H. Patricia Hynes and Yanar Mohammed, truthout:
Studies on the ground of the war's impact on women and girls come to vastly different conclusions. In October 2002, Saddam Hussein released criminals from Iraqi prisons. This and the soon-to-follow 2003 US-led assault on Baghdad, created conditions for bloodletting, for a sharp increase in organized crime trafficking in drugs, stolen cars, and women and girls; and for the ascendancy of armed Islamist conservatism. Saddam's tightly controlled violence and reign of terror were replaced by unpredictable, widespread violence against Iraqi women. The immediate consequences for women: hejabs worn by Muslim and Christian women alike (and abayas in some regions) to avoid being harassed and beaten in public; an epidemic of women killed in the city of Basra by fundamentalist men, who leave them in the street as a lesson to other women; increased rape, including of women in detention; abduction into prostitution; and a dramatic rise in "honor" killings, or the murder of women and girls by male family members to restore family honor. Muta'a - Sharia law-permitted exploitation [or dating*] of women by men in so-called temporary marriages, which serve as fronts for prostitution [or just premarital sex*] - rose after the war began, with men targeting desperate, penniless widows and the Shia militia targeting single girls. The real ruler in Iraq today, according to Iraqi Professor Maha Sabria, "is the rule of old traditions and tribal, backward law" with a US-brokered Constitution based in Islamic law, one which does not assure women basic rights or protections.
The Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), which investigated women's deaths in Basra by visiting city morgues, found that most of the women killed by fundamentalist "vice squads" in Basra were largely professionals, activists and PhDs. The lesson to other women: end any participation in the public, political and social spheres and stay home under male surveillance. By early 2008, only 20 percent of primary and secondary students countrywide were female; the rest were prisoners in their homes. Houzan Mahmoud, who has risked her life to organize a petition against the introduction of Islamic law in Kurdistan, summed up the impact of the war: "If before there were one dictator persecuting people, now almost everyone is persecuting women."
*The charge that "Mut'a" or "temporary marriage" is a front for prostitution, an exploitation of women, is wrong. I'm sure many Shia men do exploit women and engage in prostitution, but many Shia men do "Mut'a" just to engage in consensual pre-marital sex. When I lived with my girlfriend in college, my parents found out about it eventually, and when they did, they were very disappointed. They told me the only way to make it ok by God is to do a "temporary marriage" with her. And that's what I did with my American girlfriend from Arkansas, just to make my religious parents happy, or more happy than they were when they discovered I was living in sin.
"Mut'a" is one of those words that some Sunni Arabs love to throw at Shia as an insult, as if Sunni Arabs do not engage in pre-marital sex.