Sunday, December 22, 2013

Editorial: Iraqi women

The Iraq War has not ended.  2013 already has the worst death toll of any of year of this decade.  In fact, you have to drop back to 2008 to find more deaths.

But what's troubling us is Sabrina Tavernise, Damien Cave, Ellen Knickmeyer, Tina Susman, Sahar Issa, Alissa J. Rubin, Anna Badkhen, Deborah Amos, Alexandra Zavis  . . .

You may know those bylines.

If so, you hopefully grasp that those women and Damien Cave, as well as a few other men and women, could write about Iraqi women.

It wasn't always that way.

At The New York Times, for example, John F. Burns and Dexter Filkins ignored women -- on the page.  Now outside of their writing, they were reportedly all over women -- passes and so much more.  But women really didn't exist in the reports they filed for The New York Times.

Over half of Iraq's population is female.  So it's really something to yet again be reading reports -- granted most are wire reports -- and wonder where are Iraq's women?

 A journalist was killed Sunday, December 15th.  Reporters Without Borders noted:

 Young woman TV presenter is Mosul's latest media victim

Reporters Without Borders is appalled by TV presenter Nawras al Nouaymi’s murder yesterday in Mosul, the capital of the northern province of Nineveh. Unidentified gunmen shot her near her home in the city’s eastern district of Al-Jazair.
Aged 19, she was a student at Mosul university’s media faculty and had worked as a presenter for satellite TV station Al-Mosuliya for the past five years.
“We are stunned by this latest murder and by the failure of the local and national authorities to respond to the deadly campaign against journalists in Iraq,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The continuing violence and the impunity enjoyed by those responsible constitute a major threat to freedom of information.
“We again urge the authorities to deploy all necessary resources for independent investigations which do not rule out the possibility of a link between these murders and the victims’ work as a journalists, and which result in the perpetrators and instigators being brought to justice.

“Although the security forces have been aware for weeks of the existence of a list of 44 journalists in Nineveh province who are targets for ‘physical liquidation,’ no measure has been taken to protect these journalists. We call on the local and national authorities to address this omission at once.”

A 19-year-old journalist is killed.  And AFP breezes past it but tries to create a mythical savior out of a (male) police officer who hugs a suicide bomber?

The insults to Iraqi women from the western press never end.

One particular beef of ours over the years?

When a family dies.

To get accurate reporting on that from a western outlet shouldn't require our getting on the phone complaining.

But before we started doing that the death of a couple and two children would be reported like this:

A sticky bombing today killed 1 former government official/soldier/police officer, his wife and his two children.

His two children?


Did he birth them from his own vagina?

It took non-stop complaining to editors to get that kind of reporting changed to: 1 whatever, his wife and their 2 children.

Something so basic took hours and hours of phone calls over months and months.

Or take the ongoing protests which passed the one-year mark on Friday.

If you're a western outlet and you aren't The Guardian newspaper, duck your head and hope no one notices.

Only that British paper could speak honestly about the protests and note that the outrage that got people into the streets was the torture and rape of girls and women in Iraqi prisons and detention centers.

In February, for example, Haifa Zangana (Guardian) wrote about the state of Iraqi women:

The plight of women detainees was the starting point for the mass protests that have spread through many Iraqi provinces since 25 December 2012. Their treatment by the security forces has been a bleeding wound – and one shrouded in secrecy, especially since 2003. Women have been routinely detained as hostages – a tactic to force their male loved ones to surrender to security forces, or confess to crimes ascribed to them. Banners and placards carried by hundreds of thousands of protesters portray images of women behind bars pleading for justice.[. . .]
No wonder, ten years after the invasion, the Iraqi authorities are accused by US-based Human Rights Watch of "violating with impunity the rights of Iraq's most vulnerable citizens, especially women and detainees". HRW's account is echoed by a report by the Iraqi parliament's own human rights and women, family and children's committees, which found that there are 1,030 women detainees suffering from widespread abuse, including threats of rape.

By contrast, Jane Arraf, a Nouri al-Maliki enabler posing as a journalist (she used to enable Saddam Hussein while posing as a journalist), didn't find the plight of Iraqi women and girls of any interest and when she finally got around to mentioning rape, it was to quote a man.

