Women’s rights activists in Iraq are sounding the alarm that certain freedoms, particularly freedom of dress and movement, exercised by women even under the regime of Saddam Hussein, are being degraded and threaten to disappear. Iraqi feminist activist Ban Jamil, who runs the Rasafa Branch of Assyrian Women Union, told Agence France Presse that “women cannot walk freely out in the street…[they] face a lack of respect when they walk uncovered.” Jinan Mubarak, who directs the Iraqi Center for Training and Employing Women, told AFP that now Iraqi women “cover and change the way we dress unwillingly due to pressure.” Those who are not willing to wear a veil are now unable to walk through certain neighborhoods.
Iraqi feminist activists also continue to be concerned with the status of women in the constitution. Nearly 200 women had protested in Baghdad in July to demand full equality in the new constitution. Most recently, during a discussion sponsored by the Congressional Human Rights Caucus and the Iraqi Women’s Caucus, Iraq’s Minister of State for Women’s Affairs, Azhar al-Sheikhly, stated her concern with the status of women’s rights in the new constitution, and Iraqi First Lady Hero Ibrahim Ahmed noted the potential dangers of deference to Islamic law in the creation of civil legal codes.
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