Feminist Activists Increasingly Targeted By Extremists in Iraq

Prominent women’s rights activists are increasingly being killed by Islamic extremists in Iraq. Twenty women have been killed in Mosul alone and a dozen more in Baghdad, reports Newsweek. As a result, women are living in fear, attendance by female students in school has declined, and more and more women are choosing to wear the hijab (headscarf) to avoid harassment and violence. Despite these challenges, 94 percent of Iraqi women want legal rights, according to a poll commissioned by Women for Women International.

Zeena Qushtaini, a female pharmacist and activist, and Raiedah Mohammed Wageh Wazan, a local Iraqi television producer, were recently assassinated by extremists. Two weeks before Qushataini was killed, another activist was kidnapped with a briefcase full of fliers announcing an upcoming women’s conference and a list of addresses of her fellow activists. Later that week, one of the women on the list went missing, reports Newsweek.

Naba al Barak, a women’s rights activist and biology professor at Baghdad University told Newsweek that “this is a critical period…If there is no security, we won’t even be able to go out to the streets to protest something that is against our rights.”

Amnesty International recently released a report stating that Iraqi women are no better off now than they were under the rule of former dictator Saddam Hussein and that “gender discrimination in Iraqi laws contributes to the persistence of violence against women.” Many activists fear that newly elected members of the assembly could try to reinstate Resolution 137—an attempt made by religious leaders in March 2004 to restrict women’s rights by putting current family law under sharia (Islamic) law.

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Newsweek 3/7/05; Feminist Daily News Wire 2/24/05; Women for Women International 1/2005; Amnesty report

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