Posts Tagged ‘OWFI’

Campaigning for women’s rights in Iraq

29 novembre 2011

Interview (en anglais) d’Houzan Mahmoud dans Women’s Fightback (journal téléchargeable au format pdf à http://www.workersliberty.org/system/files/wf11.pdf ):

Houzan Mahmoud présente à la conférence Feminist Fightback à Londres

How did OWFI begin?

OWFI was formed in June, 2003, three months after the invasion of Iraq in March. That’s eight and a half years ago.

Under Saddam, there was no way of forming any women’s organisations, trade unions, or any other group independently. Under Saddam, they were controlled by the Ba’ath Party.

Saddam did form a women’s organisation called the General Union of Iraqi Women, but this was heavily monitored by the government.

When we set up OWFI, we were just several women who worked from exile, involved in political campaigns. That’s where I got to meet Yanar Mohammed (president of OWFI) when she was working in Canada. We got to know each other through our activism.

We formed a coalition of women’s rights in Iraq, before the invasion. In this coalition, there were meant to be women in London aiding us in our activity, but they became too close to the British agenda. Yanar went back to Iraq, and I became a representative of OWFI here in the UK.

Are there any other women’s organisations in Iraq?

There are hundreds across the country, from liberal women’s groups to Islamists and conservative women’s groups. However, in my opinion, there are two main types.

There are ones which are based on neo-liberal principles, which become enterprises without any political motivation, and ones like OWFI.

OWFI is different. It incorporates left ideals. Other groups and societies take western money, particularly US and UK government funds, and follow liberal agendas removed from helping women, wasting money and time to “educate” Iraqi women and engage them in the process of transition to so called democracy, i.e. voting, and participating in parliament.

We take an active approach in actually helping them and trying to change society by making women aware of their oppression and status in society.

Who joins OWFI?

We are not dogmatic. You don’t have to be 100% socialist to join. Our purpose isn’t to indoctrinate women into Marxist theory; we want to raise awareness of women’s positions and subjugation in the male dominated society!

We have young girls, older women, veiled women, and unveiled women… all sorts of females united to fight for women’s freedom!

There are women, however, particularly the younger ones, who enjoy the atmosphere of secularist and socialist views.

Some become interested in the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq, and want to know more. They join out of their own interest. We do not actively recruit them.

I personally don’t find it impressive or clever to ask people to join organisations I belong to. I have respect for people and if you are an adult then you can make your own decision about joining groups or not!

[Houzan said this very firmly, as if the organisation had been accused of such behaviour before.

What issues do women in Iraq face?

Many: kidnapping, prostitution, sexual slavery, honour killings, stigmatising and marginalisation from wider society, as well as lack of employment and poor pay, so many different issues.

Also, women aren’t the only ones who suffer at the hands of patriarchy in the country.

OWFI was the only organisation that stood up against homophobia and the murder of homosexuals in Iraq. We raised issues homosexual Iraqis face with Shi’a Islamists.

How usual is it for women to be employed? Has it become less usual as Iraqi society moves towards Islamism?

It depends. Some places have always been deeply religious, while others are progressing towards Islamism.

If a woman finds a job, she works, but it is all about who you know. Even prostitution is now an income for some women, if they get paid at all.

Prostitution itself is illegal and we stand up for the welfare and employment and human rights of sex workers because they are victimised and dehumanised in such societies.

I met some ex-prostitutes, and they were still in danger. They sought help from many women’s groups, but were turned away for moral or security reasons.

Some groups claim to be for women’s rights, but in reality they themselves need to liberated because they are so judgemental and conservative.

We haven’t come across any issues surrounding abortions, but if we did, we would also fight for women’s reproductive rights. Abortions are still taboo in Iraq, and I suppose many women choose to have backstreet abortions due to the increasingly religious nature of Iraqi society.

