Iraq marks women’s day without ISIS but scars remain
LONDON - Iraq marked International Women’s Day with its territory free of Islamic State (ISIS) control for the first time in three years but the country’s women still face numerous struggles in day-to-day life.
Celebratory events on March 8 honoured women in Iraq. Women rights advocates, politicians and international organisations posted articles and public statements of support on social media outlets.
“This country could be much better run by women than these politicians. Iraqi women are very strong, honest, sacrificed a lot for their families and their country. They are smart, responsible, and much better to run Iraq,” said Iraqi lawmaker Shirouk Abayachi.
In a Twitter post, the World Health Organisation’s Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office called on Iraqi women to “stand proud and strong.”
The charity Oxfam posted a photo of one of its aid workers in Iraq, who is a refugee.
The official Twitter account of the British Embassy in Iraq called for empowering women to help build a stable and prosperous Iraq.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg was in Iraq to visit the organisation’s soldiers on a training mission in the country. He posted a video of himself and a female NATO soldier to thank “women in our armed forces.”
Not all the messages, however, were upbeat.
The Norwegian Refugee Council highlighted the plight of women scarred by ISIS. One of these victims said she no longer celebrates International Women’s Day. “Now it has no meaning for me. I don’t feel like I have value and rights anymore,” she said.
In addition to the trauma caused by living under ISIS rule or the war to dislodge the militants, many women continue to suffer in the country, displaced to temporary camps far from their homes. Some are widowed and must serve as the primary breadwinners for their households but with no income to speak of.
For thousands of Yazidi women who were enslaved by ISIS, half of whom are missing, there was little to celebrate. They have been abandoned by the local authorities and sometimes by their own families.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called on women to “take advantage” of existing legislation to broaden their participation in politics. “Current laws and legislation grant women broad powers to participate in Iraq’s political process,” Abadi said.
Iraq’s constitution requires that one-quarter of the parliamentary and local council seats be reserved for women. Abadi said more women should be part of Iraq’s next government following the country’s May 12 elections.
Iraq ranks 67th out of 193 countries in the percentage of female MPs, a list compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union indicated, but critics argue that the number of women in the legislative body does not reflect their weight in politics, the workplace or society in general, which they say is much less.
In December, Iraqi parliament shelved a proposal to amend Iraq’s personal status law to lower the minimum age of marriage, currently at 18, following a public campaign by women’s rights advocates. There are fears that there would be a call for a vote on the amendment in the future.