Murders of Iraqi Women Cannot Be Explained by 'Cultural' Reasons
January 10, 2008
Madre's Yifat Susskind has written an excellent analysis of the real reasons for the extreme escalation in the the number of women being murdered in Iraq and amplifies the urgency of the OWFI statement posted to this blog earlier this week. She writes,
"Despite the clearly political nature of these killings, US media generally portray violence against Iraqi women as an unfortunate part of Arab or Muslim "culture." For instance, journalist Kay S. Hymowitz has catalogued the "inventory of brutality" committed by men in the "Muslim world," railing against "the savage fundamentalist Muslim oppression of women." Hymowitz echoes a commonly held assumption, namely that gender-based violence, when committed in the Middle East, derives from Islam.
Of course, pinning violence against women on Islam is politically useful: it helps to dehumanize Muslims and justify US intervention in their countries. It also deflects attention from the many ways that US policy has ignored and enabled violence against the women of Iraq (like championing political leaders with an openly-stated intent to unravel women's legal rights). But in fact, culture alone explains very little. All human behavior has cultural dimensions, but culture is merely a context, not a cause or a useful explanation for violence, whether in Iraq or anywhere else."As she accurately elaborates,
"In fact, shifting the focus from culture to gender reveals a system of power that is nearly universal. Yanar Mohammed, the founder of OWFI, describes this year's killings of women in Basra as a campaign "to restrain women into the domestic domain and end all female participation in the social and political scene." Compare her comment to Amnesty International's conclusion about the ongoing mass killings of women in Guatemala.
According to Amnesty, that wave of violence, "carries with it a perverse message: women should abandon the public space they have won at much personal and social effort and shut themselves back up in the private world, abandoning their essential role in national development." This certainly captures the intent of Iraq's Islamists, who have little in common with the killers of women in Guatemala, other than a rigid adherence to a gendered system of power."