Recently, OWFI has been dealing with the rising number of children born with deformities, particularly near the Hawijah military base. [The town of Hawijah became contaminated, due to the use by the American military of depleted uranium, a radioactive substance outlawed by many governments due to its high toxicity, causing a number of children to be born with severe deformities and health defects.]

There have been so many casualties. OWFI put together a report on a whole generation of Iraqi children born deformed. The report was compiled of records from our activists when they went to the town, to find out more information, and take pictures. They visited children in hospital, and talked to the people of Hawijah.

Our organisation always comes across problems. Our activists get kidnapped in Freedom Square; other were attacked, and harassed. We are intimidated, even threatened.

One of our activists, Aya Al Lamie, was kidnapped and tortured by associates of Maliki at 20 years old.

She is active and outspoken, and quickly became popular. She was kidnapped and tortured for her role and mobilisation during the Iraqi anti-government protests during the Arab Spring.

She was tortured horrifically by the Prime Minister’s men, and they kept telling her, “you have to stop your demands”.

She refused every time she was beaten and, finally, they conceded to letting her go, but not after telling her “if you continue your activity, we will gang rape you.”

When she was released, her popularity had risen and so did the popularity of OWFI due to the stands these brave women take.

But her life is important, and we told her to keep a low profile. Her nature is very outgoing and outspoken however, and after her Facebook account was hacked, she simply created another.

Militantes anglaises soutenant l'OWFI.

Militantes anglaises soutenant l'OWFI.

What do you think of women’s organisations in Britain?

I see hope in certain groups, like Feminist Fightback, and some individual campaigners. However, I don’t see a feminist movement as such, to be honest.

I find there are a lot of depoliticised charities which are removed from a political and feminist understanding of women’s situations.

This country needs a new wave of feminism, breaking away from the liberal and post-modernist feminist movements.

We can say that the post-modernist feminist school of thought sheds some light on the plights of those who were not included in the wider feminist struggle. However, I think too much emphasis on differences has fragmented the women’s movement. We need a class-based analysis, moving away from identity politics.

What can socialists, feminists and trade unionists do to support women’s struggles in Iraq?

In the beginning there was solidarity from the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, the Communist Party of Great Britain, the Socialist Party and other groups, but it faded after the occupation of Iraq had been going on for a while, due to the discontinuity of media reportage after the media had got bored.

We receive less solidarity than before, and solidarity is important: capitalists are sneaky, they’re sly, they know how to support each other. We need to do the same.

La page de l'interview

Pour suivre l’actualité des luttes sociales et féministes en Irak, suivez le site de nos camarades de Solidarité Irak.

Des militantes de l’OWFI agressées à Badgad

11 juin 2011

Des militantes de l’Organisation pour la liberté des femmes en Irak (OWFI) qui participaient à la manifestation de la place Tahrir à Bagdad hier 10 juin ont été agressées par des hommes de main du gouvernement de Miliki. 12 organisations de femmes à travers le monde ont déjà signifié leur solidarité avec ces militantes et la demande de l’OWFI que le gouvernement irakien cesse les harcèlements de manifestants, et tout particulièrement les tentatives d’humiliations de femmes par des agressions sexuelles.

L’organisation féministe MADRE a par exemple communiqué hier :

« 10 juin 2011 – New York – Aujourd’hui, MADRE a appris que les militants pro-démocratie qui réunis à Bagdad sur Tahrir Square ont été brutalement attaqués par des forces en uniforme de l’ONU. Le partenaire irakien de MADRE, l’Organisation pour la Liberté des Femmes en Irak (OWFI), affirme que les militants qui s’étaient rassemblés sur la place depuis des semaines de manifestations pour la démocratie, des emplois et la fin de la corruption, ont été battus par des hommes armés qui se sont déchaînés pour disperser les manifestants.

