The invasion of Iraq by the U.S. has resulted in massive deaths, violations of human rights, and various other war crimes and crimes against humanity. Apologists for the U.S. government often state that while there continue to be problems in much of Iraq, that at least things are relatively
better in Iraqi Kurdistan, where Kurdish forces allied with the U.S. have brought a better life to people living there. But a new report issued by Amnesty International on April 14th indicates that, “Security forces in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan Region operate outside the rule of law and regularly abuse their authority.” It also reveals that life for women is often hell on earth.
Amnesty International researchers conducted a fact-finding mission to the Kurdistan Region in 2008. According to the report they discovered many cases of people arrested and arbitrarily detained by Asayish (security) officials. These included victims of torture, as well as those who were forcibly disappeared and “whose fate and whereabouts remain unknown.” Amnesty says that torture methods included “electric shocks to different parts of the body; beatings with fists, cables and metal or wooden batons; suspension by the wrists or ankles; beating on the soles of the feet (falaqa); sleep deprivation and kicking.”
Amnesty’s Malcolm Smart, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program stated, “…arbitrary detention and torture, attacks on journalists and freedom of expression, and violence against women - remain and need urgently to be addressed by the government."
Amnesty also found that thousands of detainees were held since 2000 (even before the U.S. invasion, much of Kurdistan was independent of Baghdad and protected by the U.S. from the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein) without charge or trial for several years. According to the Amnesty most have now been released, “but the authorities have failed to significantly curb the powers of the Asayish. They have also failed to rein in the Parastin and the Dezgay Zanyari, the security arms of the two main Kurdish political parties - the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) - which jointly comprise the KRG.”
Women face special oppression. Malcolm Smart stated, "The authorities must do more to uphold media freedom and redouble their efforts to overcome discrimination and violence against women, and end the vicious cycle of so-called honour killings and other attacks on women by men who wish to subordinate them." The report details several cases of women who were murdered by male relatives in 2008. One such case was that of Cilan Muhammad Amin. She was strangled to death, “apparently by her brother, because of her suspected relationship with another man.” In still another case a 17-year-old woman was killed because she sought a divorce. One 13-year-old girl burned herself to death to stop a forcible marriage to an adult man. Other women and girls committed suicide to escape violence from male relatives according to the report. Amnesty reported on 262 women or children being intentionally burned between July 2007 and 2008. Many of these were suicides, but some were murders disguised as suicides.
Smart said, “Such cases show how much more still needs to be done by the KRG authorities to give women and girls effective protection against violence from those who wish to control their behaviour or force them into marriages against their will. No effort should be spared to prosecute and imprison those who commit violence against women, and to make clear that those who perpetrate these crimes cannot escape justice.”
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