Women in Iraq
SemiramiS the queen of Assyria of ancient Iraq 800 B.C
|Gender Inequality Index|
|Maternal mortality (per 100,000)||63 (2010)|
|Women in parliament||26.5% (2014)|
|Females over 25 with secondary education||22.0% (2010)|
|Women in labour force||16% (2014)|
|Global Gender Gap Index|
|Rank||147th out of 149|
|Part of a series on|
|Women in society|
The status of women in Iraq at the beginning of the 21st century is affected by many factors: wars (most recently the Iraq War), sectarian religious conflict, debates concerning Islamic law and Iraq's Constitution, cultural traditions, and modern secularism. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi women are widowed as a result of a series of wars and internal conflicts. Women's rights organizations struggle against harassment and intimidation, while they work to promote improvements to women's status in the law, in education, the workplace, and many other spheres of Iraqi life, and to curtail abusive traditional practices such as honor killings and forced marriages.
- 1 Historical background
- 2 Education
- 3 Women's rights
- 4 Marriage
- 5 Legal system
- 6 Crimes against women
- 7 Women's prisons
- 8 Women's workplace rights
- 9 Women's social life
- 10 Women in the government and military
- 11 References
- 12 Bibliography
- 13 External links
To appreciate women's achievements in this society, it is important to look at the history of their position in the society and how wars and successions in dynasties and governments have affected women's roles.
During the seventh century the lamas as a part of their conquest were fighting the Persians, who were defeated. Doreen Ingrams, the author of The Awakened: Women in Iraq, stated it was a time when women's help was needed. In particular, a woman called Amina bint Qais "at the age of seventeen was the youngest woman to lead a medical team in one of these early battles.":21 After their victory, the Arabs that began ruling Mesopotamia named that country Iraq. During the Abbasid Caliphate, it was common for upper-class men to own women as sex slaves, and a number of enslaved women were known for their wit and charm: “many of the well-known women of the time were slave girls who had been trained from childhood in music, dancing and poetry".:22 A story featured in One Thousand and One Nights involves Tawaddud, “a slave girl who was said to have been bought at great cost by Harun al-Rashid because she had passed her examinations by the most eminent scholars in astronomy, medicine, law, philosophy, music, history, Arabic grammar, literature, theology and chess”. It was rarer for free women to achieve prominence in Abbasid society, though some notable women did exist. Among the most prominent female figures was a scholar named Shuhda, who was known as “the Pride of Women” during the twelfth century in Baghdad.
In 1258, Baghdad was attacked and captured by the Mongols. With the departure of the Mongols a succession of Persian rivalries followed until 1553, when the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman captured Baghdad and its provinces, which became parts of the Turkish empire. Ingrams states that Turks “had inflexible rules concerning women", leading to a decline in the status of women.:25 In contrast, Beatrice Forbes Manz states that women were granted a relatively high and public position in Turkic and Mongol societies, and several women in the Turkic dynasties ruling Iraq, like the Timurid Empire, achieved political importance.
Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of World War I, Britain was given the Mandate for administering Iraq by the League of Nations and therefore a new era began in Iraq under British rule. In the 1920s there was a "major uprising where women took part" (p. 27). In 1932, Iraq was declared independent and in 1958 was declared a Republic as a member of the League of Nations. As Doreen Ingrams argues, instability was dominating the region until 1968 when "the Ba’ath Party took control over the President Al Bakr and Iraq began to enjoy a period of stability" (p. 28). In 1970, equal rights for women were enshrined in Iraq's Constitution, including the right to vote, run for political office, access education and own property. Saddam Hussein succeeded Al Bakr as President in 1979.
Iraq established an education system in 1921 and by the 1970s education became public and free at all levels. This changed in the 1990s when the first Gulf War ensued and economic sanctions caused educational institutions to rapidly deteriorate.
