Iraqi women without headscarves threatened, attacked, and killed

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According to the Women’s Rights Association, a Baghdad NGO, since 2003, the number of women in Iraq attacked because they were not wearing headscarves has more than tripled. Between 1999 and March of 2003, there were 22 attacks and one death; since then, there have been 80 attacks and 4 deaths, with no figures are available yet for 2006.

The decision to not wear a headscarf is concentrated in the area around Baghdad because that is where Iraq’s modern society has grown. According to a WRA spokeswoman, there are now significantly fewer women and girls around Baghdad wearing headscarves, but many have been threatened by relatives or have been imprisoned inside their homes.

A year ago, insurgents took an Iraqi woman in Western dress out of a local pharmacy and executed her. She was found with two bullet holes in her head, and she had been covered with a traditional abaya veil with a message pinned to it that said “She was a collaborator against Islam.” She was not the first woman to have a “collaborator” label pinned to her clothing.

“Honor killings” are still permitted in Iraq. One woman was strangled by her father because she went to visit him without her veil, which her husband had asked her to remove after their marriage. Her husband says there has never been an investigation of his wife’s death. A police spokesman said that there is little the Iraqi police can do in these cases because “We’re in a Muslim country… if you interfere in family cases concerning veils, you’re considered a betrayer of Islam. We cannot touch such cases.”

Human Rights Watch points out that–though the new Iraqi constitution permits women the right to transfer citizenship to their children, it fails to give women equal rights within the family. HRW also confirms that Iraqi women are being attacked for dancing, socializing with men, and not wearing headscarves.

An International Women’s Day news release from the White House, dated today, states “No longer denied basic rights and brutalized by tyrants, Mr. Bush says those women are now making their own history.”

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