OWFI: “Darkest scenario for women of Iraq”

From the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), Dec. 7:

Darkest Scenario for Women of Iraq:
Public executions of women by Islamist militias in Baghdad

Shia Militias: A new wave of public executions against women is undertaken by Al Mahdi army. Dragging, flogging, hanging and shootings fall within the routine procedure of these executions which are taking place in growing numbers.

In a Shia part of Baghdad, a sector which includes Nuwab Al Thubat and Al Amin, 3 girls were killed in one week –second week of November. On Thursday November 9, one of these executions was witnessed by an OWFI activist who was assigned to go and investigat the previous killing of two girls. While passing in Nuwab Al Thubat, pedestrians were surprised to hear a young woman screaming in that area. She was pulled by armed members of Al Mahdi militia, beaten badly in front of all. She was dragged by a wire wound around her neck to a close-by football field and then hung to the goal post. They pierced all her body with bullets. Her brother came running trying to defend his sister. He was also shot and killed.

Al Mahdi Shia militia guards – many of whom work as policemen – volunteer to punish “adulterer” women by torture and public execution. Although the Shia clerics have legalized Mutaa (pleasure) temporary marriages, most of the women who practice it are subject to honour-killing at the hand of their male relatives or the volunteering Al Mahdi Militia.

Sunni Militias: kill both women and men who practice some suspected behavior. If a young man stares at a girl or smokes a cigarette, he will be flogged and maybe killed. Although honour killing numbers rose considerably after the war, systemic public executions of women is a new phenomenon. In our estimation, no less than 30 women are executed monthly for honour related reasons at the hands of these militias in Baghdad and suburbs.

Truck loads of Sunni families taken by Iraqi military to unknown destiny. Um Muhamad was going to Kadhimiya city in mid-November using public transportation when an Iraqi military checkpoint stopped them and began to check the men’s ID’s. They took the Sunni men, their wives and children. Um Muhamad was scared to look at the army truck which took a full load to an unknown destiny, but she noticed from the side of her eye that their hands were tied. After Sunnis were taken, and the vehicle moved, she whispered to the person sitting next to her: “I told them I am a Shia, although I am a Sunni… I did not want to be taken.” Sectarian motivated mass execution result in dumping the shot and sometimes tortured bodies in a close-by dump yard in their neighborhoods. This practice has become routine practice by Islamist militias from both sects.

150 unclaimed women’s corpses in Baghdad morgue. In the first ten days of November, OWFI activists pretended they were looking for a lost female relative in Baghdad morgue. On November 12, the employee in charge told them they were late because the morgue got rid of more than 150 unclaimed dead bodies of women, many of which were beheaded, disfigured or bore signs of extreme torture. These bodies were accumulated during the recent ten days and were impossible to keep anymore as they are left in room temperature or thrown in the terraces outside. With the return to tribalism under the current situation, a family will not admit to a kidnapped daughter as it “smears” the honour of the family. Therefore, when the women get raped and killed, nobody is claiming the body afterwards. If this toll of killed women (15 women/day) does not rise, it means that 5,500 Iraqi women will be killed in this coming year. Reasons of killings are mixed, but mostly for sectarian retaliation.

Poets attacked and killed by Sunni militia in Baghdad suburb, Al Madaen. Sunni Islamist militias have turned their sectors and neighborhoods into a Taliban life-style in ways which are totally alien to Iraqi cities. On Nov. 23rd, a Sunni Militia gang attacked a house where poets were meeting in a Sunni suburb of Baghdad, Al Madaen (poetry event “Freedom Space 2”). In this attack, a prominent poet and a friend of OWFI, Mr. Ayman Al Salmawie and his brother were killed while the others were wounded.

“This house practices prostitution” has become a prototype posting by Islamist militias in Baghdad. If the house does not get emptied immediately, the women get killed, the house is burnt, and family devastated. In most cases, the posting is a result of cross-sectarian retaliation.

Al Mousawat Media Center
Dec. 7, 2006

See our last posts on Iraq and the status of women, and our last posting from the civil resistance.