Treasure of Baghdad: It aches me to see one of Iraq’s most famous former cosmopolitan cities falling in the hands of the new Taliban of the era. I have written over and over about how Basra is suffering from the extreme Shiite militias strict rules, yet the city’s transformation is heading from bad to worse.
While women suffer in the date palms-rich city, politicians and government officials are playing a catch-22. Accusations have filled their mouths while actions have no place to be carried out.
After the Christian Science Monitor’s article, and the BBC latest story about how women are abused if found not adhering to strict Islamic rules by the Shiite militias, Reuters broke out a new story in which more than 40 Basra women were killed and tortured simply because they weren’t wearing Hijab. Their bodies were dumped in the full-of-frightened-people streets.
The Basra police chief provided Reuters with the number of the victims. “Some women were killed with their children,” Major-General Abdul-Jalil Khalaf, told Reuters. “One with a six-year-old child, another with an 11-year-old.”
Khalaf’s account came similar to what Um Zainab told the BBC last month about the situation in Basra. “Two days ago two women were killed in al-Makal district. All these incidents are recorded as ‘killers unknown’ and the bodies remain unidentified, because no-one dares collect them. People said the women had received a warning beforehand, and that the gunmen then came to their houses and killed them – one of them in front of her kids.” Um Zainab is a woman from Basra who has experienced fear on first hand experience. Like a lot of women in Iraq, she yearns for the secular days where women were free to wear Hijab or not. “I remember back in the 1970s our teachers used to wear miniskirts and have the latest hair-dos. These are terrible setbacks. We don’t know what they want, or why they want to take us back 14 centuries.”
These criminal incidents have created a huge debate among people of Basra. Muqtada al-Sadr’s officials and leaders of the Mahdi army were the first to deny their involvement in these incidents. Salam al-Maliki, a Sadr official and a former transportation minister, known of his extreme loyalty to Muqtada al-Sadr and his extreme religious rules argued that the police chief should announce the names of the women found dead, al-Arabiya news reported yesterday. He accused the police of “exaggerating the numbers,” saying that his “[Sadr] movement is not responsible for that.” He added that their main goal is “not to kill women, but to stand in the face of occupation.”
Al-Maliki also said that there are women wearing “unsuitable” outfits in universities including Christian and Muslim women whom they don’t harass or “force to wear Hijab.” Um Zainab thinks the opposite. Her daughter, a college student, told her “that some men [on campus] are watching how women dress and ask them: ‘Why are you wearing a skirt and a shirt?’ One of her friends who doesn’t wear a hijab received a letter threatening her.”
As a response to al-Maliki’s defense of his militia, the Basra police chief told al-Arabiya, “these crimes have not been reported because of the fear of retaliation by the killers.”
In the meantime, British parliamentary report said that British forces have failed to establish security in Basra, Voices of Iraq reported. “The city is dominated by militias and the police force contains (murderous) and (corrupt) elements”, the Monday report added.
Stuck between accusations and no actions, women in Basra need urgent help. On this platform, I call on all humanitarian and women organizations to call for an immediate and urgent action to help women in Basra and Iraq in general from falling victims in the hands of the new Talibans. I lost hope in calling on the Iraqi politicians and the government because they are themselves religious extremists who call on imposing strict rules on men and women’s behavior allover the country.
Finally, I leave you with this report from Aljazeera International TV network. It sums up in pictures and interviews what I have already stated above.