The gender gap with regard to Iraq's literacy rate is narrowing. Overall, 26% of Iraqi women are illiterate, and 11% of Iraqi men. For youth aged 15–24 years, the literacy rate is 80% for young women, and 85% for young men. Girls are less likely than boys to continue their education beyond the primary level, and their enrollment numbers drop sharply after that. Education levels attained by Iraqi women and men in 2007 were:
|Level of education||Female (%)||Male (%)||Total (%)|
|Preparatory (upper secondary)||5.0||8.9||6.9|
With an estimated population of 22,675,617, Iraq is a male dominated society. Although there are many classes and castes within the culture, the official language of Iraq is Arabic and Kurdish.
On International Women's Day, 8 March 2011, a coalition of 17 Iraqi women's rights groups formed the National Network to Combat Violence Against Women in Iraq.
The Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) is another Non-governmental organization committed to the defense of women's rights in Iraq. It has been very active in Iraq for several years, with thousands of members, and it is the Iraqi women's rights organization with the largest international profile. It was founded in June 2003 by Yanar Mohammed, Nasik Ahmad and Nadia Mahmood. It defends full social equality between women and men and secularism, and fights against Islamic fundamentalism and the American occupation of Iraq. Its president is Yanar Mohammed.
OWFI originated with the Organisation indépendante des femmes, active in Kurdistan from 1992 to 2003 despite government and religious oppression, and the Coalition de défense des droits des femmes irakiennes, founded in 1998 by Iraqi women in exile. OWFI concentrates its activities on the fight against sharia law, against abduction and murder of women and against honour killings. Thousands of members strong, it has at its disposal a network of support from outside Iraq, notably from the United States. It also has members in Great Britain, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland, and Denmark. Its activists and its directors have many times been the object of death threats from Islamic organizations.
The circumstances resulting from the Gulf War and then the Kurdish uprising in Iraq in 1991, gave the Kurdish region of Iraq an essentially autonomous situation for a period, despite the conflicts between zones controlled by the largest nationalist parties. This allowed the development of some claims to women's rights, which in turn influenced some of the women who would become active in founding OWFI.
The founding statement of OWFI contains a mandate in six points:
- To put in place a humanist law founded on equality and the assurance of the greatest freedom for women, and to abolish all forms of discriminatory laws;
- To separate religion from the government and education;
- To put an end to all forms of violence against women and honour killings, and to push for punishment for the murderers of women;
- To abolish mandatory wearing of veils, the veil for children and to protect freedom of dress;
- To put in place the equal participation of women and men in all social, economic, administrative and political spheres, at every level;
- To abolish gender segregation in schools at all levels.
Some militant women's rights advocates in Iraq, who seek to establish a dialogue with Islamist women, maintain a distance from the radical feminism and secularism of OWFI.
Women's rights in Iraqi Kurdistan
Some reported issues related to women in Kurdish society include genital mutilation, honor killings, domestic violence, female infanticide  and polygamy. Majority of reports have come from Iraq where the Kurdish and Iraqi population have been poorly educated and illiteracy is still a big problem among citizens. However, some reported issues have not been taken seriously, because all reported issues are common among the populations with whom they live.
Some Kurds in small populated areas, especially uneducated Kurds are organized in patrilineal clans, there is patriarchal control of marriage and property, women are generally treated in many ways like property. Rural Kurdish women are often not allowed to make their own decisions regarding sexuality or husbands, arranged marriages and in some places child marriages are common. Some Kurdish men, especially religious Kurds also practice polygamy. However, polygamy has almost disappeared from Kurdish culture, especially in Syria after Rojava made it illegal. Some Kurdish women from uneducated, religious and poor families who took their own decisions with marriage or had affairs have become victims of violence, including beatings, honor killings and in extreme cases pouring acid on faces (very rare) (Kurdish Women's Rights Watch 2007). Kurds generally see having large families as the ideal.
Women's rights activists have said that after the elections in 1992, only five of the 105 elected members of parliament were women, and that women's initiatives were even actively opposed by Kurdish male politicians. Honor killings and other forms of violence against women have increased since the creation of Iraqi Kurdistan, and "both the KDP and PUK claimed that women’s oppression, including ‘honor killings’, are part of Kurdish ‘tribal and Islamic culture’". New laws against honor killing and polygamy were introduced in Iraqi Kurdistan, however it was noted by Amnesty International that the prosecution of honor killings remains low, and the implementation of the anti-polygamy resolution (in the PUK-controlled areas) has not been consistent. On the other hand, women rights activists also had some successes in Iraqi Kurdistan, and it was claimed that "the rise of conservative nationalist forces and the women’s movement are two sides of the same coin of Kurdish nationalism."
