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In 2004, I interviewed Yanar Mohammed, founder of the Organizaton for Women’s Freedom in Iraq about the impact of the U.S. invasion of Iraq on women’s lives.  According to IRIN, the concerns that Mohammed voiced in that interview and that I have written about many times since, have unfortunately been born out,

The improved political representation of women in Iraq is in sharp contrast to their broader disempowerment, as highlighted by the persistence of domestic violence and early marriage, according to a new report by the UN Inter-Agency Information and Analysis Unit…

…Women may hold 25 percent of seats in the Iraqi parliament, but one in five in the 15-49 age group has suffered physical violence at the hands of her husband. Anecdotal evidence alleges that “many women are being kidnapped and sold into prostitution”, and female genital mutilation is still common in the north, the report notes…

…Women’s participation in the labour force has fallen sharply since 2003. Before the invasion, 40 percent of public sector workers were women…

…The collapse of public social services has also limited access to education, health and jobs, while a high level of insecurity has pushed women out of public life and into the seclusion of their homes, and an ineffective judicial system has created an atmosphere of impunity…

…The conservative attitudes of public sector officials has been reinforced by a government that supports keeping women at home…

…“In 2006, the Iraqi Interior Ministry issued a series of notices warning women not to leave their homes alone and echoing the directives of religious leaders who urge men to prevent women family members from holding jobs,” the report noted.

“Thus, the violence carried out by militias in the streets is backed up by more respectable political leaders, who support the call for a women-free public sphere.”

Escalating poverty has pushed Iraqi families into prioritizing schooling for boys, stifling future opportunities for women.

“For every 100 boys enrolled in primary schools in Iraq, there are just under 89 girls,” the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said in a report released in September 2010. School enrollment figures for girls have been progressively declining, while drop-out rates have gone up in every academic year…

…Factors pushing girls out of schooling included “security risks, attitudes to girls and education, the state of the nation’s schools, what is taught and how it is taught, the skills and attitudes of teachers, family poverty,” UNICEF said…
Of the 139,000 registered Iraqi persons of concern in Syria, 28 percent fall under female-headed households, the UNHCR Protection Officer in Syria, Aseer Al-Madaien, told IRIN in an email interview.

Many do not have work permits, which compounds the difficulties female-headed households face in neighbouring countries, where they struggle to make a living, “especially paying the rent”, while still “coping with family, social and community pressure”, Al-Madaien commented.

Their vulnerability can lead to exploitation. “There is trafficking happening among the Iraqi refugees, [but] the scope and modality is not known to us,” said Al-Madaien.

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 December 1, 2010  Posted by on December 1, 2010

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