L’OWFI signale également que les femmes sont spécifiquement prises pour cibles : quatre jeunes femmes ont été agressées sexuellement, une femme de 19 ans s’est vue attaqué par un groupe d’hommes qui ont tenté de la forcer à enlever ses vêtements. Une femme a perdu une dent dans l’attaque. Un autre militant OWFI, un jeune homme, a tenté d’intervenir et a été roué de coups. (…) »

Vidéo de Yanar Mohammed, présidente de l’OWFI :

Solidarité Irak

(traduction S.J.)

Solidarité avec les populations de Tunisie et d’Egypte

3 février 2011

Salutations révolutionnaires aux populations courageuses de Tunisie et d’Égypte, à nos frères et sœurs militant-e-s de ces pays, nous sommes pleinement solidaires, nous sommes avec vous. Nous admirons votre bravoure pour vous être affrontés à deux dictateurs de la région dont on attendait le renversement depuis longtemps.

Les justes revendications de votre mouvement pour la justice sociale, l’égalité, le bien-être, le travail, la liberté et la dignité inspirent et donnent espoir aux millions d’opprimés, pas seulement de la région, mais de par le monde.

La lutte pour la suppression de l’establishment politique en Tunisie et en Égypte, soutenu par les États-Unis et leurs alliés occidentaux depuis des décennies, inaugure une nouvelle histoire de cette région, une histoire dont les pages seront écrites par le peuple qui a rendu cette révolution possible. Votre courage et la persistance de vos revendications pour la fin des dictateurs ont amené les États-Unis et d’autres pays occidentaux à revoir leur soutien à ces dictateurs, en tout cas pour le moment. Ils se trouvent forcés de céder à vos demandes.

Le pouvoir des travailleurs, des jeunes, des femmes et des hommes dignes et épris de la liberté, leur engagement pour un changement réel, ont forcé l’Ouest à reconnaître que le Moyen-Orient n’est pas seulement un repère de terroristes mais aussi un lieu pour les révolutionnaires et les défenseurs de la liberté qui peuvent écrire l’histoire en montrant la force des masses s’élevant au-dessus des barrières de la peur. Bien que ces dictateurs aient proposé de soi-disant « réformes », elles ont été refusé par ceux qui ont souffert d’emprisonnement, de torture, d’absence de liberté d’expression, ont été dépossédé des droits fondamentaux pendant des décennies.

Nous, à l’Organisation pour la liberté des femmes en Irak, nous regardons attentivement les nouvelles de Tunisie et d’Égypte, d’autres pays dirigés par des dictatures au Maghreb et au Moyen-Orient. Nous espérons et pensons que d’autres pays suivront. Les gouvernements mis en place par des coups d’État militaires au service de l’Ouest arrivent au terme de la terreur qu’ils imposaient aux civils. Le temps est venu pour que les populations reprennent leurs affaires en main, de choisir une alternative qui représente la liberté [*] et l’aspiration du peuple pour une vie meilleure, un avenir meilleur pour ses enfants, une égalité des droits pour les femmes, les travailleurs et tous sans distinctions. Les temps ont changé, les gens ont dépassé les barrières de la peur et goûté la gloire de leur force face à l’oppression.

Nous apportons notre soutien entier et notre solidarité aux populations de Tunisie et d’Égypte dans leur révolution.

Organisation pour la liberté des femmes en Irak (OWFI)

http://www.equalityiniraq.com

Note:

[*] Le mot anglais n’est pas liberté mais « free will », qui désigne plutôt le libre arbitre, l’acte de plein gré, la traduction ici en « liberté » se fait donc avec une connotation d’autodétermination, une formule plus précise ne nous venant pas à l’esprit dans cette traduction urgente et, rappelons-le, non professionnelle. [NdT]

Départ des dernières troupes américaines d’Irak: interview de Yanar Mohammed

23 août 2010

Vidéo d’une interview (en anglais) de Yanar Mohammed, présidente de l’Organisation pour la liberté des femmes en Irak, sur Democracy now! qui faisait le 20 août dernier une émission sur le départ annoncé par Obama des dernières troupes américaines d’Irak (émission entière ici).