Scholars like Mojab (1996) and Amir Hassanpour (2001) have argued that the patriarchal system in Kurdish regions has been as strong as in other Middle Eastern regions. In 1996, Mojab claimed that the Iraqi Kurdish nationalist movement "discourages any manifestation of womanhood or political demands for gender equality." In 2001, Persian researcher Amir Hassanpour claimed that "linguistic, discursive, and symbolic violence against women is ubiquitous" in the Kurdish language, matched by various forms of physical and emotional violence. In 2005, Marjorie P. Lasky from CODEPINK claimed that since the PUK and KDP parties took power in Northern Iraq 1991, "hundreds of women were murdered in honor killings for not wearing hijab and girls could not attend school", and both parties have “continued attempts to suppress the women’s organizations”. Marjorie P. Lasky also said that U.S. military personnel have committed crimes of sexual abuse and physical assault against women and they are one of the reasons why women rights have worsened in Iraq. The honor killing and self-immolation condoned or tolerated by the Kurdish administration in Iraqi Kurdistan has been labeled as "gendercide" by Mojab (2003). Lasky concluded: "More widely reported are the Iraqi Kurdish nationalist parties’ "disregard of women’s issues and their attempts to suppress women’s organizations".
By law, a woman has to be eighteen years or older to get married. Marriage and family are necessities for economic needs, social control and mutual protection within the family.
The Iraqi Constitution of 2005 states that Islam is the main source of legislation and laws must not contradict Islamic provisions. The family law is discriminatory towards women, particularly with regard to divorce, child custody, and inheritance. In a court of law, a woman's testimony is worth in some cases half of that of a man, and in some cases it is equal.
In March 2008 an Iraqi 17-year-old girl was violently murdered by her father and two older brothers for becoming friendly with a British soldier. When her mother ran away out of defiance of such a cruel act, she was found dead on her street, shot in the head twice. The father was released after two hours of questioning from the Iraqi police force and was neither charged nor tried with the murder of his own daughter, although he had confessed to killing her.
On January 29, 2004, the interim Iraqi government, supported by the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and despite the strong opposition of the American Administrator Paul Bremer, launched Resolution 137 which introduced sharia law in the "law on personal civil status", which since 1958 established rights and freedoms for Iraqi women. This resolution permitted very different interpretations from the law of 1958 on the part of religious communities. It opened an additional breach in the civil law and risked exacerbating inter-religious tensions in Iraq. In a statement, OWFI affirmed :
Iraq is a secular society. Women and men in Iraq never imagined that they would defeat Ba'athist Fascism only to have it replaced with an Islamic dictatorship.
Despite its reputation for being relatively secular, sharia law was never totally absent from Iraq before 2003. The "law on personal civil status" provided that, in the case that it was not expressly forbidden in the law, it would be sharia law that would prevail. A coalition of 85 women's organizations, through means of international communication, launched a protest movement. One month later, on January 29, 2004, the resolution was withdrawn.
Beginning in September 2004, OWFI launched a new campaign against the forced wearing of the veil being enforced by Islamic militias, notably in the universities.
The outline of the constitution proposes, in article 14, the repeal of existing law and to refer merely to family law, in concordance with Islamic sharia law and other religious codes in Iraq. In other words, it makes women vulnerable to all forms of inequality and social discrimination. and makes them second class citizens, lesser human beings
Women's groups also denounce "pleasure marriages", based on a practise commonly believed to be founded on Islamic law, which was revived during the occupation of Iraq: it authorizes a man to marry a woman, through a money gift, for a determined period of time. In most cases, groups such as OWFI charge, it provides a legal cover for prostitution. 
