Iraqi women are seeing their rights increasingly constrained by religious groups gaining increased power and the almost nonexistent security. Women wearing long skirts and Islamic headscarves are now being turned away from mosques and shrines because they are not wearing the abaya, a black head-to-toe cloak, according to the Christian Science Monitor. Restrictive dress codes are also being imposed on women at universities. New signs posted at the entrance of a university in Baghdad state that pants are prohibited and that women who wear scarves that leave part of the head uncovered are not “real” Muslims, the Monitor reports.
The BBC reports that one Iraqi United Nations staff member received a handwritten note at home saying that she would be killed unless she wore a veil covering her hair. UN officials have also reported pressure on schoolgirls in some areas of Iraq to veil. “It’s an issue of people’s rights – it’s an issue not only of women’s rights, but human rights – and people have a right to choose whether or not they wear the veil, what religion they practice, how they practice that religion,” UN Children’s Fund spokesman Geoffrey Keele told the BBC.
The lack of security in Iraq has also led to rumors of increased rapes and abductions of girls. Some families are so concerned for their daughters that they are refusing to let them leave the house. The number of girls attending school has decreased since the US occupation of Iraq, according to the Village Voice. Women in Iraq are not able to drive or walk the streets at night freely as they could before the invasion, according to the BBC.
In an effort to ensure women’s rights in Iraq, Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Harry Reid (D-NV) have called upon the Bush administration to include women in leadership roles in the reconstruction of Iraq and to ensure that women are full participants in the new Iraqi government. L. Paul Bremer, the US civilian administrator in Iraq, has said that the 25-30 member political council of Iraqis he is appointing next month will include women, according to the Monitor.