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Iraq “crusade” fails to improve women’s rights

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In the embarrassing absence of any weapons of mass destruction, it is perhaps the cause now most frequently invoked by politicians seeking to justify the failed modern crusades in Iraq and Afghanistan: women’s rights.

A new report from the UN Inter-Agency Information and Analysis Unit confirms the suspicions that many feminists will have harboured since the invasion in 2003: the Western occupation of Iraq has actually stalled – and in many cases reversed – Iraq’s progress towards greater gender equality.

While women now hold a quarter of seats in the Iraqi parliament, increased political representation alone fails to prove the claims of Western governments that the invasion has brought about a change in women’s social status.

The report found that one in five Iraqi women aged 15-49 has suffered domestic violence, while women’s access to health, education and jobs has greatly decreased since 2003.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that ‘many women are being kidnapped and sold into prostitution’ and that female genital mutilation is a frequent occurence in the north of the country.

Journalist Eman Khammas fled Iraq after receiving death threats that stopped her from working, a situation far from uncommon in the lives of Iraqi women, and now lives in Spain. Khammas cites a rise in ‘new, fundamentalist thinking’ since the invasion as the source of women’s oppression.

The report is discussed in more detail on IRIN and provides cold comfort for feminists who have always been disturbed by the hijacking of our vocabulary in the name of unjust wars.

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