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Old 08-26-2003, 11:09 AM   #1
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Blog of a 24yr old Iraqi woman

For those who want to know what it's really like there, I stumbled upon this blog today. It's even more interesting being written by a woman, and her viewpoints on how Iraq is now post-war for females is quite interesting.

RiverBend Blog

I've posted here one entry that I found particularly provoking.

Quote:
Saturday, August 23, 2003

We've Only Just Begun...
Females can no longer leave their homes alone. Each time I go out, E. and either a father, uncle or cousin has to accompany me. It feels like we’ve gone back 50 years ever since the beginning of the occupation. A woman, or girl, out alone, risks anything from insults to abduction. An outing has to be arranged at least an hour beforehand. I state that I need to buy something or have to visit someone. Two males have to be procured (preferably large) and 'safety arrangements' must be made in this total state of lawlessness. And always the question: "But do you have to go out and buy it? Can't I get it for you?" No you can't, because the kilo of eggplant I absolutely have to select with my own hands is just an excuse to see the light of day and walk down a street. The situation is incredibly frustrating to females who work or go to college.

Before the war, around 50% of the college students were females, and over 50% of the working force was composed of women. Not so anymore. We are seeing an increase of fundamentalism in Iraq which is terrifying.

For example, before the war, I would estimate (roughly) that about 55% of females in Baghdad wore a hijab- or headscarf. Hijabs do not signify fundamentalism. That is far from the case- although I, myself, don’t wear one, I have family and friends who do. The point is that, before, it didn’t really matter. It was *my* business whether I wore one or not- not the business of some fundamentalist on the street.

For those who don’t know (and I have discovered they are many more than I thought), a hijab only covers the hair and neck. The whole face shows and some women even wear it Grace Kelley style with a few locks of hair coming out of the front. A ‘burqa’ on the other hand, like the ones worn in Afghanistan, covers the whole head- hair, face and all.

I am female and Muslim. Before the occupation, I more or less dressed the way I wanted to. I lived in jeans and cotton pants and comfortable shirts. Now, I don’t dare leave the house in pants. A long skirt and loose shirt (preferably with long sleeves) has become necessary. A girl wearing jeans risks being attacked, abducted or insulted by fundamentalists who have been… liberated!

Fathers and mothers are keeping their daughters stashed safe at home. That’s why you see so few females in the streets (especially after 4 pm). Others are making their daughters, wives and sisters wear a hijab. Not to oppress them, but to protect them.

I lost my job for a similar reason. I’ll explain the whole depressing affair in another post. Girls are being made to quit college and school. My 14-year-old cousin (a straight-A student) is going to have to repeat the year because her parents decided to keep her home ever since the occupation. Why? Because the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq overtook an office next to her school and opened up a special ‘bureau’.

Men in black turbans (M.I.B.T.s as opposed to M.I.B.s) and dubious, shady figures dressed in black, head to foot, stand around the gates of the bureau in clusters, scanning the girls and teachers entering the secondary school. The dark, frowning figures stand ogling, leering and sometimes jeering at the ones not wearing a hijab or whose skirts aren’t long enough. In some areas, girls risk being attacked with acid if their clothes aren’t ‘proper’.

The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI- but I prefer ‘SCAREY’) was established in 1982 in Tehran. Its main goal is to import the concept of the “Islamic Revolution” from Iran to Iraq. In other words, they believe that Iraq should be a theocracy led by Shi’a Mullahs. Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim, the deputy leader of SCIRI, is a part of the nine-member rotating presidency and will soon have a go at ruling Iraq.

The SCIRI would like to give the impression that they have the full support of all Shi’a Muslims in Iraq. The truth is that many Shi’a Muslims are terrified of them and of the consequences of having them as a ruling power. Al-Hakim was responsible for torturing and executing Iraqi POWs in Iran all through the Iran-Iraq war and after. Should SCIRI govern Iraq, I imagine the first step would be to open the borders with Iran and unite the two countries. Bush can then stop referring to the two countries as a part of his infamous ‘Axis of Evil’ and can just begin calling us the ‘Big Lump of Evil and Bad North Korea’ (which seems more in accord with his limited linguistic abilities).

