Last week we posted Yanar Mohammed’s appeal for international solidarity with women in Basra, Iraq who have been suffering a crime wave of rape and murder.
This week we find supporting analysis from MADRE. The women’s rights group based in New York joins issue with Mohammed’s appeal to discount Islam as the base causal culprit.
It makes much more sense to examine gender’s system of power relations whose number one enforcement mechanism is recourse to violence against women. There is nothing “Muslim” about that system, except that its Muslim proponents, like their Jewish, Christian, and Hindu counterparts, use culture and religion to rationalize women’s subjugation.
In fact, shifting the focus from culture to gender reveals a system of power that is nearly universal. Yanar Mohammed, the founder of OWFI, describes this year’s killings of women in Basra as a campaign “to restrain women into the domestic domain and end all female participation in the social and political scene.” Compare her comment to Amnesty International’s conclusion about the ongoing mass killings of women in Guatemala. According to Amnesty, that wave of violence, “carries with it a perverse message: women should abandon the public space they have won at much personal and social effort and shut themselves back up in the private world, abandoning their essential role in national development.” This certainly captures the intent of Iraq’s Islamists, who have little in common with the killers of women in Guatemala, other than a rigid adherence to a gendered system of power.
Instead of lamenting the “brutality” of Islam, the US media should start connecting the dots between the US occupation and the empowerment of people who use violence against women as a strategy to pursue their political agenda. We can start with the fact that the Pentagon has trained, armed, and funded the very militias that are killing the women of Basra.
Applying these lessons to home turf, let us not forget the “feminization of poverty” in the USA nor the murder epidemics among women in Nuevo Laredo and Ciudad Juarez.
As the MADRE analysis suggests, war is predominately a man’s world, and the more war we make, the more women will suffer in vastly disproportionate ways.
In our attention to the suffering of the women of Basra we should not go around pretending that patriarchy’s violence has no causal reflection in our own mirrors at home.