Thursday, July 17, 2003

Iraqi women fear rape

An article from New Jersey Online reports on some fo the tragedies and fears facing Iraqi women during this time of chaos and upheaval.

On April 9, as U.S. troops seized Baghdad, looters broke into Al Rashad hospital and flung its gates open. Unaware of the chaos outside, Latif and other patients walked into the street. Latif, 24, was raped and, when she eventually returned to the hospital, discovered she was pregnant.

Her terrible story is one example of the fear felt by many Iraqi women, keeping them indoors, away from their jobs and their lives. Even as Iraqi police work with the U.S.-led coalition to restore law and order, women say they are afraid of being attacked on the street.

Men of all ages jam Baghdad's streets and bazaars -- buying generators, refrigerators, reading newspapers, waiting in line for gasoline. Few women can be seen.

And the women who do venture out to work have been given shorter hours and are taken to and from work by drivers whom they know. They avoid taxis.

"The situation now is confusing and restless, it makes me sad and angry," said Layla Tariq, a housewife. Each day outside is uncertain, she said. "It is not the Baghdad I used to know."

Sabreen Shafi and her two cousins stopped going to school because they didn't have escorts.

"There is no security and no government so we cannot take any legal action against anyone who tries to attack us," she said.

Two other things about this article really bothered me:

"I'm not sick," Latif cried, as a nurse walked up to her carrying a bloody syringe. "I may be pregnant but I know I'm not crazy." She shook slightly, a seizure coming on, then backed away from the nurse.

Well, this sounds like pretty bad treatment from the hospital. Yet, the author of the article never comments further on this. Is this sort of treatment new since the fall of Baghdad? Has it always been this way?

[Al Rashad hospital director Ameer] Heelo said he pleaded with the looters to leave the facility alone. While he denies any of his patients were attacked, he said he did not check afterward to see if they had been harmed. Heelo's directorship was a lingering presence from the old regime. He has run the facility since April 2000 and absolves himself of any blame for what may have befallen those in his charge.

"If my house has been robbed I do not go to my son to see if he is hurt," Heelo insisted. "Everyone can check themselves by themselves."
Does it need to be said what an idiot this guy is?

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