In Iraq, it’s a man’s world, after all

Friday 12/06/2015
A woman in a man’s world, Baghdad Mayor Zekra Alwach

As a woman I’ve always been proud to call myself an Iraqi; proud to belong to the cradle of civilisation. I always considered myself the great-granddaughter of the queens of Sumer, Akkad, Uruk and Babylon.
Iraq was the first Middle Eastern country to have its own television station. The first presiding female judge was Iraqi, along with the first government minister. This list goes on and on, which is why one would assume that Iraqi women of the 21st century would be continu­ing the legacy of taking affirmative roles in society. To our dismay, this is not the world we live in today.
As this article is being written, Iraqi women are being traded in a sick and twisted tradition — Fasel settlement — in which the women from one tribe are married off to men from opposing tribes to settle blood feuds.
As a woman, I can easily imagine being forced out of my home and torn away from my family just to be given away to a man that would basically be raping me when­ever he pleases. Just in May this horrible custom occurred with a group of 50 women in Basra. As much as all of this may seem like a story straight from a Grimm’s fairy tale, this is an extremely common institution among tribes.
The custom begins with a woman from one tribe being forced to elope with a man from a rival tribe. She is sent to live in the strange and unfamiliar setting of her new husband’s home where she would be treated horribly by her spouse, his family and even the entire tribe. To everyone in the tribe, she’d be considered Fasliyah; a house maid with benefits. She has no rights and absolutely no legal say in any matter, especially divorce. It’s only after she gives birth to a male heir that an annulment becomes a vague possibility. Once the son is born, the wife may plead to the husband for a divorce but then she would be forced to give up full custody of her child(ren) to the husband and never be able to see her offspring again.
This is not a religious practice; it’s a tradition that has been upheld for hundreds of years.
However frowned upon the Fasel tradition is, no action is being taken by officials. Although many seem to condemn it, actions still speak louder than words.
This blatant inaction perfectly exemplifies the weakness of the Iraqi government and its corrupted justice system. The Fasel tradition is a disgusting form of barbarianism that should not only be condemned but considered a major crime against humanity, punishable by law. But the government is clearly failing to implement one of the most important tenets of the Iraqi constitution: upholding basic hu­man rights.
Unlike the central Iraqi govern­ment, Kurds were very brave when they banned polygamy in Kurdis­tan to protect their society (even though polygamy is a definitive part of the Islamic sharia law.)
It may be true that 25% of Iraqi parliament is comprised of women (along with a couple of government ministers) but this is clearly an orchestrated act since ultimately, women have no rights. To the majority of the male parliament members, “equality” means noth­ing whatsoever. To them, women’s rights campaigns are only useful when needed: as gimmicks come election time.
The root of the problem is that the female population has gotten so used to not having rights that they believe they’ve been brought into this world only to serve and cater to husbands, fathers and brothers.
Until both the Iraqi government and society begin to comprehend that women are quintessential pillars of existence and deserve nothing but education, respect and fairness, nothing will change and Iraq will always remain a (cave) man’s land.