Yesterday I got an email from Yanar Mohammed who wrote to clarify something I had posted from Al Jazeera the day before. She pointed out that while OWFI estimates the disappearance of 4000 Iraqi women, given that they are a small organization working in horrific conditions, it would be impossible to verify that number. However The Independent (UK) is estimating that 50,000 refugee Iraqi women may have been forced into prostitution, so if anything, this number may well be low.
Yanar closed her email with this line–“Thank you for still standing with us.” I wish I felt that we were doing that in some sort of adequate way. Every day our media is filled with reports of soldiers being killed, insurgents, terrorists doing this that or the other act of violence. Our politicians blather on about whether to continue the war while they keep on funding it and make pious assertions that the Iraqis have to take responsibility for fixing the mess we made and the truth is that we totally ignore the plight of these women who are experiencing what women always experience in the aftermath of war.
Several years ago when I interviewed Yanar, we talked about honor killings and the attempts (now reality) to introduce Sharia law and the situation for women in Iraq since the U.S. invasion. Yanar put it this way, “Our lives are worse now.” At the risk of extreme understatement, the lives of Iraqi women are much, much worse now than they were when the interview was conducted in 2004.
At what point do we truly stand with these women and say enough? At what point do we stand with the women in our own country and say enough? Catherine Miller, writing in the summer edition of Spheres Magazine points out women are 50% of the world’s population and we give birth to the other 50%. As she eloquently and succinctly says, “We are not powerless to stop wars.” And as a local activist friend recently pointed out, those of us who oppose this war in this country are now very much in the majority, it is time we started acting like it.
In October we will observe Domestic Violence Awareness Month. One of the things that we need to be aware of is that there is a direct connection between the money we spend destroying the lives of Iraqi women and the money that we don’t have to spend on domestic violence programs in this country. This year when we “Take Back the Night”, let’s do it in a 24 hour spanning the world kind of a way and take back the night for women everywhere.