A petition from the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), Jan. 5:
The southern cities of Iraq which are totally under the grip of Islamist parties have turned into no-woman zones. Female physical appearance is not acceptable in the streets, educational institutions, or at work places. Although veiled and passive, death awaits women around street corners, in the market, and visits them inside their homes daily in the city of Basra.
Although the top police official announced that 15 women are killed in the city of Basra every month, the hired ambulance drivers disclose that they pick up many bodies early every morning as they are paid to “clean” the streets.
Since the 2003 occupation of Iraq, these cities were open land to “Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice- PVPV” Islamist militant squads, gangs and individuals. These groups have increased over the few years to positions of governmental officials, institutions, militias, self-appointed vigilantes and hired guns.
They guard the university gateways from “evil” unveiled women. They crack down on mixed gatherings of students. They also detain disobedient students in assigned detainment and torture rooms.
When a woman is killed, the only given justification is that she was promiscuous or adulterous.
While in fact, the top of the female death toll list is occupied by PhD holders, professionals, activists, regular office workers, and then prostitutes. This PVPV campaign terrorizes the female population so as to restrain women into the domestic domain and end all female participation from the social and political scene.
On behalf of Iraqi women, the OWFI demands that the officials establish and train “Protection of Women – PW” squads to roam the southern cities streets 24/7. These squads need to receive gender sensitive training and to prioritize women’s lives over barbarian values, whether tribal or religiously fundamentalist. The occupation troops’ existence in the city of Basra offered no help or support to women. Therefore, this issue should not be used as a pretext to prolong the stay of occupation troops.
We, the undersigned, demand that the officials be held responsible of women’s lives. We also demand the instituting women’s protection forces in sufficient numbers, especially to guard the streets and neighborhoods of the vulnerable cities of Basra, Umara, and all neighborhoods which are under the gunpoint of militant Islamist parties.
We expect a response from the offices of the prime minister, minister of interior, and the governors of the above mentioned southern cities, especially the city of Basra.
Click here to sign the petition.