In the city of Basra in Iraq, the answer to the question in the title is blunt: $100. That’s the going rate to hire an assassin to kill a woman, as reported by the Guardian this week. Earlier this year, the trend was already obvious: women in Iraq’s second largest city are being murdered in increasing numbers. MADRE’s sister organization, the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), routinely visited city morgues to try to keep track of the patterns of killings.
In January, a petition circulated by OWFI showed that the women facing the highest risk were “PhD holders, professionals, activists, regular office workers, and then prostitutes.” The phenomenon of “honor crimes”—human rights abuses committed against women, often by male relatives, in the name of preserving family “honor”—is meant to punish women who deviate from conventional standards of behavior.
Despite the preoccupation by many with ascribing “honor crimes” as a particular feature of Middle Eastern or Muslim culture, these killings have clear political and social roots. They are inextricably linked to situations of poverty, displacement, and government policies that legitimate such violence. In Iraq, US occupation policy has lent support to political leaders who have pledged to roll back women’s rights.
This institutional roll-back is spreading. In October, new legislation passed in Kurdistan that allowed for polygamous marriages, and OWFI has launched a campaign to counter this effort. Visit OWFI’s website to see more about their work to protect women’s rights in US-occupied Iraq.
Picture credit: Daniel Smith
Previous entries in the 16 Days 16 Entries Series:
- “One of the Worst Places in the World to Be a Woman”
- On World AIDS Day, Support the Full Range of Women's Human Rights
- Feminist Storytelling
- Defenders Protecting Human Rights with their Lives
- Zimbabwean Women Demand
- Violence against Indigenous Women
- Strange (and Dangerous) Bedfellows
- 16 Days, 16 Entries