Iraqi Women Out of the Picture

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Sat May 17 16:35:10 MDT 2003

*****   Iraqi Women Out of the Picture
Prominence in Public Life Disappears in Postwar Fear
By Carol Morello
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 17, 2003; Page A01

...The absence of women in public view is striking in a country where
women have for decades held professional jobs and lived with a
measure of independence unusual in Arab countries, fostered by the
Baath Party philosophy of modern Arab nationalism.

Since the war, women have been missing from the markets, where men
now shop for food. Nor can women be seen in the long lines that begin
forming overnight at gas stations. Most significantly, an interim
government and scores of political parties are being formed with
little to no input from women.

Without television news or readily available newspapers, women have
no way of knowing which parties are addressing their concerns. The
only permitted women's organization was an arm of the defunct Baath
Party, so women have no natural networks to turn to outside of
friends, family and co-workers....

Sidelined as Never Before

...[S]ome worry that women are being sidelined as never before.
Thikra Nadr, a novelist in her mid-forties who published a tale about
a government that ruined the country through deprivation and war,
said she cannot remember a time when women had less visibility or

"The long period of sanctions reduced the role of women in Iraq," she
said as a generator roared across the street from her ground-floor
apartment in the middle-class Mansour district. "But this period
we're living in right now has completely canceled the role of women
in society."

Iraqi women have attended universities for decades. They were well
represented in medicine, engineering, academia and the civil service.
The Baathist government made education mandatory for girls; the
number of girls attending school at all levels tripled in the 1970s
after the Baath takeover.

The only legally permitted women's organization in Iraq, however, was
the General Federation of Iraqi Women, an arm of the government that
allowed no criticism of the government. While Iraq's constitution
expressly outlawed discrimination on the basis of gender, in practice
the government's edicts restraining individual liberties and the
woeful economy caused women to backslide along with the rest of the

[The full text of the article is available at

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