Ever since entering Iraq, Al-Hakim has been blackmailing the CPA in Baghdad with his ‘major Shi’a following’. He entered Iraq escorted by ‘Jaysh Badir’ or ‘Badir’s Army’. This ‘army’ is composed of thousands of Iraqi extremists led by Iranian extremists and trained in Iran. All through the war, they were lurking on the border, waiting for a chance to slip inside. In Baghdad, and the south, they have been a source of terror and anxiety to Sunnis, Shi’a and Christians alike. They, and some of their followers, were responsible for a large portion of the looting and the burning (you’d think they were going to get reconstruction contracts…). They were also responsible for hundreds of religious and political abductions and assassinations.

The whole situation is alarming beyond any description I can give. Christians have become the victims of extremism also. Some of them are being threatened, others are being attacked. A few wannabe Mullahs came out with a ‘fatwa’, or decree, in June that declared all females should wear the hijab and if they didn’t, they could be subject to ‘punishment’. Another group claiming to be a part of the ‘Hawza Al Ilmia’ decreed that not a single girl over the age of 14 could remain unmarried- even if it meant that some members of the Hawza would have to have two, three or four wives. This decree included females of other religions. In the south, female UN and Red Cross aides received death threats if they didn’t wear the hijab. This isn’t done in the name of God- it’s done in the name of power. It tells people- the world- that “Look- we have power, we have influence.”

Liquor stores are being attacked and bombed. The owner usually gets a ‘threat’ in the form of a fatwa claiming that if they didn’t shut down the store permanently, there would be consequences. The consequences are usually either a fire, or a bomb. Similar threats have been made to hair-dressers in some areas in Baghdad. It’s frightening and appalling, but true.

Don’t blame it on Islam. Every religion has its extremists. In times of chaos and disorder, those extremists flourish. Iraq is full of moderate Muslims who simply believe in ‘live and let live’. We get along with each other- Sunnis and Shi’a, Muslims and Christians and Jews and Sabi’a. We intermarry, we mix and mingle, we live. We build our churches and mosques in the same areas, our children go to the same schools… it was never an issue.

Someone asked me if, through elections, the Iraqi people might vote for an Islamic state. Six months ago, I would have firmly said, “No.” Now, I’m not so sure. There’s been an overwhelming return to fundamentalism. People are turning to religion for several reasons.

The first and most prominent reason is fear. Fear of war, fear of death and fear of a fate worse than death (and yes, there are fates worse than death). If I didn’t have something to believe in during this past war, I know I would have lost my mind. If there hadn’t been a God to pray to, to make promises to, to bargain with, to thank- I wouldn’t have made it through.

Encroaching western values and beliefs have also played a prominent role in pushing Iraqis to embrace Islam. Just as there are ignorant people in the Western world (and there are plenty- I have the emails to prove it… don’t make me embarrass you), there are ignorant people in the Middle East. In Muslims and Arabs, Westerners see suicide bombers, terrorists, ignorance and camels. In Americans, Brits, etc. some Iraqis see depravity, prostitution, ignorance, domination, junkies and ruthlessness. The best way people can find to protect themselves, and their loved ones, against this assumed threat is religion.

Finally, you have more direct reasons. 65% of all Iraqis are currently unemployed for one reason or another. There are people who have families to feed. When I say ‘families’ I don’t mean a wife and 2 kids… I mean around 16 or 17 people. Islamic parties supported by Iran, like Al-Daawa and SCIRI, are currently recruiting followers by offering ‘wages’ to jobless men (an ex-soldier in the army, for example) in trade of ‘support’. This support could mean anything- vote when the elections come around, bomb a specific shop, ‘confiscate’, abduct, hijack cars (only if you work for Al-Chalabi…).

So concerning the anxiety over terror and fundamentalism- I would like to quote the Carpenters- worry? “We’ve only just begun… we’ve only just begun…”

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Old 08-26-2003, 11:29 AM   #2
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It's interesting what "liberation" does to some...
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Old 08-26-2003, 11:37 AM   #3
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It sounds like one form of evil has been replaced with another.





