Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Why liberation from Saddam isn't enough..

Whilst one of the most widely understood mistakes of the invasion of Iraq was to fail to have a comprehensive, well armed strategy to control the country, impose law and order and confront the Islamist insurgency, a less well understood one is the more complicated one, the more delicate one - the need to confront the sexist violent culture than lay underneath. It is this that the Islamist insurgents are taking advantage of.
.
Take the case of Rand Abdel-Qader. She's 17 and dead. She used to live in Basra in Iraq.
.
As the NZ Herald reports, her father stamped on her, suffocated her and stabbed her to death. He remains free.
.
What did she do? She fell in love with a British soldier, who she had had merely conversations with over several months. She dared to talk to him in public, so, it appears under Iraqi culture, it was ok for her father to murder her for the "disgrace she brought".
.
The police approved of his actions. After he killed her, her corpse was thrown in a makeshift grave and her uncle spat on her before she was buried.
.
"it has been alleged by one senior unnamed official in the Basra governorate that he has received financial support from a local politician to enable him to "disappear" to Jordan for a few weeks, "until the story has been forgotten" - the usual practice in the 30-plus 'honour' killings that have been registered since January. Such treatment seems common in Basra where militias have partial control."
Her mother supported her, but is paying the price. "Rand's mother, 41, remains in hiding after divorcing her husband in the immediate aftermath of the killing, living in fear of retribution from his family. She also still bears the scars of the severe beating he inflicted on her, breaking her arm in the process, when she said she was going."
.
So you see that's what the insurgency brings to Iraq, but it is also what appears to be culturally and legally "ok" still. It is unclear if this young woman would be any better off under the secular government, but what is clear is that fundamental values of life, freedom and decency remain absent from many in Iraq. Short of full scale occupation and imposition of a constitution and individual freedom (ala post war West Germany and Japan), this cannot be achieved. The benefits of making Iraq into a liberal democracy that respects individual rights and freedom would be high, but the costs are also very high, and sadly US foreign policy has been obsessed with democracy as the answer - when democracy can often deliver the sad fact that a majority of people in a country may be sexist, racist and want the government to do violence to minorities.
.
Under the status quo there is no easy answer. Westerners could help fund and support Arab womens' groups and those fighting for individual rights in Iraq. Western governments could pressure Iraq's government to act against honour killings. However, one of the most important actions is to continue fighting the Islamist insurgents. They are the enemies of the West, but as importantly they are enemies of many ordinary Iraqis.
.
Of course, ignorant so-called peace loving anti-Americans who apparently care about women's rights will still support the insurgency. Barack Obama meantime would just sit by and let Iraq go Islamist.
.

No comments: