Iraqi Women's League
Since 1952, when it was founded, the Iraqi Women's League (IWL) has played a significant role in the struggle against tyranny and oppression in Iraq. The IWL has lost so many of our dear Iraqi sisters, who fell victim to ruthless political and gender-related repression in our country. The IWL has members of different religions including Muslim (Shiite and Sunni), Christian, Baptist, Jewish and others. Membership is open to all Iraqi women regardless of their ethnicity, disability, and political beliefs.
The years of Ba'ath Party rule engraved on our sisters the real meaning of fascism and dictatorial tyranny. After the 1958 Revolution, we proposed and won laws which gave employment, education and inheritance rights to women. A major achievement was the introduction of a progressive Marital Act. The Ba'ath regime abolished these laws and all the laws won in the revolution. An example of the repression was that women forced into prostitution because of poverty, and others accused of being prostitutes, could be beheaded. Polygamy was introduced, which further undermined women's position. Many of our members were executed or disappeared -- we are still in the dark as to their whereabouts. Thousands were tortured, raped and imprisoned, just for being members of our women's movement. The remains of some of our IWL sisters were = recently uncovered by their surviving relatives in the mass graves of Iraqi victims.
The Regime's Wars
This regime was responsible for subjecting our country to three horrendous wars in the last 20 years. The eight years of the Iran/Iraq War led to the first US intervention in the Gulf region, in the form of the Sixth Fleet. It's well known that many of the deadly weapons used in that war came from the USA. The current US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld was personal delegate to Saddam Hussain in the 1980s.
The second Gulf War (Saddam's invasion of Kuwait) resulted in the planting of US military bases all over the countries of the Arabian Gulf. In the closing days of that war, the USA played an important role in helping Saddam to crush our People's Uprising against the Ba'athist regime. Our people were massacred under the noses of the U S military, which even allowed Saddam to use massive air power, in contravention of UN resolutions. The "secret" mass graves of the victims of the 1991 repression bear witness to US collusion in Saddam's crimes.
During the third Gulf War of 2003, Saddam finally surrendered the whole of our country to US occupation. The Iraqi people paid a heavy price for these wars. In the final reckoning our people have experienced a catastrophe. This calamity is demonstrated in the destruction of our infrastructure, our cultural, educational and health resources, including the national health service, the total collapse of our economy, and the hunger and impoverishment of our people. This includes the great loss of innocent lives, from the first Gulf War to the 12 years of unjust economic sanctions against our people. Hundreds of thousands died in these wars.
The US & UK Invasion
The US and the UK launched this invasion of Iraq under false pretexts, such as the danger from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Many weeks after the invasion, they have still not produced a shred of evidence to support their claims. Saddam's sudden surrender of Baghdad is now looking more and more like the final dirty pact of betrayal between the dictator and the US.
We the Iraqi people, who were the victims of a fascist dictatorship, have now become the victims of an imperialist occupation. We have lost our sovereignty. We are denied the right to elect our own government. We are denied the right to have an army that can defend us. We are at the mercy of every criminal, vandal and aggressor who wishes to rob us.
We fear the threat of fundamentalist religious movements, which an occupying army inspires, and which undermine women's status and violate everyone's human rights. Religion must not interfere in politics and in the political system in Iraq .
The Iraqi people have not been liberated by the US. We have been subjected to a barbaric attack against our cultural, economic and national institutions, through wanton destruction of our civilisation, in order to deny us the hope of = freedom and a democratic future.
Women in Post War Iraq
Women are living in a particularly dangerous environment. They cannot leave their homes even during daytime: women are not seen on the street unless accompanied by men. Mothers are fearful of leaving their daughters at school. Male US soldiers search women at checkpoints, which is itself a form of rape; and soldiers are sexually assaulting women in other circumstances. No soldiers have been disciplined for these grave offences. This behaviour is characteristic of occupying armies.
The first people to suffer economically are women and children. The message coming from Iraqis: We have no water, gas, electricity, food, and the invaders are humiliating us. People who are desperate from shortage of food and other essentials have been forced to steal. Nothing has been done to ensure that people have work and therefore an income to feed themselves and their families.
We in the IWL have opposed this barbaric war on the Iraqi people from the outset. Our people need peace and solidarity, not military bombardment. We have fought and died for liberation from dictatorial tyranny. But this noble aim could not be achieved through military aggression and colonial enslavement. This latest war has proved that the policies of the "War Coalition" have not made the world any safer, nor have they provided a better life for the Iraqi people. It was to achieve secret imperial ambitions that the Saddam regime was overthrown, and replaced with a foreign military rule. This intervention prevented the Iraqi people themselves from overthrowing the Saddam Hussein regime and reclaiming their country, including the oil wealth. If the Saddam dictatorship had not been armed and supported by the US for years, we could have got rid of him much earlier.
The Invaders and Their Promises
The War Coalition reneged on all their earlier promises to hold elections or hand over power to an Iraqi authority. But our people have not remained silent in the face of this calamity. In mass rallies all over occupied Iraq, millions of women and men are calling for freedom, security, democracy and national sovereignty. They want to elect their leaders and run their own country. Yet this fact has been hidden from world public opinion. This censorship contributed to the passing = of the UN resolution that legalises and perpetuates military occupation in Iraq.
"Reconstruction of Iraq" is now a euphemism for the daylight robbery of our resources. The US colonial governor Bremer is handing out contracts worth billions of dollars to Bush's cronies and other multinational firms, while the basic services, like clean water and electricity, have not yet been restored. And who will own what is rebuilt?
Bearing this reality in mind, we the Iraqi Women's League in Britain demand:
We ask that you and your organisation consider our demands and endorse them to strengthen Iraqi women's hand in the face of the new repression by the foreign invaders.
Women's League, 155 King's Cross Road, WCIX 9BN