Eleven years after Saddam, poverty in Iraq a lot worse particularly among women

Like it or not, it's definitely true and awfully demoralizing for Iraqi women.

Unbelievable as it may sound, those few Iraqi women who work as government employees express even harsher views toward the female population than their male counterparts.  Minister of State for Women’s Affairs, Dr. Ibtihal al-Zaidi, the only female minister in Iraq out of 44 male ministers, does not want equal rights to be granted to Iraqi women and men. ”I am against the equality between men and women.  If women are equal to men they are going to lose a lot," was her shocking statement.  A female Iraqi MP, Dr. Jenan Al-Ubaidi, is still more appalling.  She has been far more enthusiastic than any of the male MPs to promote and justify the practice of beating women.

The private sectors are no better where only 2% of the total number of employees are women while more than 10% of Iraqi households in post-war Iraq are headed by women who are either widows, divorcees or caring for the sick or disabled.   According to Global Research, "they represent one of the most vulnerable segments of the population and are more exposed to poverty and food insecurity as a result of lower overall income levels."

In a country of an estimated 2 million widows, only 120,000 are currently receiving welfare assistance.  A widow's average monthly allowance is $85 while the average monthly rent is $210.

Plenty of widows live in trailer camps.  In a compound near a Baghdad park, there are more than 100 trailers in one of the two trailer camps for widows in the capital city.  These widows have lost their husbands either in sectarian violence or during operations carried by occupying forces.

The gross incompetence of Iraq's government offices is yet another curse.  Women have to wait for months, if not years, for their application forms to be processed by social welfare offices.  In the meantime the only way to meet their ends is to stand at the gates of mosques / religious organizations and literally beg for distributed items such as clothes, food, medicines, sweaters, blankets etc. or they're frequently seen on the streets selling cheap items of daily use.  Iraqi women begging on the streets has become a common post-2003 scenario.  What makes it still more shocking is the harsh government response.  Instead of looking upon it as a vital reason to alleviate poverty with welfare programs easily affordable from Iraq's huge oil wealth, these women are often picked up, arrested and imprisoned where they face ill-treatment, beating and rape.

Torture and sexual abuse that was commonplace in prisons such as Abu Ghareeb during the American occupation are now carried out by local Iraqi forces who were trained by the Americans and British.  Rape has become a common threat for female prisoners.  Women are detained for many alleged reasons without a shred of evidence such as terrorism, assisting potential terrorists or simply being "security threats."   As Global Research states, "some are taken as hostages to intimidate or force their male relatives to admit crimes that they had not committed."

Instead of working on welfare projects to help poor widows, officials, politicians and religious parties are encouraging polygamy.  Reportedly in the western province of Anbar, men are being paid for polygamy as an incentive.  It's a one time allowance to prospective husbands and no guarantee to bring women out of poverty.  Officially, main purpose of promoting polygamy is reportedly to reduce the dangers of prostitution, but in reality it's the government's modus operandi to save on social welfare.  Furthermore, polygamy is a personal decision; it's not supposed to be an official policy to tackle poverty among women. Widows and poverty stricken women need jobs, reasonable social allowances and micro-finance projects that would help them become independent, as it used to be during Saddam's time.  Temporary marriages are also getting far too common which, other than being thoroughly un-Islamic, resolve nothing.  Polygamy being the government's only idea to help women also carries the risk of increasing the financial burden on men, often more than they can handle, most of whom are middle-class men with limited resources.

Another lame excuse of the Iraqi government to encourage polygamy is the claim that with so many widows, the female population of Iraq far exceeds the number of men.  Not true.  According to the data of 2013, the total population of Iraq stands at 32,578,209, out of which 16,472,839 are men and 16,105,370 women.  Thus, the ratio of men and women is 50.56% and 49.43%, respectively.  Despite the war, men are still more than women in Iraq.  It's another evidence that the government's obsession with polygamy is only for the purpose of dodging its own responsibilities towards the poor.

Human trafficking for sexual exploitation and organ trafficking are also among the many other awful practices rampant in post-war Iraq.

 That's the American legacy, the "democratization" of Iraq !!

Everyone needs to read the report compiled by Global Research, Feb.2014.