Crimes against women
Female genital mutilation
Female genital mutilation was an accepted part of Sorani speaking Kurdish and Iraqi Arab culture in Iraq, including Erbil and Sulaymaniyah. A 2011 Kurdish law criminalized FGM practice in Iraqi Kurdistan and law was accepted four years later. MICS reported in 2011 that in Iraq, FGM was found mostly among the Kurdish areas in Erbil, Sulaymaniyah and Kirkuk, giving the country a national prevalence of eight percent. However, other Kurdish areas like Dohuk and some parts of Ninewa were almost free from FGM. In 2014, a small survey of 827 households conducted in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah assessed a 58.5% prevalence of FGM in both cities. According to the same survey, FGM has declined in recent years. In 2016, the studies showed that there is a trend of general decline of FGM among those who practiced it before. Kurdish human rights organizations have reported several times that FGM is not a part of Kurdish culture and authorities aren't doing enough to stop it completely.
According to a 2008 report in the Washington Post, the Kurdistan region of Iraq is one of the few places in the world where female genital mutilation had been rampant. According to one study carried out in 2008, approximately 60% of all women in Kurdish areas of northern Iraq had been mutilated. It was claimed that at least one Kurdish territory, female genital mutilation had occurred among 95% of women. The Kurdish Regional Government has strengthened its laws regarding violence against women in general and female genital mutilation in particular, and is now considered to be an anti-FGM model for other countries to follow.
Female genital mutilation was prevalent in Iraqi Kurdistan and among Iraqis in central Iraq. In 2010, WADI published a study that 72% of all Kurdish women and girl were circumcised that year. Two years later, a similar study was conducted in the province of Kirkuk with findings of 38% FGM prevalence giving evidence to the assumption that FGM was not only practiced by the Kurdish population but also existed in central Iraq. According to the research, FGM is most common among Sunni Muslims, but is also practiced by Schi’ites and Kakeys, while Christians and Yezidi don't seem to practice it in northern Iraq. In Erbil Governorate and Suleymaniya Type I FGM was common; while in Garmyan and New Kirkuk, Type II and III FGM were common. There was no law against FGM in Iraq, but in 2007 a draft legislation condemning the practice was submitted to the Regional Parliament, but was not passed. A field report by Iraqi group PANA Center, published in 2012, shows 38% of women in Kirkuk and its surrounding districts areas had undergone female circumcision. Of those circumcised, 65% were Kurds, 26% Arabs and rest Turkmen. On the level of religious and sectarian affiliation, 41% were Sunnis, 23% Shiites, rest Kaka’is, and none Christians or Chaldeans. A 2013 report finds FGM prevalence rate of 59% based on clinical examination of about 2000 Iraqi Kurdish women; FGM found were Type I, and 60% of the mutilation were performed to girls in 4–7 year age group.
Female genital mutilation is prevalent in Iraqi Kurdistan, with an FGM rate of 72% according to the 2010 WADI report for the entire region and exceeding 80% in Garmyan and New Kirkuk. In Erbil Governorate and Suleymaniya Type I FGM is common; while in Garmyan and New Kirkuk, Type II and III FGM are common. There was no law against FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan, but in 2007 a draft legislation condemning the practice was submitted to the Regional Parliament, but was not passed. A 2011 Kurdish law criminalized FGM practice in Iraqi Kurdistan, however this law is not being enforced. A field report by Iraqi group PANA Center, published in 2012, shows 38% of women in Kirkuk and its surrounding districts areas had undergone female circumcision. Of those circumcised, 65% were Kurds, 26% Arabs and rest Turkmen. On the level of religious and sectarian affiliation, 41% were Sunnis, 23% Shiites, rest Kaka’is, and none Christians or Chaldeans. A 2013 report finds FGM prevalence rate of 59% based on clinical examination of about 2000 Iraqi Kurdish women; FGM found were Type I, and 60% of the mutilation were performed to girls in 4–7 year age group.
In 2008. the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) has stated that honor killings are a serious concern in Iraq, particularly in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Free Women's Organization of Kurdistan (FWOK) released a statement on International Women's Day 2015 noting that "6,082 women were killed or forced to commit suicide during the past year in Iraqi Kurdistan, which is almost equal to the number of the Peshmerga martyred fighting Islamic State (IS)," and that a large number of women were victims of honor killings or enforced suicide – mostly self-immolation or hanging.