From the April 10th Iraq snapshot:

We spent several snapshots covering that Amenesty report [see this March 11th entry aptly titled "Iraqi women and girls (and the silence on this topic)" and snapshots for March 11th, March 12th, and March 13th].  I'm very familiar with it.  So I'm aware that when Jane Arraf chose to report on it, it was really strange that she focused on a male prisoner saying they threatened to rape his wife in front of him -- as opposed to a woman in the report who was threatened herself.  Apparently, to Arraf, women are property and the thought of a rape in front of their 'owner' (husband) is appalling but their being raped outside of their 'owner' isn't outrageous.  That would explain this miserable she filed that refused to note actual rape noted in the Amnesty report.   This is from the Amnesty International report entitled [PDF format warning] "Iraq: A Decade of Abuses."

More than three years before, members of the Human Rights Committee of parliament who visited the earlier women’s prison that was then located in al-Kadhemiya told reporters in May 2009 that two women inmates they had seen had testified that they were repeatedly raped in detention after their arrest and before they were transferred to the prison. 
Sabah Hassan Hussein, 41, a journalist, was reportedly arrested on 29 February 2012 when she went to the offices of the army’s Fifth Brigade in Baghdad’s Saydiya district to collect a car belonging to one of her relatives that the authorities had confiscated. She was detained and told that she was a suspect in a murder investigation. She was then transferred to the Directorate of Major Crimes (Mudiriyat al-Jara’im al-Kubra) in Tikrit, where she was held incommunicado, for about two months during which, she alleges, she was tortured. According to a member of her family interviewed by Amnesty International, she alleges that her interrogators burnt her with cigarettes, doused her with icy cold water and forced to undress in front of male police officers. The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO) reported on 26 November that she had identified the police officers responsible for her alleged torture and that their names had been submitted to the Ministry of Interior. 
Sabah Hassan Hussein was returned to Baghdad from Tikrit in May 2012 and held at al- Sayid For detention centre she was acquitted by the Resafa Criminal Court at the first session of her trial on charges brought under the Anti-Terrorism Law on 23 January 2013. Another defendant charged with her, however, was convicted and sentenced to death. Despite her acquittal, Sabah Hassan Hussein remained in prison until 18 February 2013, when she was released and allowed to return to her family. She subsequently told Amnesty International that she filed a formal complaint with the authorities about her torture and other ill-treatment in detention. They were previously alerted to her torture allegations in November 2012; however, they are not known to have taken any steps to bring those responsible to justice.

That's just one story in the report.  Michele Lent Hirsch (Women's Media Center) noted of the report, "Female detainees are in a 'particularly vulnerable position,' Amnesty explains, given that any allegation they make of rape will be 'almost impossible to prove,' while interrogators can use threats of sexualized violence as a 'powerful inducement to force "confessions".'"  Again, Arraf ignored women.  

And then there's AFP which isn't interested in women at all and have made that very clear in the last two years.

Did you know that Iraq observes a prevention of violence against women week?

And that their week last two weeks actually?

Probably not.

And you're probably not aware that while the leaders in the KRG could and did attend functions and events for that effort to stop violence against women, that while KRG President Massoud Barazani and KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani issued remarks, the Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki never said one word.
(See the November 26th Iraq snapshot, the December 3rd one and the December 10th one.)

The White House is spending over a billion dollars each year in Iraq and the prime minister country won't even call out violence against women -- doesn't believe there is any such thing.

Amal Sakr (Al-Monitor) reported this month that the Iraqi government rejects women's shelters and:

"Living in a jungle ruled by men." This is how Dahaa al-Rawi, the chair of the Women's Committee in the local Baghdad government, described the status of women in Iraq. Women are marginalized and their abilities unrecognized — domestically, socially and politically. Women are subjected to violence of all forms and murder on an ongoing basis.

"We do not have any statistics about the status of women, or the daily violence that they are subjected to," Rawi said, adding, "In Baghdad's local government council, they view us as merely a secondary committee that does not play an important role."
Speaking to Al-Monitor, Rawi said that the same also applies to Iraq's state institutions and ministries concerned with statistics or women's issues. None of them have accurate data showing the extent of violence against women in Iraq.

But the western press ignores it.  Doesn't see it as an actual issue or as news.

Along with the British newspaper The Guardian, the only real exception is Germany's Niqash.  Suha Audeh's report this week is only this year's most recent report from Niqash on the status of women.

Iraq is said to be a land of widows but, reading the western coverage, you're left instead with the impression that not a single woman is in Iraq.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }