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5/26/03 - LIBERATION FOR IRAQI WOMEN - 2003-05-27

Among the beneficiaries of Iraq’s liberation are the women of Iraq. Nimo Din’ Kha Skander, the owner of a beauty salon in Baghdad, told the New York Times newspaper that she wants “to move freely [and] live a joyful life out in the open.” And Dalal Aboud, a teacher at the Baghdad Preparatory School for Girls, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that she wants “to breathe the air of democracy.”

In Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, more than two-hundred women were charged with prostitution and beheaded. Their severed heads were dumped on their families’ doorsteps. These acts were carried out without due process of law. And as it turned out, many of the murdered women were not prostitutes at all, but were killed for political reasons. Amnesty International cites the case of Najar Mohammad Haydar, a Baghdad obstetrician who was beheaded after criticizing corruption within the Iraqi health system.

The Saddam Hussein regime used rape and sexual assault on women to get information or force confessions from detained family members. Opponents of the regime were forced to collaborate by being sent videotapes showing the rape of family members.

Saddam Hussein’s regime killed women dissidents and the female relatives of defectors. Safiyah Hassan was the mother of two Iraqi defectors. She was murdered after publicly criticizing the Saddam Hussein regime for killing her sons after they returned to Iraq.

These and other abuses against women are part of Saddam Hussein’s legacy. Now, as President George W. Bush said, the U.S.-led coalition is working with Iraqis on reconstruction:

“We are helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built palaces for himself, instead of hospitals and schools for the people. And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people. The transition from dictatorship to democracy is hard, and will take time -- but is worth the effort.”

The U.S. and its allies are committed to helping Iraq become peaceful and democratic. Iraqi women have a vital role to play in that process.