About 500 honour killings per year are reported in hospitals in Iraqi Kurdistan, although real numbers are likely much higher. It is speculated that alone in Erbil there is one honour killing per day. The UNAMI reported that at least 534 honour killings occurred between January and April 2006 in the Kurdish Governorates. It is claimed that many deaths are reported as "female suicides" in order to conceal honour-related crimes. Aso Kamal of the Doaa Network Against Violence claimed that they have estimated that there were more than 12,000 honor killings in Iraqi Kurdistan from 1991 to 2007. He also said that the government figures are much lower, and show a decline in recent years, and Kurdish law has mandated since 2008 that an honor killing be treated like any other murder.
Attitudes towards domestic violence are ambivalent even among women. A UNICEF survey of adolescent girls aged 15–19, covering the years 2002–2009, asked them if they think that a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife under certain circumstances; 57% responded yes.
Under the Criminal Code of Iraq, honor killings can only be punished with a maximum of three years. According to paragraph 409 "Any person who surprises his wife in the act of adultery or finds his girlfriend in bed with her lover and kills them immediately or one of them or assaults one of them so that he or she dies or is left permanently disabled is punishable by a period of detention not exceeding 3 years. It is not permissible to exercise the right of legal defence against any person who uses this excuse nor do the rules of aggravating circumstance apply against him". In addition to this, a husband also has a legal right to "punish" his wife: paragraph 41 states that there is no crime if an act is committed while exercising a legal right. Examples of legal rights include: "The punishment of a wife by her husband, the disciplining by parents and teachers of children under their authority within certain limits prescribed by law or by custom".
OWFI created shelters in Baghdad, Kirkuk, Erbil and Nassiriya for women and couples whose families have threatened them with honour crimes. The location of shelters was kept secret and they were under permanent guard. A crisis phone line number was available in each issue of 'al-Moussawat. An "underground railroad" was put in place, with the help of the American association Madre, to allow some women to clandestinely escape the country. Several other organizations from abroad assisted this initiative.
Since the end of 2007, the shelters, determined to be too dangerous for the residents, were closed and many of the women were accommodated in host families. The operation costs OWFI around $60,000 per year.
Forced prostitution, abductions and killings of women
Beginning in August 2003, OWFI organized a protest to attract attention to the rapid growth in rapes and abductions. A letter sent by OWFI to Paul Bremer, in charge of the American administration in Iraq, on the question of violence against women, remained unanswered.
An inquiry was initiated by OWFI to examine abductions and killings of women. Yanar Mohammed comes to the following conclusion :
According to our estimates, no fewer than 30 women were executed by the militias in Baghdad and in the suburbs. During the first ten days of November 2007, more than 150 unclaimed women's corpses, most of them decapitated, mutilated, or having evidence of extreme torture, were processed through the Bagdad morgue.
For OWFI, these deaths are linked to honour crimes, but in this case, in a new form, since the killings are taken beyond the family circle to become the business of paramilitary groups.
Beginning in 2006, OWFI initiated an inquiry into the link between widespread abductions of women and prostitution networks. Activists for women's rights in Iraq have mapped and studied prostitution in their country to understand how it functions and how trafficking spreads, showing that the majority of prostitutes are minors and that the trafficking networks extend throughout the Middle East. This campaign of enquiry, publicized by an interview on the channel MBC in May 2009, was denounced by the pro-government channel Al-Iraqia, which held that it constituted a "humiliation for Iraqi women". Indeed, shortly before his resignation, MInister of Women's Affairs Nawal al-Samarraie had declared that the traffic in prostitution was limited and that the young women were involved voluntarily, which Yanar Mohammed had denounced.
The Iraqi Kurdistan region has reportedly received "women and children trafficked from the rest of Iraq for prostitution". Criminal gangs have prostituted girls from outside of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region in the provinces of Erbil, Dahuk, and Sulaymaniyah. NGOs have alleged that some personnel from the Kurdistan Regional Government's Asayish internal security forces have facilitated prostitution in Syrian refugee camps in Iraqi Kurdistan. Iraqi women were sold into “temporary marriages” and Syrian girls from refugee camps in Iraqi Kurdistan were forced into early or “temporary marriages”, and it was alleged that KRG authorities ignored such cases.
