Minister leads call to end violence against women

Iraqi women on 8 March, International Woman's Day, called for an end to violence against women nationwide and for equal status with men, especially in top jobs, including ministries and embassies.

"Iraqi women are now crying out: stop killing, stop violence," said Nariman Othman, minister of women's rights, who led a delegation to the head of Iraq's parliament. She bore a list of women’s rights issues which they wanted to discuss.

"We demand protection from killing and intimidating women in the cities of Basra, Diyala, Mosul and other Iraqi cities, and consider the anti-women violence a crime against humanity," Nariman said.

"A bigger role must be given to qualified women in political decision-making positions and other governmental posts such as ministries… and embassies," she said.

Nariman also asked for more help from the government to meet the needs of the increasing number of widows, and find solutions to their problems, which include unemployment.

Iraq's constitution reserves 25 percent of the 275 seats in parliament for women, but not all of these have been filled because in some cases female candidates were not available.

Survey

In a recent report on the state of Iraqi women since the US-led invasion in 2003, the US-based Women For Women International said it had become a "national crisis".

The report, released on 6 March, showed that two-thirds of the 1,500 women questioned said violence against them had increased.

"When asked why, respondents most commonly said there was less respect for women's rights than before, that women were thought of as possessions, and that the economy had got worse," it said.

A similar survey by the organization in 2004 found that despite the fact that none of the women felt their families' most basic needs were entirely met, 90.6 percent were optimistic about the future.

But in late 2007, the report said, the nationwide poll of 1,513 Iraqi women found only 26.9 percent continued to be optimistic about the situation in their country.

The report also found that 76 percent of respondents said girls in their families were forbidden from attending school.

“Forgotten and silent victims”

On 8 March, the UN special representative for Iraq, Staffan de Mistura, called for more support and help to meet the Iraqi women’s needs "as they are the forgotten and silent victims of the ongoing violence".

He said 70,000 had been widowed in the past 4-5 years. In the south, over 100 women had been killed, and their bodies mutilated. In the north, at least 300 women and girls were victims of “honour crimes” last year, including being shot, strangled and beaten to death, he said.

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