IRAQ: Killings drive women to become suicide bombers
Levels of violence in Iraq have driven many women to despair
BAGHDAD, 8 March 2007 (IRIN) - Um Abdallah, 41, has a difficult task ahead of her - she has to learn how to use a gun and begin preparing for a day she believes is going to be one of God’s forgiveness and revenge against foreign forces occupying her country.
“I’m going to be a suicide bomber in the name of God,” Um Abdallah said. “I will be one of the Iraqis who will take revenge for all suffering that US and Iraqi militaries have caused in the past years and force them to leave the blessed land of Iraq.
“I know I will die but for a good reason. When I die I will be beside my loved ones who were killed without [good reason],” she added.
“I wasn’t forced to be a suicide bomber. One day I woke up with this feeling, found the right person to help me to realise this dream and today I’m with five other women of different ages, preparing for the day of God’s forgiveness,” she said.
Um Abdallah is one of thousands of Iraqis who have lost their relatives in the past four years. Her two boys and one girl were killed during a US military attack in her neighbourhood.
“My husband was killed four months ago by Iraqi forces. Killed alongside him were my son-in-law and his two children. I cannot even remember how many bullets the children had in their bodies,” she said.
She does not know exactly when she is going to detonate herself but she is sure she will be ready whenever she is asked.
International Women's Day
To mark International Women's Day on 8 March, IRIN launches ‘The Shame of War: sexual violence against women and girls in conflict’ - a reference book and photo essay including portraits and testimonies on the sexual violence women suffer when men go to war. In addition, IRIN is publishing a series of articles from the Middle East, Asia and Africa on various problems women face.
More women are being encouraged to help the insurgency and sometimes even to become suicide bombers.
“They aren’t being forced but they surrender easily to the pressure,” said Ahlam al-Dujaili, chairman of the Defending Women Rights Organisation (DWRO), a local non-governmental agency.
Insurgents believe there are no differences between women and men when talking about God and the wish to become a martyr.
“We don’t force people to do it. They look for our help and as Muslims we just help them realise their religious convictions. They are fighters who are seeking God’s infinite forgiveness,” said Abu Ra’ad, a spokesperson for al-Qaida, where Um Abdallah is getting support. More widows but not enough support
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), widows or female heads of households face many difficulties in traditional Iraqi society, where women rarely work outside the home.
“With violence particularly targeting men between the ages of 18 and 35, the widowed population of Iraq is rising steeply. At the same time, without their husbands, travel to and settlement in another location may not be feasible for many widowed women, unless they have very strong community ties outside their original homes,” said Anita Raman, associate reporting officer for UNHCR Iraq Operation.
Al-Dujaili highlighted security, traditional customs, the economy, social situation and religion as the main issues affecting not only widows but Iraqi women in general.
|I’m going to be a suicide bomber in the name of God. I will be one of the Iraqis who will take revenge for all suffering that US and Iraqi militaries have caused in the past years. |
Unemployment has risen, especially among widows, who, because of their social status, are ostracised.
“I have been trying to find a job since my husband died a year ago but everywhere I go they say they don’t have a job for a widow and they usually recommend me to engage in a temporary marriage. In effect, they tell me that I should go into prostitution,” Mayssun Muhammad, 39, a mother of three, said.
“I’m trying now to get a job as a housekeeper but when the owners discover that I’m a widow, they will fire me, afraid that I might make something with their husband. I have my honour but Iraqis have taken this word out of their vocabulary,” Mayssun said.
Local agencies say in the past two years there has been a huge increase in the number of female prostitutes and of women who have been raped, mostly by military forces.