Iraq, the world’s second largest provider of oil, after Saudi Arabia has a rich and diverse past. Iraqis voted in the country’s first democratic elections in over 50 years in January 2005. Even when women’s status had advanced in many countries, significant gender disparities continued to exist in many Middle Eastern countries. Amongst these countries Iraq was portrayed as a deeply troubled country with a rich and complex history.
Let me take you all to the era of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, the era where Baghdad the capital of Iraq and the largest city witnessed large number of cruelty. Jean Sasson, New York Times bestselling author who is known for her writings on the torture and sufferings faced by women in Middle Eastern countries inspired me to look into and research the problems faced by the women in Iraq.
Survival of women during the troubled dictatorship was a dream. Iraq’s prison abuse allegations was a daily session which a woman could not even think about. One of the torture routine in Baladiyat Prison, Saddam Hussein’s torture jail included jolts of electricity that was passed through the body of women and left them with breathing out puffs of smoke.
In Sasson’s book, the shocking true story was told by Mayada, a prominent Baghdad journalist who survived in the torture jail to tell the world what was it to be an Iraqi woman or the importance of women in most Middle Eastern countries then. It is hard to believe 20 women were crammed together in the cell under terrifying and primitive conditions.
Iraq’s weak judiciary plagued by corruption only led to worse conditions of women. Many women were detained for months or even years without charge before seeing a judge.
Today, much scrutiny is given to the impact of Islam on women, often as evidence of a deep cultural rift between the West and conservative Muslim societies. But the real cultural rift may be within the Muslim world: between highly traditional rural populations and their more modernized urban ones or between religious fundamentalists and more moderate interpreters of Islam. Such pressures can be felt in nations going from Nigeria to Indonesia, yet no place are they starker than in the Middle East.
Iraq’s political and social turmoil, affected the hazy destinies of Iraqi women is an agonizing indication of what number of innocent lives were taken during and by the Hussein’s administration.
The more I read about the cruelty faced by them the more I get traumatized. Each true incident narrated by the Iraqi women brings an upheaval to the minds of woman like me because the rest, my friends, is a history.