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8/24/03 - LAW ENFORCEMENT IN IRAQ - 2003-08-26

It has been a little over one-hundred days since the Iraqi people were liberated from the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, but Iraq is moving toward self-government and stability. As President George W. Bush said, this is "a time of change and rising hopes for the Iraqi people after decades of tyranny."

Eighteen-year-old Nada Shaker of Baghdad told the Voice of America that her life has changed enormously since the liberation. She said she can now freely express her opinions. But there are still dangers. Like many young people during the reign of Saddam and his sons, she is concerned about the danger of abduction and even rape.

Since Iraq was liberated, there have been unverified reports that assaults on Iraqi women by Iraqi men are on the increase. If these reports are accurate, it could be the result of Saddam’s releasing sixty-thousand criminals before the war. But whatever the cause, the U.S.-led coalition is working to reduce the danger and source of these fears. Coalition official and former New York police chief Bernard Kerik says new Iraqi police officers are being trained to prevent and investigate sex crimes:

"Every Iraqi police officer that is now on duty in Iraq that was brought back eventually will go through this program. There is a part of that curriculum that deals with sexual abuse, rape, and how to address and deal with victims of sexual abuse and rape about issues of dignity and treating them fairly."

Unfortunately, for cultural reasons, women in Iraq remain reluctant to report sex assaults to the police. Mr. Kerik said the coalition recognizes that problem, and urged Iraqis to deal with sex crimes as they would any other crimes:

"The most important thing is that we make people understand that a woman who is raped or the victim of sexual abuse is a victim. And they should be treated as a victim as any other crime victim. And that's what we are pushing toward. It is essential that women who are physically abused or sexually abused come forward to report those crimes."

The coalition is working to improve the lives of Iraqis. As President Bush said, "Conditions in most of Iraq are growing more peaceful. But in some areas, the violent remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime, joined by terrorists and criminals, are making a last attempt to frighten the Iraqi people and our coalition. They will fail."