Women in Iraq: The first victims of ‘freedom’

Yanar Mohammed, architect, sculptor, and founder of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, is interviewed in Guernica Magazine.

“When I was a student, I was dressed like a modern girl and I wore long shorts. That is part of the past. There is fear in the streets. You cannot go out in the streets. You are looked at as if you come from another age. If there are any militias on your street, they will tell you to go back home and dress decently. They could beat you up or punish you worse than that. Some of us who have grown up in Baghdad are used to wearing what we please and walking where we please. …

“At its worst, the women look like black objects: black gloves and black stockings—no flesh can show. I have never before in my life seen young women dressed like that. In 1993, when I left Iraq, I had never seen the black gloves. Now you go to Baghdad and with the high level of poverty you see women begging on the sides of the street; even the beggars wear black. …

“The Star Academy winner [Iraqi singer who won on the Lebanese “American Idol”-style show] is a young woman who is in an open dress and is lovely. She is a symbol of the Iraqi life we used to have. That’s what people voted for. If these Islamists grow stronger and more powerful, she will not be able to look like that or sing like that. This is the answer to the U.S. administration when it tells us that this is the elected representative government of Iraq. These Islamist parties are not only U.S.-backed but also backed by the Iranian government and ruling parties. They do not represent the people of Iraq. The U.S. said they’d bring democracy but they waited to see who is stronger— the rule of the jungle—and gave power to the strongest, best funded and best armed. But, then again, maybe the U.S. was hoping to have an Islamist modernist government, similar to the Saudis. They were thinking of something like that, but the genie came out of the bottle, and it will not go back any more.

“At this point, the women of Iraq do not even dream to have even a small part of the reality we used to have before. We have been put under the most notorious Islamic authority in Iraq. Our monies and resources have been taken away from us. If there was the possibility of a resourceful society, we have lost that also.”


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