Monday, March 05, 2007


MADRE is an international women's human rights organization that works in partnership with community-based women's organizations worldwide to address issues of health and reproductive rights, economic development, education, and other human rights. MADRE provides resources, training, and support to enable our sister organizations to meet concrete needs in their communities while working to shift the balance of power to promote long-term development and social justice.

Tomorrow MADRE promises to release the full version of a report on gender based violence in Iraq. Below you can read the executive summary and information concerning the presentation of the full report.

The following is from MADRE.

MADRE to Release Report on Gender-Based Violence in Iraq

On March 6, 2007, MADRE will release Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy: Gender-Based Violence and the US War on Iraq, a groundbreaking report on the incidence, causes, and legalization of gender-based violence in Iraq since the US-led invasion. The report documents the use of gender-based violence by Islamists seeking to establish a theocratic state, and by the US in its efforts to appease Islamists and enforce its occupation.

Please join us for the release of the report on March 6th during the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations. Copies of the report will be available at the event, and thereafter on MADRE's website.

Confronting Gender-Based Violence in Iraq
DATE: Tuesday March 6th, 2007
TIME: 2:00pm-3:45pm
LOCATION: United Nations Church Center, 10th floor
777 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017

Yifat Susskind, MADRE
Houzan Mahmoud, Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq
Jennie Green, Center for Constitutional Rights
Frida Berrigan, Arms Trade Resource Center (World Policy Institute)

Sponsored by MADRE, the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq, and the Arms Trade Resource Center (World Policy Institute)


Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy:
Gender-Based Violence and the US War on Iraq
Executive Summary

The term "Islamist" in this report refers to those who pursue a reactionary social and political vision in the name of Islam, as distinct from "Islamic" relating to the religion of Islam.

Amidst the chaos and violence of US-occupied Iraq, the significance of widespread gender-based violence has been largely overlooked. Yet, Iraqi women are enduring unprecedented levels of assault in the public sphere, "honor killings," torture in detention, and other forms of gender-based violence. Women are not only being targeted because they are members of the civilian population. Women—in particular those who are perceived to pose a challenge to the political project of their attackers—have increasingly been targeted because they are women. This report documents the use of gender-based violence by Iraqi Islamists, brought to power by the US overthrow of Iraq's secular Ba'ath regime, and highlights the role of the United States in fomenting the human rights crisis confronting Iraqi women today. Some key points include:

Imposing Theocracy through Gender-Based Violence
Under US occupation, Iraqi women have endured a wave of gender-based violence, including widespread abductions, public beatings, death threats, sexual assaults, "honor killings," domestic abuse, torture in detention, beheadings, shootings, and public hangings. Much of this violence is systematic—directed by the Islamist militias that mushroomed across Iraq after the US toppled the mostly secular Ba'ath regime.

Like religious fundamentalists in the US and elsewhere, Iraq's Islamists see the subordination of women as a top priority—both a microcosm and a precondition of the social order they wish to establish. As in Iran, Algeria, and Afghanistan, a campaign of violence against women was the first salvo in the Islamists' war to establish a theocracy in Iraq.

First They Came for the Women
Attacks on women began within weeks of the US invasion in 2003. US authorities did nothing to stop the violence, and soon the attacks spread. Within a year, Islamists were killing Iraqi artists, intellectuals, professionals, ethnic and religious minorities, lesbians and gays—indeed, anyone whom the Islamists perceived as a threat to their agenda. Women, who are seen as the carriers of group identity, have remained in the cross-hairs of Iraq's warring sectarian militias. Iraqi women's organizations report that militias "are taking revenge on each other by raping women," and targeting Christian women with rape and assassination as part of a broader attack on that community.

Iraq's War on Women: Made in the USA
Women have been systematically attacked by theocratic militias on both sides of the sectarian divide, but the most widespread violence has been committed by the Shiite militias affiliated with the US-backed government—the Badr Brigade and Mahdi Army. These groups have waged their campaign of terror against women with weapons, training, and money provided by the US under a policy called the "Salvador Option."

Gender War, Civil War
Neither the mainstream press, the alternative media, nor the anti-war movement has identified the connections between the attack on Iraqi women and the spiraling violence that has culminated in civil war. But violence against women is not incidental to Iraq's mounting civilian death toll and civil war—it is a key to understanding the wider crisis. Indeed, the twin crises plaguing Iraqi civilians—gender based violence and civil war—are deeply intertwined. For example, in the legal arena, the same provisions of the US-brokered constitution that codify gender discrimination (Articles 39 and 41) also lay the groundwork for sectarian violence: these articles establish separate laws on the basis of sex and religious affiliation.

Democracy and Women's Rights: Two Sides of the Same Coin
Although most assaults on women occur in public, violence against Iraqi women continues to be perceived mainly as a "private" or family matter, somehow outside the realm of "politics." Moreover, the characterization of violence against Iraqi women as "cultural" in nature deemphasizes the ways that such violence is used as a means toward political ends and obscures the role of the United States in fomenting gender-based violence.

Contrary to its rhetoric and its legal obligations under the Hague and Geneva Conventions, the Bush Administration has refused to protect women's human rights in Iraq. In fact, it has decisively traded women's rights for cooperation from the Islamists whom it boosted to power.

A re-telling of the Iraq War from the perspective of Iraqi women illuminates the strong links between women's human rights and democratic rights in general and the Bush Administration's clear contempt for both.

By Yifat Susskind, Communications Director

Report will be available on MADRE's website as of March 6, 2007

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