Iraq women lament costs of U.S. invasion
By Suadad al-Salhy and Isabel Coles
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - One year after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, then-President George W. Bush told a gathering at the White House: "Every woman in Iraq is better off because the rape rooms and torture chambers of Saddam Hussein are forever closed."
A decade on, that statement rings hollow for many Iraqi women.
Although few miss Saddam's iron-fisted rule or the wars and sanctions he brought upon Iraq, women have been disproportionately affected by the violence that has blighted the lives of almost all Iraqis.
Domestic abuse and prostitution have increased, illiteracy has soared and thousands of women have been left widowed and vulnerable. Many women also rue the political leaders that came to power after Saddam was overthrown and the growing social conservatism that has diminished their role in public life.
Once at the vanguard of women's rights in the region, Iraq ranked 21st out of 22 Arab states in a poll of 336 gender experts released on Tuesday by Thomson Reuters Foundation (poll2013.trust.org).
The survey, conducted in August and September, asked questions about violence against women, reproductive rights, treatment of women within the family, their integration into society and attitudes towards a woman's role in politics and the economy.
Ibtisam, 40, was injured by an iron bar as she fled shelling in the U.S.-led invasion and was forced to have her uterus surgically removed. During the sectarian carnage that followed, a Shi'ite militia kidnapped her husband and killed him. Continued...