Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Bravest Women in Iraq

Here's an enraging story that I haven't yet heard the mainstream North American media pick up on:
Amid the Iraqi Government's attempts to stop the spiral of violence, comes the story of 20-year-old Sabrine Janabi - a story that threatens those very efforts to improve the security situation.

The woman, whose identity has not been confirmed, told Al Jazeera Arabic television that Iraqi police raided her house in western Baghdad on Sunday, while her husband was away.

She said the officers accused her of providing food to Sunni fighters, before taking her to a police facility. She then alleges she was raped by three officers.
I first heard of this from Riverbend, who gives a detailed account of the original Al Jazeera broadcast, including screenshots.

A website I was on yesterday had a quotation, "If we believe absurdities, we will commit atrocities," and I think that's about the most accurate summation of the problem here. The US government believed some patent absurdities enough to start the whole conflagration. Enter atrocities.

I find it doubly heartbreaking to see Riverbend write
I look at this woman and I can’t feel anything but rage. What did we gain? I know that looking at her, foreigners will never be able to relate. They’ll feel pity and maybe some anger, but she’s one of us. She’s not a girl in jeans and a t-shirt so there will only be a vague sort of sympathy. Poor third-world countries- that is what their womenfolk tolerate. Just know that we never had to tolerate this before. There was a time when Iraqis were safe in the streets. That time is long gone. We consoled ourselves after the war with the fact that we at least had a modicum of safety in our homes. Homes are sacred, aren’t they? That is gone too.
I'm pretty enraged. I'm perhaps more enraged about this case than I am about the tiresomely usual case in which a woman in North America comes forward claiming to have been raped, and is roundly disbelieved, mocked, shamed, and degraded. It's worse in this case because this isn't just another simple case of the Patriarchy At Work; it's also complicated by the (admittedly patriarchal) exercise of American supremacy in the world. The conditions for atrocities like this one (and the ones at Abu Ghraib, and so on) would not exist had the US not irrationally decided they needed (for whatever twisted reasons) to take out Saddam Hussein. I'm more angry about this case than the business-as-usual story in North America because it's obvious here that Iraqi women are losing their agency, autonomy, and humanity in great leaps and bounds every day.

I'm even more angry about this case than the business-as-usual story in North America because, as a Canadian citizen whose government isn't even involved, and who cannot vote in US elections nor petition US politicians seeking redress on behalf of others (and expect to be listened to), there's next to nothing I can do about it.

A Short Tangential Aside: This, and the case of Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, for whose rape and murder a US soldier has been sentenced to 90 years in prison, and two others may face execution, are ample refutations of the tedious argument that feminists should support the "humanitarian intervention" in Iraq on the grounds that it's beneficial to women. Short course: Wars are never good for women and other human beings; invasions even less so. It's really that simple. (Why am I reminded so much of the beginning of the War of 1812-14, where the US rhetoric was all about how they should invade Canada to free us from the wicked tyrant-king? Then some part or other of their fighting force decided that the best way to liberate the citizens of Chatham, Ontario, from the wicked tyrant-king would be to slaughter the entire population of the village, loot what they could carry, and burn the rest. Why am I reminded so much? Because the stories themselves just never change.)

"Enraged" is a good word. Also "disgusted" and "appalled."


Blogger Anne Johnson said...

If you're Canadian and feel powerless to change American ways, imagine how it is to be American and feel powerless to change American ways. I am absolutely categorically opposed to all sitting members of Congress, no matter what party. They are all beholden to special interests, or they wouldn't be there.

I accord a minimum of respect to the governor of my state, who bought his office using his own money. Imagine having that much cash to throw around.

6:09 PM  
Blogger Interrobang said...

I've heard it said that an honest politician is one who stays bought. Make of that what you will. :)

8:31 PM  
Anonymous I.M.SMALL said...


Here in America
I live upon the skids
While reckless rulers outside law
Control the power grids.

We slosh from side to side
Upon a vehicle
Which is controlled by others´ pride,
And we are in the hull.

Who knows the destination?
Like cattle in a car
We feel the note of trepidation,
As more than just bizarre:

For it portends some great
And unknown travesty
To come--the time is growing late,
And desperate are we.

They took the form of rule
That men did so long cherish,
As by permission of a fool
To turn sweet dreams nightmarish.

Fetid America,
You tore yourself apart,
Each grasping for the final straw--
That´s how disasters start.

2:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


11:12 PM  

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