Abuse of women since the invasion
Many people feel it is due to the ongoing terror wrought in this land that brings so much oppression to women. Prior to the arrival of forces in Iraq in 1991, Iraqi women were free to wear whatever they liked and go wherever they chose.:105–107 The Iraqi constitution of 1970 gave women equality and liberty in the Muslim world, but since the invasion, women's rights have fallen to the lowest in Iraqi history.:105–107
Since the invasion in 2003 "Iraqi women have been brutally attacked, kidnapped and intimidated from participating in the Iraqi society". Yanar Mohammed, an Iraqi feminist, "asserts unequivocally that war and occupation have cost Iraqi women their legal standing and their everyday freedom of dress and movement". She continues by arguing that "The first losers in all these were women".
Arising from their fear of being raped and harassed, women have to wear not only the veil, but must also to wear chador in order not to attract attention. In an online edition of Guardian, the reporter Mark Lattiner reports that despite promises and hopes given to the Iraqi population that their lives were going to change, Iraqi women's lives "have become immeasurably worse, with rapes, burnings and murders [now] as a daily occurrence."
OWFI has set up an observation group of activists, directed by Dalal Jumaa, which focuses its action on the defense of the rights of women in prison and in police detention. It has notably obtained authorization to regularly visit the Khadidimya prison, in Baghdad, and to denounce the detention conditions: rapes during interrogations, poor treatment, and the presence of children in the cells. OWFI has taken part in negotiations with the municipality of Bagdad to open a daycare in proximity to the prison. In 2009, OWFI was alerted to the situation of 11 women condemned to death, detained in this prison, after the execution of one among them. In 2010, OWFI observers met young girls aged 12 years, expelled from Saudi Arabia for prostitution and imprisoned in Iraq. In February 2014 Human Rights Watch released a 105-page report 'No One is Safe' alleging there are thousands of Iraqi women in jails being held without charge, that are being routinely tortured, beaten, and raped.
Women's workplace rights
In February 2004, OWFI launched a campaign to support fifty female bank employees held on charges of embezzling millions during exchange operations involving banknotes. Embarrassed by the affair, U.S. authorities freed them and their informant was arrested.
OWFI has denounced the Islamist-influenced licensing process for women in professions. Nuha Salim declared :
The insurgents and militias do not want us in the professional sphere for various reasons: some because they believe women were born to stay at home – and cook and clean -- and others because they say that it is contrary to Islam that a man and woman should find themselves in the same place if they are not related.
In a speech on April 17, 1971 vice-president Saddam Hussein proclaimed that:
Women make up one half of society. Our society will remain backward and in chains unless its women are liberated, enlightened and educated.
Until the 1990s, Iraqi women played an active role in the political and economic development of Iraq. In 1969, the Ba'ath Party established the General Federation of Iraqi Women, which offered many social programs to women, implementing legal reforms advancing women’s status under the law and lobbying for changes to the personal status code. In 1986, Iraq became one of the first countries to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Saddam Hussein urged women to fill men's places in schools, universities, hospitals, factories, the army, and the police. However, women's employment subsequently decreased as they were encouraged to make way for returning soldiers in the late 1980s and the 1990s. In general in cases of war, as Nadje Sadig Al-Ali, author of Iraqi Women: Untold Stories from 1948 to the Present, argues, "women carried the conflicting double burden of being the main motors of the state bureaucracy and the public sector, the main breadwinners and heads of households but also the mothers of 'future soldiers.':168 In the years following the 1991 Gulf War, many of the positive steps that had been taken to advance women’s and girls’ status in Iraqi society were reversed due to a combination of legal, economic, and political factors. As the economy constricted due to sanctions, women were pushed into more traditional roles. Moreover, Saddam Hussein, in an attempt to maintain legitimacy with conservative Islamic fundamentalists, brought in anti-woman legislation, such as the 1990 presidential decree granting immunity to men who had committed honour crimes.:202 However, despite Saddam's appeals to the anti-women elements of Iraqi society, according to local NGOs, they concluded that "women were treated better during the Saddam Hussein era and their rights were more respected than they are now."