Transcription:

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest, Yanar Mohammed, president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq.

Yanar, usually you’re in Iraq, but right now you’re in Toronto. Your thoughts on this moment, how important it is? What is happening on the ground with women?

YANAR MOHAMMED: To tell you the truth, if I wouldn’t have seen it on CNN, I wouldn’t have been aware of it at all. And it’s only two weeks since I’ve left Baghdad, and I’m going back in a few days. You don’t see the US troops on the streets anymore. They are in their bases. They are running the politics totally on their own terms, for their own interests. But they don’t have—they don’t need to have their troops on the ground. They have trained the Iraqi army to do the same oppressive acts that they do to the people on the ground. The number of detainments, the oppression against people everywhere, the Iraqi army is doing a very good job at that. They are representing the same tactics, so the US troops don’t need to be there, as long as the US politics have been put in place.

So, what do we feel about that? Well, we have heard in the report earlier that it was called Operation Iraqi Liberation or Iraq Freedom. In our opinion, we are back to point zero now. At this point, organizing—freedom of organizing does not exist, because as—I don’t know how many people in the US have heard that workers are not allowed to organize. Unions have been banned to organize in some of the ministries in Iraq. Civil society organizations are also being harassed by some facilities put in place by the government. And the democracy that has been imposed on Iraq by this occupation has brought forward a prime minister who runs prisons. Nouri al-Maliki runs a prison, and everybody knows that. The Human Rights Watch has written a report about it. He runs a prison where hundreds of men have been tortured. And I’m not speaking five years ago, six years ago; this was found out in April 2010. Nouri al-Maliki runs a prison in Baghdad where hundreds of men have been tortured Abu Ghraib-style. And we all know where those lessons have come from.

So, the fact that the troops are leaving is good, by itself, if you look at it as a separate fact of what’s happening on the ground. But what’s happening on the ground, there are no freedoms. We are back to the same dictatorship that we had in Saddam’s time. No freedom to organize for workers. Women are afraid to speak out. We are being harassed by some facilities of the government. And when we go back home to hide, trying to get some security, we don’t find electricity. We get water a few hours a day. And to tell you the truth, I ran from the heat in Baghdad, because I couldn’t tolerate it anymore. And that’s why I’m here in Toronto now. And it’s very hard to live an ordinary life if you are in Iraq now.

All stories of democracy—excuse me, we do not feel them in Iraq. And we are working in organizations. We are sometimes speaking politics. We are not ordinary people. We are a good gauge for these things. We don’t feel any of this. The Prime Minister, when he is the head of a prison, this is not a democracy to have. And the deadlock that’s on the dysfunctional government, it was expected. Nouri al-Maliki, having been prepared for—to take over in the last four years, would not let go of his chair easily. And what he said over the interview, there was a part that was missed in the translation. He says that a weak man cannot take over. When he says a weak man cannot take over, he means he is the strong man, because he is supported by the US policies. That’s the message in there. That’s his message to his colleague, Allawi—

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yanar Mohammed?

YANAR MOHAMMED: —that he is the one who’s chosen.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yanar Mohammed, I’d like to ask you—here in the United States, obviously, the media coverage is suggesting this is the end of the Iraq war that began with the invasion of 2003. But obviously you are aware, as millions of Iraqis are, that the conflict between the US and Iraq now is almost twenty years old from those days in ’90, ’91, with the—Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. Your sense now, twenty years later, of the overall impact of the US hostilities—the bombing campaigns, the sanctions and then the invasion—on life in Iraq?

