of legal protection for women — is also on the rise. Women’s rights groups blame the increase in violence on the social and economic pressure that families face, the lack of public and political will to stop it, and the increase religious conservatism that often justifies the violence.
The saddest part of the story is the lost memory of what Iraqi women once were. I grew up in Baghdad with a working mother who drove herself to the office and always told me that I could anything I wanted with my life. My mother’s friends were factory managers, artists, principals and doctors.
It has been just over 20 years since I left Iraq. Today, female college students ask me if it is true that the streets of Baghdad were once full of women driving, that women could walk around in public at all times of the day without worry, that university campuses were once filled with women who did not wearing headscarves.
It would be unfair to blame the regression Iraqi women have faced only on the last 10 years, as the previous decade of economic sanctions that preceded it also took its toll on Iraqi society.
But it is necessary to observe — especially in light of all the changes that are happening in post-Arab Spring countries — that female political participation in a country’s democratic process cannot be the end of the story. Women’s active economic and social engagement is just as crucial to society as it is to their own wellbeing.
America entered Iraq in 2003 with lots of promises, but women’s rights were not even on the radar screen. Ten years later, Iraqi women find themselves the subjects of a story that does not have a happy ending.
But despite the challenges that face them, some Iraqi women continue to stand up for women’s rights. They deserve everyone’s support, for the story of women’s rights is the story of Iraq’s future.