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Thursday, November 15, 2007
The tragedy of Iraq, pt. 172

For several years, there have been dribbles of evidence from Basra that suggest all is not well. One has always hoped that this Shia area, formerly under 'softer' and more careful British control, might be an exception to the general disaster area that is post-war Iraq. This report chops the legs off this hope that has first run, then staggered, and finally crawled: it can be advanced no longer.
The chief of police in the southern Iraqi city of Basra has warned of a campaign of violence against women carried out by religious extremists. It has, Maj-Gen Abdul Jalil Khalaf said, included threats, intimidation and even murder
This is not simply a matter of incompetence in the management of the occupation; it is an indictment of the whole bloody enterprise.
Women interviewed by the BBC said they no longer dared venture on to Basra's streets without strict Islamic attire…
"There is a terrible repression against women in Basra," Maj-Gen Khalaf told the BBC.
Forty-two women were killed between July and September this year, although the number dropped slightly in October, he said.
In one case, he added, a woman was killed in her home along with her six-year-old son, who was rumoured to have been conceived in an adulterous relationship.
Maj-Gen Khalaf, sent to Basra this year by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki to impose order in the city, said the police were often too scared to conduct proper investigations into the killings.
"The relatives are reluctant to report the crimes for fear of a scandal or because they despair of the police's ability to solve them," he added.
This is truly horrific. One of the things that define civilisation is the way that women are treated. I do not mean that they should be cosseted or otherwise regarded as delicate inferiors. I mean that they should have the freedom to do as they wish, without prescription from men - in particular those citing scripture – without fear.

The number of refugees in Iraq, the number of deaths, and the appalling sexism of post-war Iraq, can leave no doubt that Iraq is now far worse off with 'democracy' than it was under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

Saddam Hussein only turned to religion when he was under severe political and military pressure. If one looks back to before the war, Iraq was basically secular and it may well have been stumbling towards democracy. The war has unleashed and empowered the religiosi. It has to qualify as the greatest misjudgement of the last hundred years. Blair and Bush are responsible. No argument.

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