YANAR MOHAMMED: You need to have a cameraman visit Baghdad and see how destroyed the city still is. All the buildings look like they are thirty years old. And the streets are—the way I go from my house to my work, all the streets are bumpy, and none of them is fixed. The corruption, the level of corruption in Iraq is one of the highest in the world. The amounts of money that have been lost, meanwhile, in the last seven years and a half, I cannot even say the number. I cannot imagine it. So, using false words of democracy are good for the media in the US, but in reality, in our lives in Baghdad, level of unemployment is so high. And if CNN says it’s something around 60 percent level of employment, well, most of those are in the army, are in the police—young men who have to get some kind of job and later on get bombed while standing in a lineup. Level of unemployment among women is, I would say, 80 percent. How are we living? Scarce electricity, services, and everything is so expensive.

AMY GOODMAN: When you say « scarce electricity, » Yanar, what do you mean by « scarce electricity »? How much electricity do you have a day in Baghdad?

YANAR MOHAMMED: In my home, which is central Baghdad, I get almost three hours of electricity a day, and I have to pay somewhere between $150 and $250 for the guy who sells electricity next door. It means that the government finds herself not responsible of providing me with electricity. In the time when the temperature is 55 Celsius, you cannot stand in the street, you cannot sit in a room. You’re sweating. And the levels of deaths that happen with this high temperature is no concern of the Minister of Electricity, who is busy oppressing the workers who work in his ministry. He has banned unionizing, and he has been put on—he has two ministries. So, to make a long story short, our lives are so difficult in Iraq. And the confrontation with the US policies, for us, are getting harsher every—day after day. And we find out that we have to buy the oil that comes out of our own ground in a very high price that is not our—that isn’t proportional with the level of pay that we have. Unemployment is so high.

AMY GOODMAN: Yanar Mohammed, just for the record—

YANAR MOHAMMED: And the other thing, as a women’s organization—

AMY GOODMAN: —for the US audience—just for the record, for the US audience, when you talked about 55 degrees Celsius, that’s, what, about 131 degrees Fahrenheit, is what Yanar Mohammed is talking about.

The presence of the US, the embassy—eighty (80) football fields—the private security, the private companies. You know, Erik Prince, who’s the head of Blackwater, just moved to the United Arab Emirates. They don’t have an extradition treaty with the United States, as Blackwater is embroiled in various charges about its involvement in murder and torture. Can you talk about what the presence of the private security firms mean—they’re going to be doubling—and what this massive, the largest US embassy in the world means still in Iraq?

YANAR MOHAMMED: In what used to be called in Iraq the presidential palace, now there is a zone that none of us regular people can reach to. It is surrounded by almost five high concrete walls. And among these concrete walls, you have to be searched almost five times before you go inside. And if you don’t have three IDs on you, you will not reach into that zone. So the American embassy is something that we have not seen. I’ve just read about it in the magazines. You may know more about it than I do, while it is in our country.

As for what the—what we call—you call them the private contractors. We call them faraq al-qadera [phon.], which means the dirty gangs or dirty mobs, who are giving—I think most of them are working as bodyguards for the parliamentarians and for the VIPs in Iraq. And you have to be real careful when you see one of those convoys in front of you, because they have no problem shooting anybody in their way or hitting your car or jeopardizing your life. They are the ones that you need to be careful from. And you cannot stop them and ask them, « What’ss your ID? Are you American, or are you Iraqi? » because they have employed a big number of Iraqi young men who cannot find any other jobs, and they have taught them their same ways, unfortunately.

This point brings me to another conclusion. After seven-and-a-half years, we have a big population of young men who can work only as military. They are very good at killing. And after seven-and-a-half years, we are very aware who are the Sunni and who are the Shia. We are very aware who are the Arabs, the Kurds and the Turkmens and the rest of the ethnicities. We are very aware of all the reasons that could fight—that could start a civil war at any point. We have been given very strong lessons in the so-called democracy. They have very good reasons to kill each other for no reason at all.

AMY GOODMAN: Yanar Mohammed, I want to thank you for being with us, president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. And, of course, we’ll speak to you when you’re in Iraq, as well.


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