Surviving Somehow Behind a Concrete Purdah
Former dictator Saddam Hussein maintained a relatively secular society, where it was common for women to take up jobs as professors, doctors and government officials. In today's
"We are sure there are many more victims whose families did not report their killing for fear of scandal," Gen. Hannoon said.
The militias dominated by the Shia Badr Organisation and the Mehdi Army are leading imposition of strict Islamist rules. The Shia-dominated Iraqi government is seen as providing tacit and sometimes direct support to them.
The Badr Organisation answers to the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), the Shia bloc in the Iraqi government. The Mehdi army is the militia of anti-occupation Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Women who do not wear the hijab are becoming prime targets of militias, residents both in
"Militiamen approached us to tell us we must wear the hijab and stop wearing make-up," college student Zahra Alwan who fled
Graffiti in red on walls across
"The situation in
Jabbar said this is one reason that "many families have stopped sending their daughters to high schools and colleges."
In early 2007
Several women victims have been accused of being "bad" before they were abducted, residents have told IPS in
The bodies of several have been found in garbage dumps, showing signs of rape and torture. Many bodies had a note attached saying the woman was "bad", according to residents who did not give their names to IPS.
Similar problems exist for women in Baquba, the capital city of
"My neighbour was killed because she was accused of working in the directorate-general of police of Diyala," resident Um Haider told IPS in January. "This woman worked as a receptionist in the governor's office, and not in the police. She was in charge of checking women who work in the governor's office."
Killings like this have led countless women to quit jobs, or to change them.
"I was head of the personnel division in an office," a woman speaking on condition of anonymity told IPS in Baquba. "On the insistence of my family and relatives, I gave up my position and chose to be an employee."
Women's lives have changed, and women are beginning to look different across most of
Women are paying a price for the occupation in all sorts of ways.
"Women bear great pain and risks when militants control the streets," Um Basim, a mother of three, told IPS in Baquba recently. "No man can move here or there. When a man is killed, the body is taken to the morgue. The body has to be received by the family, so women often go alone to the morgue to escort the body home. Some are targeted by militants when they do this."
Confined to home, many women live in isolation and depression.
"Women have nowhere to go to spend leisure time," Um Ali, a married woman in Baquba, told IPS. "Our time is spent only at home now. I have not travelled outside Baquba for more than four years. The only place I can go to is my parents' home. Housekeeping and children have been all my life; I have no goals to attain, no education to complete. Sometimes, I can't leave home for weeks."
In northern Kurdish controlled
Iraqi women are not spared
According to Nadira Habib, deputy head of the parliamentary committee, there are around 200 women detained in the Iraqi run al-Adala prison in
As the central government remains essentially powerless, and religious fundamentalism continues to grow across