I am a little surprised, however, by the Men In Black reference.
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Old 08-26-2003, 03:21 PM   #4
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Ugh. I knew it. Fundamentalists. Terrorists. Women are getting screwed. This stinks.
This is liberation??
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Old 08-26-2003, 07:45 PM   #5
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That whole site is very good.
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Old 08-28-2003, 08:13 AM   #6
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Quote:
Friday, August 22, 2003

Setting the Record Straight
I’m going to set the record straight, once and for all.

I don’t hate Americans, contrary to what many people seem to believe. Not because I love Americans, but simply because I don’t hate Americans, like I don’t hate the French, Canadians, Brits, Saudis, Jordanians, Micronesians, etc. It’s that simple. I was brought up, like millions of Iraqis, to have pride in my own culture and nationality. At the same time, like millions of Iraqis, I was also brought up to respect other cultures, nations and religions. Iraqi people are inquisitive, by nature, and accepting of different values- as long as you do not try to impose those values and beliefs upon them.

Although I hate the American military presence in Iraq in its current form, I don’t even hate the American troops… or wait, sometimes I do:

- I hated them all through the bombing. Every single day and night we had to sit in terror of the next bomb, the next plane, the next explosion. I hated them when I saw the expression of terror, and remembrance, on the faces of my family and friends, as we sat in the dark, praying for our lives, the lives of our loved ones and the survival of Iraq.

- I hated them on April 11- a cool, gray day: the day our family friend lost her husband, her son and toddler daughter when a tank hit the family car as they were trying to evacuate the house in Al-A’adhamiya district- an area that saw heavy fighting.

- I hated them on June 3 when our car was pulled over for some strange reason in the middle of Baghdad and we (3 women, a man and a child) were made to get out and stand in a row, while our handbags were rummaged, the men were frisked and the car was thoroughly checked by angry, brisk soldiers. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put into words the humiliation of being searched.

- I hated them for two hours on July 13. As we were leaving Baghdad, we were detained with dozens of other cars at a checkpoint in the sweltering, dizzying heat.

- I hated them the night my cousin’s house was raided- a man with a wife, daughter and two young girls. He was pushed out of the house with his hands behind his head while his wife and screaming daughters were made to wait in the kitchen as around 20 troops systematically searched the house, emptying closets, rummaging underwear drawers and overturning toy boxes.

- I hated them on April 28 when they shot and killed over a dozen kids and teenagers in Falloojeh- a place west of Baghdad. The American troops had taken over a local school (one of the only schools) and the kids and parents went to stand in front of the school in a peaceful demonstration. Some kids started throwing rocks at the troops, and the troops opened fire on the crowd. That incident was the beginning of bloodshed in Falloojeh.


On the other hand…

- I feel terrible seeing the troops standing in this merciless sun- wearing heavy clothes… looking longingly into the air-conditioned interiors of our cars. After all, in the end this is Baghdad, we’re Iraqi- we’ve seen this heat before.

- I feel bad seeing them stand around, drinking what can only be lukewarm water after hours in the sun- too afraid to accept any proffered ice water from ‘strange Iraqis’.

- I feel pity watching their confused, frightened expressions as some outraged, jobless, father of five shouts at them in a language they can’t even begin to understand.

- I get hopeless, seeing them pointing their guns and tanks at everyone because, in their eyes, anyone could be a ‘terrorist’ and almost everyone is an angry, frustrated Iraqi.

- I feel sympathy seeing them sitting bored and listless on top of their tanks and in their cars- wishing they were somewhere else.

So now you know. Mixed feelings in a messed up world.

I talk about “American troops” because those are the only ones I’ve come into contact with- no British soldiers, no Italians, no Spaniards… I don’t know- maybe they feel the same towards the British in the south.

Someone wrote that I was naïve and probably spoiled, etc. and that “not one single American soldier deserves to die for you”. I completely agree. No one deserves to die for me or for anyone else.

This war started out a war on WMD. When those were not found, and proof was flimsy at best, it turned suddenly into a “War against Terrorism”. When links couldn’t be made to Al-Qaeda or Osama Bin Laden (besides on Fox and in Bush’s head), it turned into a “Liberation”. Call it whatever you want- to me it’s an occupation.

