Thursday, October 25, 2007

[wvns] Troubles for Women in Iraq

Iraqi women prisoners languish in jail without trial
Kareem Zair, Azzaman
October 8, 2007
www.uruknet.info?p=37018


A visit to a women prison in a Baghdad neighborhood has revealed that
Iraqi authorities are paying lip service to human rights and rule of law.

The visit by Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi found the jail over
crowded with many women afflicted with contagious diseases due to lack
of medicine and medical care.

"The tour has exposed a difficult and tragic situation in the whole
process, starting with detention and ending with the horrific
conditions of the prison," a statement by Hashemi's office said.

The prison is in the neighborhood of Kadhimiya and is believed to hold
mainly Sunni Muslim women.

Many of the prisoners, the statement said, were detained because their
husbands or sons were suspected of having links to forces resisting
U.S. occupation.

"This means if anything that the women are taken hostages to exert
pressure on their husbands who are wanted by the authorities," the
statement said.

There were teenage women among the prisoners some of whom had spent
several years behind bars, the statement added.

One women prisoner, Suaad Aziz, had told Hashemi that she was arrested
while looking for her son who had disappeared for more than one year.

"I was a principal of a school in the Amiriya district of Baghdad.
They have sentenced me to death and no one has ever asked me a single
question why I was here," the statement reported Aziz as saying.

Thousands of Iraqis languish in scores of prisons in Iraq. U.S. troops
have their own jails which they have constructed specifically to
detain suspects. Iraqi authorities run their own prisons.

There are more than 30,000 Iraqis in jails run by the U.S. and Iraqi
government and most of them have been incarcerated merely on suspicion
and held without trial.

===

Radio journalist missing in Baghdad, driver killed
22 Oct 2007
Source: Reuters
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L22468746.htm


PRAGUE, Oct 22 (Reuters) - A correspondent for the U.S.-funded Radio
Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) went missing while on her way to an
interview in Baghdad on Monday morning, the radio station said.

"Police found the body of her driver, shot and dumped in the street,"
RFE/RL said in a statement.

"There is no trace of the car or RFE/RL's correspondent."

Police in Baghdad had no immediate comment on the report.

The radio station, based in the Czech capital Prague, did not reveal
the name or the nationality of the reporter, who works for RFE/RL's
Arabic-language Radio Free Iraq service.

"RFE/RL is focusing all attention now on finding out what has happened
to our colleague," RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin said in the statement.

"We are working with the authorities in Baghdad and are in constant
touch with friends and family. We remain hopeful we will get her back
safely."

RFE/RL said Radio Free Iraq had lost two journalists in Iraq this
year, Nazar Abd al-Wahid al-Radhi and Khamail Muhsin Khalaf.

===

Penniless Iraqi widows wait for jobs at Baghdad street corner
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/d4a014a60dc53534a052c06a75a4bf62.htm


Most of the women are widowed or have been abandoned by their
husbands, and have no brothers or sons to help them feed their large
families. Clad in head-to-toe black robes, they converge early in
the morning at the Baghdad Gate in the northwest of the capital.

They wait for growers to hire them to work for a day in the fields for
wages of about 3,000 dinars (1.50 dollars).

They will pick dates, eggplant or peppers, depending on the season.

A pick-up stops. "I need five women," says Zaki Elwan. Negotiations
start. Elwan yells out "3,000 dinars" but one woman shouts back: "No,
4,000", to which he responds: "You know that is not the rate."

None of the women budge. After a while, the man pretends he's leaving.
One woman then suggests "3,000 and you give us some dates." A deal is
cut and five women jump on the truck.

"Every day it's the same thing. They rush to me, ask me what I offer
and we start to discuss the price," says Elwan, 41.

Badria Mohammed Jassem is left on the pavement, something she
half-expected. "I'm old, they don't want me," said Jassem, who puts
her age at 70. "Sometimes I stay four, five days without working, I
live on bread and tea, " says Jassem, whose husband left her when she
was young.

Mohammed Hussein, a 46-year-old merchant, says he knows "those who
work well and the others."

"There's nothing humiliating about it. They are employees, they start
young until they are no longer useful." Pointing to one of the women,
he says: "In one year that one will die."

For the women, who say they no longer receive the social aid they got
under Saddam Hussein, a day without work means their families will go
hungry.

Mariam Jassem, 50, widowed in 1990, has six daughters and six sons to
feed. Sabiha Lazim, 46, has a sick husband and three children. A
16-year-old orphan whose mother is sick, has worked since she was nine.

As they wait, often in vain, they are frequently insulted or mocked by
passing motorists.

Eman Mohammad, a mother of four is exhausted.

"I wake up at three, I prepare breakfast for the children. I take two
taxis to get here, alone at night with the risk of being attacked.
People insult us and sometimes hit us. It is humiliating. We are
decent, we are not accustomed to sitting like that in the street, but
we have no choice."