As noted by Yasmin Husein, author of Women in Iraq, the traditional role of women in Iraq is confined mainly to domestic responsibilities and nurturing the family. The wide scale destruction of Iraq's infrastructure (i.e., sanitation, water supply and electricity) as a result of war and sanctions, worsened women's situation. Women, in the process, assumed extra burdens and domestic responsibilities in society, as opposed to their male counterparts.
Women in the government and military
The Iraqi Constitution states that a quarter of the government must be made up of women. However, the women that hold position in the government still have little to no power. Often, the women in government are just relatives of other leaders. Serious women leaders in Iraq are unheard of. However, Iraq has been a leader on women's rights for quite some time. In the 1950s it became the first Arab country to have a female minister and to have a law that gave women the ability to ask for divorces. Women attained the right to vote and run for public office in 1980. Under Saddam Hussein, women in government got a year’s maternity leave.
There is also a large divide among the women themselves, some more modern women wanting a larger percent of women in the Iraqi government still, and some more traditional women believing that they and others are not qualified enough to hold any sort of position in the Iraqi government. Another existing issue is the increasing amount of illiterate women in the country. In 1987 approximately 75 percent of Iraqi women were literate. In 2000, Iraq had the lowest regional adult literacy levels, with the percentage of literate women at less than 25 percent. This makes it increasingly difficult to put educated women in a position of power.
Although there are many issues with the current spread of power among genders in Iraq, they are one of the more westernized Arab countries. However, there is hope for women in Iraq. After Hussein's fall in 2003, women's leaders in Iraq saw it as a key opportunity to gain more power in Parliament. The leaders asked for a quota that would have seen that at least 40 percent of the Parliament to be women. In the 2010 National Elections, a group of twelve women started their own party based on women's issues, such as a jobs program for Iraq's 700,000 widows. The United States' involvement in Iraq was seen as detrimental to women. Since Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was elected as Prime Minister of Iraq, not one woman has been appointed to his senior cabinet.
Many women across the country, especially young women, are afraid to voice their political voices for fear of harming their reputations. When they do become active politically, they are seen as being influenced by the United States and trying to push a liberal agenda. Constitutionally, women lost a number of key rights after the United States entered Iraq. The Family Statutes law, which guarantees women equal rights when it comes to marriage, divorce, inheritance, and custody, was replaced by one that gave power to religious leaders and allowed them to dictate family matters according to their interpretation of their chosen religious text.
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- "Pratt writes similarly: "Shahrzad Mojab (2004, 2009), referring to the Iraqi Kurdish context, argues that Islamist-nationalist movements and secular nationalism both stand in the way of transformative gender politics and hinder a feminist analysis of and struggle against gender-based violence and inequalities."" (PDF).
- "Atria" (PDF). Atria.
- Houzan Mahmoud, representative of the Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq, voiced similar criticism in 2004, stating that "the Kurdish nationalist parties have violated women's rights and tried to suppress progressive women's organisations. In July 2000, they attacked a women's shelter and the offices of an independent women's organisation. Both were saving the lives of Kurdish women fleeing "honour" killings and domestic violence. More than 8,000 women have died in "honour" killings since the (Kurdish) nationalists have been in control." The Guardian
- Pratt writes similarly: "There is a link between the Kurdish national struggle and the neglect of women's rights". What Kind of Liberation?: Women and the Occupation of Iraq, Nadje Al-Ali,Nicola Pratt, p.108ff ISBN 978-0-520-26581-3
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Women of Iraq.|
- Official website of OWFI (archived)
- Solidarité Irak
- Fighting for women's rights in Iraq, interview with Yanar Mohammed on the subject of the murder of Dua Khalil Aswad, June 26, 2007, on the news Website CNN (warning: graphic images)
- A day in the life of Iraqi women, interview in two parts with Houzan Mahmoud on the condition of women in Iraq, Al Jazeera, March 3, 2007.