My suggestion? Bring in UN peace-keeping forces and pull out the American troops. Let the people decide who they want to represent them. Let the governing council be composed of Iraqis who were suffering the blockade and wars *inside* of Iraq. People are angry and frustrated and the American troops are the ones who are going to have to bear the brunt of that anger simply because the American administration is running the show, and making the mistakes.

It always saddens me to see that the majority of them are so young. Just as it isn’t fair that I have to spend my 24th year suffering this whole situation, it doesn’t seem fair that they have to spend their 19th, 20th, etc. suffering it either. In the end, we have something in common- we’re all the victims of decisions made by the Bush administration.

On the other hand… they’ll be back home, safe, in a month, or two or three or six… and we’ll be here having to cope with the mess of a homeland we have now.
What an amazing young woman. I found this entry particularly interesting. I've been curious to find any first hand interpretations.
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Old 08-28-2003, 11:29 AM   #7
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In this last quote there is a reference to Fox as a biased news source (and I know many of you think this is unquestionable). How would an average 24-year old Iraqi woman have that perspective? What is being said is very moving, but is it really be said by the person represented??
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Old 08-28-2003, 11:45 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by nbcrusader
In this last quote there is a reference to Fox as a biased news source (and I know many of you think this is unquestionable). How would an average 24-year old Iraqi woman have that perspective? What is being said is very moving, but is it really be said by the person represented??
This person seems to be quite fluent in English and pretty intelligent, but I agree some of her language and how it's written is interesting. But it does state at the beginning that many live in homes with computers...maybe she had internet access to Fox News.
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Old 08-28-2003, 03:29 PM   #9
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Well... I guess I believe that she is from Iraq. She did say she went to college and is an engineer (like me lol) and her links seem to show that she is in the computer business (slashdot, dilbert comics..) her email addy is at a company located out of bangkok and LA.. but her English is superb.. I dunno. For now I think it is an Iraqi women.

as for the Fox news, it is a wide-held belief that it's a bunch of bullocks, and perhaps she knows this not solely - or only- from watching but from reading up about the news Americans are getting or the news that's being provided by some companies. Just another idea.
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Old 08-28-2003, 03:44 PM   #10
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The more I look at this, the less I believe this is a first hand account. Moving, creative, but not necessarily credible.
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Old 08-28-2003, 07:08 PM   #11
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I noticed the Fox news thing. Fox is universally known as a joke, but you can't get it in the Middle East. (There was the whole 'Murdoch is supporting Bush so much so that he can get his cable into the Middle East' thing going around). But then obviously she has internet access and you can read Fox news online. Plus if someone like this is searching around other websites, it's not exactly gonna be Free Republic, it's gonna be anti-war, anti-Bush sites and theres gonna be a whole lotta Fox bashing going on there.
She does also quote local Arab tv stations that aren't available in the US though, and in more detail. She kinda just name drops Fox, but reports on what she has seen on the Arab stations.

The other thing I noticed was that she spelt mom as m-O-m, only the US spells it like that, the rest of the English speaking world spell it as m-U-m. But then maybe she went to college in the US? Or is just more influenced by the US spelling for some other reason? (net, movies, reading etc).

Aside from 2 or 3 small things like that, it really seems like she's a local in Baghdad. But you never know...
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Old 08-28-2003, 07:08 PM   #12
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Old 08-28-2003, 11:45 PM   #13
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I had doubts as to the credibility of it I hate to admit, but just as I was really wondering, an entry said something like 'many question my English and how fluent I appear to be, but I spent a few years in the UK studying' yada yada. She says she is completely bi-lingual as a result.
It is entirely possible she is who she says she is I think.
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Old 08-31-2003, 09:16 PM   #14
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weird.. cuz there is no internet available in IRAQ
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Old 09-01-2003, 12:33 AM   #15
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You sure about that? That would make Raed's blog a fake as well. Not to mention this has only been written over the last few weeks as far as I can see with this site. I always thought there was internet, but it was limited previously.
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