Friday, July 14, 2006

Tomgram: Ruth Rosen on Sexual Terrorism and Iraqi Women

Five American soldiers have been charged in a horrendous rape and murder case in Iraq (and a sixth for not reporting it). In the United States, rape is now a public crime. Cases are regularly discussed and followed in the media; victims are far less often blamed; if you turn on a TV program like Law & Order: SVU, rape cases are national drama and even entertainment.

In Iraq, rape remains a crime largely kept out of the sight of a society that finds it almost too heinous to imagine (which doesn't necessarily make it uncommon). Consider, for instance, the comments of an Iraqi journalist, Raheem Salman, who works for the Los Angeles Times and who interviewed the first relative to enter the house of the 14 year old victim after she had been raped and murdered, and her body partially burned by American soldiers:

"Well, indeed, to tell you frankly that it has a great impact upon the whole society, upon all Iraqis. This is one of the worst crimes, you know, to be committed against a girl in this age. Some people describe this murder and rape as horrible and gruesome and disgusting, indeed. Others describe it even as a brand of shame, even in the American Army's history. Others consider it as example of the atrocity of some of the soldiers. Among the lawmakers here in our parliament, some female lawmakers, you know, protested strongly under the dome of the parliament. They asked the parliament to call the prime minister and the minister of interior. They also asked for a real participation of the Iraqi side in the investigation, and not only the Americans."

Or consider the young Sunni blogger, Riverbend, who writes Baghdad Burning and now seems to live as a semi-shut-in in an Iraqi capital caught in a heightening state of civil war. ("It's like Baghdad is no longer one city, it's a dozen different smaller cities each infected with its own form of violence.") In a post in which she discusses the death of a friend -- a twenty-six year-old civil engineer caught in sectarian violence in his neighborhood -- she also turns to the rape case in this fashion:

"Rape. The latest of American atrocities. Though it's not really the latest -- it's just the one that's being publicized the most. The poor girl Abeer was neither the first to be raped by American troops, nor will she be the last. The only reason this rape was brought to light and publicized is that her whole immediate family were killed along with her. Rape is a taboo subject in Iraq. Families don't report rapes here, they avenge them. We've been hearing whisperings about rapes in American-controlled prisons and during sieges of towns like Haditha and Samarra for the last three years. The naiveté of Americans who can't believe their 'heroes' are committing such atrocities is ridiculous. Who ever heard of an occupying army committing rape??? You raped the country, why not the people?"

Finally, consider the fine reporter Nir Rosen, who has spent much of the last three years as an independent journalist in Iraq -- and who looks Iraqi enough (his father was Iranian) to have been able to experience both sides of the occupation. He has been embedded with U.S. troops, but also embedded with ordinary Iraqis. ("My skin color and language skills allowed me to relate to the American occupier in a different way, for he looked at me as if I were just another haji, the "gook" of the war in Iraq.") At the Truthdig website, he writes a summary account of the American occupation ("creating enemies instead of eliminating them") as he encountered it that has to be read to be believed. He concludes:

"In reality both Abu Ghraib and Haditha were merely more extreme versions of the day-to-day workings of the American occupation in Iraq, and what makes them unique is not so much how bad they were, or how embarrassing, but the fact that they made their way to the media and were publicized despite attempts to cover them up. Focusing on Abu Ghraib and Haditha distracts us from the daily, little Abu Ghraibs and small-scale Hadithas that have made up the occupation. The occupation has been one vast extended crime against the Iraqi people, and most of it has occurred unnoticed by the American people and the media."

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

2 comment(s):

Keep up the good work

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:50 PM  

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By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:39 PM  

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