===

Iraq Death Toll Rivals Rwanda Genocide, Cambodian Killing Fields
By Joshua Holland
September 17, 2007
http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/62728/


A new study estimates that 1.2 million Iraqis have met violent deaths
since Bush and Cheney chose to invade.


According to a new study, 1.2 million Iraqis have met violent deaths
since the 2003 invasion, the highest estimate of war-related
fatalities yet. The study was done by the British polling firm ORB,
which conducted face-to-face interviews with a sample of over 1,700
Iraqi adults in 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces. Two provinces -- al-Anbar
and Karbala -- were too dangerous to canvas, and officials in a third,
Irbil, didn't give the researchers a permit to do their work. The
study's margin of error was plus-minus 2.4 percent.

Field workers asked residents how many members of their own household
had been killed since the invasion. More than one in five respondents
said that at least one person in their home had been murdered since
March of 2003. One in three Iraqis also said that at least some
neighbors "actually living on [their] street" had fled the carnage,
with around half of those having left the country.

In Baghdad, almost half of those interviewed reported at least one
violent death in their household.

Before the study's release, the highest estimate of Iraqi deaths had
been around 650,000 in the landmark Johns Hopkins' study published in
the Lancet, a highly respected and peer-reviewed British medical
journal. Unlike that study, which measured the difference in deaths
from all causes during the first three years of the occupation with
the mortality rate that existed prior to the invasion, the ORB poll
looked only at deaths due to violence.

The poll's findings are in line with the rolling estimate maintained
on the Just Foreign Policy website, based on the Johns Hopkins' data,
that stands at just over 1 million Iraqis killed as of this writing.

These numbers suggest that the invasion and occupation of Iraq rivals
the great crimes of the last century -- the human toll exceeds the
800,000 to 900,000 believed killed in the Rwandan genocide in 1994,
and is approaching the number (1.7 million) who died in Cambodia's
infamous "Killing Fields" during the Khmer Rouge era of the 1970s.

While the stunning figures should play a major role in the debate over
continuing the occupation, they probably won't. That's because there
are three distinct versions of events in Iraq -- the bloody criminal
nightmare that the "reality-based community" has to grapple with, the
picture the commercial media portrays and the war that the
occupation's last supporters have conjured up out of thin air.
Similarly, American discourse has also developed three different
levels of Iraqi casualties. There's the approximately 1 million killed
according to the best epidemiological research conducted by one of the
world's most prestigious scientific institutions, there's the
75,000-80,000 (based on news reports) the Washington Post and other
commercial media allow, and there's the clean and antiseptic
blood-free war the administration claims to have fought (recall that
they dismissed the Lancet findings out of hand and yet offered no
numbers of their own).

Here's the troubling thing, and one reason why opposition to the war
isn't even more intense than it is: Americans were asked in an AP poll
conducted earlier this year how many Iraqi civilians they thought had
been killed as a result of the invasion and occupation, and the median
answer they gave was 9,890. That's less than a third of the number of
civilian deaths confirmed by U.N. monitors in 2006 alone.

Most of that disconnect is probably a result of American
exceptionalism -- the United States is, by definition, the good guy,
and good guys don't launch wars of choice that result in over a
million people being massacred. Never mind that that's exactly what
the data show; acknowledging as much creates intolerable cognitive
dissonance for most Americans, so as a nation, we won't.

But there's more to it than that. The dominant narrative of Iraq is
that most of the violence against Iraqis is being perpetrated by
Iraqis themselves and is not our responsibility. That's wrong morally
-- we chose to go into Iraq despite the fact that public health NGOs
warned in advance of the likelihood of 500,000 civilian deaths due to
"collateral damage." It's also factually incorrect -- as Stony Brook
University scholar Michael Schwartz noted a few months ago, the
Johns-Hopkins study looked at who was responsible for the violent
deaths it measured and found that coalition forces were directly
responsible for 56 percent of the deaths in which the perpetrator was
known. According to Schwartz's number crunching, based on the Lancet
data, coalition troops were responsible for at least 180,000 and as
many as 330,000 violent deaths through the middle of last year.
There's no compelling reason to think the share attributable to
occupation forces has decreased significantly since then.

Like the earlier study in the Lancet -- one that relied on widely
accepted methodology for its results -- this new research is already
being dismissed out of hand. The strange thing is that common sense
alone should be enough to conclude that the United States has killed a
huge number of Iraqi civilians. After all, it's become conventional
wisdom (based on several studies) that about 90 percent of all
casualties in modern warfare are civilians. We know that the military,
in addition to deploying 500 missiles and bombs in the first six
months of this year alone, has had trouble keeping up with the demand
for bullets in the Iraqi theater. According to a 2005 report by Lt.
Col. Dean Mengel at the Army War College, the number of rounds being
fired off is enormous (PDF):

[One news report] noted that the Army estimated it would need 1.5
billion small arms rounds per year, which was three times the amount
produced just three years earlier. In another, it was noted by the
Associated Press that soldiers were shooting bullets faster than they
could be produced by the manufacturer.

