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Around 1.5 million of Iraq’s women are war widows

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Summary of story from Reuters, November 9, 2011

An estimated two million Iraqi women have been left as their household’s primary breadwinner, nearly nine years after Saddam Hussein fell from power.

And the humanitarian group Relief International estimates that 1.5 million of these are widows either of the 2003 US-led invasion and the sectarian conflict that followed, the first Gulf war or the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

That is nearly 10 per cent of the country’s female population.

During Saddam Hussein’s reign, widows were paid a monthly benefit and were given land and a car, which helped many. He also rewarded members of the military who married widows.

Those benefits stopped when he was captured and his regime toppled.

Many widows are now struggling with the realities of their new lives, and raising children alone, with little money or family support.

Iraq’s Minister of Women’s Affairs, Ibtihal Gasid al-Zaidi, said: “The woman’s suffering is huge in these difficult circumstances because she is the father, the mother, the care-giver and the breadwinner.”

And the International Committee of the Red Cross said they see women-headed households as among the most vulnerable in Iraq today.

Halima Dakhil, for example, lost her husband in the sectarian slaughter that killed more than 10,000 Iraqis after the US-led invasion in 2003.

Rent takes over four-fifths of her monthly earnings as a cleaner, forcing her to depend on the kindness of neighbours and other donors to feed her family.

In 2009, a new law was passed to help victims of war and their relatives, and a state-run compensation committee to help those hurt by militant attacks began its work in July.

But Iraqi women say registering for government pensions is a bureaucratic nightmare as corrupt workers demand money to complete the paperwork.

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