Two alleged gang rapes of Iraqi women by national security forces caused an uproar in Iraq last week. On February 19, a 20-year-old Sunni woman claimed on Al-Jazeera television that she was gang-raped by Iraqi national police after they took her to their Baghdad headquarters for questioning. Just days later, four Iraqi soldiers admitted to raping another Sunni woman in her home in northwestern Iraq.
Because Iraq’s security forces are dominated by Shiites, the alleged rapes have heightened sectarian tensions; after the first woman spoke out, a Sunni insurgent group claimed that 300 volunteers had offered to undertake suicide missions to avenge the rape.
“This is nothing new,” said Jodie Evans, co-founder of the women-led anti-war group CODEPINK, pointing out that Iraqi women commonly face sexual assault despite the media’s usual failure to report it. “Women… pay the worst price of the war; they live in total anarchy and in fear for their lives constantly – [imagine] how easy rape is in that situation.”
In an attempt to disprove the rape of the Baghdad woman, the office of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, released a portion of her US Army medical examination report, claiming inaccurately that because she suffered no vaginal lacerations, she had not been raped. Maliki said the woman was faking the rape to aid the insurgency and that her accused attackers should be honored, not punished. The US says it will conduct its own investigation of the incident.
The allegations surfaced just as a second US soldier pleaded guilty to raping and murdering a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and killing her family in March 2006.