1.5 billion rounds per year … more bullets fired than can be
manufactured. Given that the estimated number of active insurgents in
Iraq has never exceeded 30,000 -- and is usually given as less than
20,000 -- that leaves a lot of deadly lead flying around. Everyone
agrees that the U.S. soldier is the best-trained fighter on earth, so
it's somewhat bizarre that war supporters believe their shots rarely
hit anybody.

If it weren't for the layers of denial that have been dutifully built
up around the American strategic class, these figures might put to
rest the notion that U.S. troops are preventing more deaths than they
cause.

Recall that the stated reason for the invasion was to reduce the
number of countries suspected of having an illicit WMD program from 36
to 35. Amid all the talk of troop deaths and the billions of dollars
being thrown away in Iraq, it's important to remember that it is the
Iraqis that are paying such a dear price for achieving that modest goal.

With a Congress frozen into inaction, all that remains to be seen is
what the final death toll from the Iraq war will be. The sad truth is
that we may never know the full scope of the carnage.

===

IRAQ: Hundreds forced to scavenge for food in garbage bins
18 Oct 2007

http://www.IRINnews.org


More BAGHDAD, 17 October 2007 (IRIN) - Barira Mihran, a 36-year-old
mother of three, scavenges every day in other people's dustbins in
Baghdad for leftovers on which to feed her children.

Widowed and displaced by sectarian violence, the unemployed mother
said she had no other way of providing for her children.

"In the beginning it was very difficult. I never imagined that one day
I was going to be forced by destiny to feed my children from the
remains of other people's food," Barira said. "We always had good food
on our table when my husband was alive but since he was killed in
August 2005, my life has gone from bad to worse."

"My children are under age and so cannot work or beg in the streets,"
she said.

"Sometimes you have to fight for a dustbin. Many women know which
houses have good leftovers and so they wait for hours near the houses
until the leftovers are thrown in the bins outside. Then you can see
at least 10 people, women and children, running to get it, and I will
be in the middle of the crowd, for sure," Barira added.

Survey

Barira, an educated woman, has now joined hundreds of other mothers
who rummage through rubbish bins for food to feed their children,
according to the Baghdad-based Women's Rights Association (WRA), which
conducted a survey of displaced families and people living on the
streets in 12 provinces (excluding the Kurdistan region) between
January and August 2007.

Mayada Zuhair, a WRA spokeswoman, said the survey showed an increase
of 25 percent, since the previous survey in December 2005, in the
number of mothers who fed their children either by scavenging in
people's rubbish bins or by becoming sex workers. Of the 3,572
respondents, 72 percent were women (mainly widowed) and of these 9
percent said they had resorted to prostitution and 17 percent said
they scavenged for food in dustbins and at rubbish tips. The survey
was published and distributed to non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
and local government offices.

"This is now a common sight, especially in Baghdad - mothers standing
near dustbins trying to find some food for their children," Mayada said.

Government food rations

Government monthly food rations - including rice, beans, lentils,
flour and cooking oil - are in principle available to Iraqi families
regardless of income, on production of proof of citizenship and a
fixed address.

The system was introduced by former President Saddam Hussein to offset
the impact of sanctions and paid for by Iraqi oil under UN
administration. The system is currently reaching only 60 percent of
its target, and quality and quantities are in decline, Iraqi officials
say. (see: http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=74196)

Those without identity papers have particular problems: Mayada said
many families have lost their documents, which means they cannot
access the rations.

"The women who feed their children from leftovers have lost everything
- homes, husbands, relatives, documents and respect," Mayada added.

"Women require urgent support but few NGOs are able to help and these
street children are suffering from diarrhoea, malnutrition and some
are starving," Mayada said.

Zahra'a Abdel-Lattef, a senior official at the Ministry of Labour and
Social Affairs, said there were no projects helping such families:
"Some mothers approach us for help and we do whatever we can. We try
to give some of them new food ration cards; to others we offer
mattresses and blankets and in a few cases we are able to find [them]
a job," she said.

Vulnerable to attack

According to the local police, many homeless women, walking around
with their children on the streets of the capital, are victims of
violence.

"We have some cases of women who were raped, and their children
attacked and sometimes even killed while out looking for food or a
place to spend the night," Col Hassan Abdul-Khaaliq, head of
Bab-al-Muadham police station in Baghdad, said.

"They need a safe place to stay because the streets in Iraq are very
dangerous today and walking alone at night... leaves them open to
attack by militants or insurgents," Abdul-Khaaliq said.

*********************************************************************

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