Houzan Mahmoud, Representative of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq has been threatened with death by Ansar al-Islam, an Islamic fundamentalist organization based in Kurdistan Iraq. On February 26, 2007, she received an e-mail which stated:
With the permisison of Great God, we will kill you either in Iraq or in London by the middle of March, because you are campaigning against Islam. You should be sent to God for punishment.
Mahmoud, who is currently living in London, is originally from Iraqi Kurdistan, where she led a campaign against the imposition of Islamic Sharia law in the constitution. She is a militant feminist, secularist, journalist and human rights activist. Most recently she co-founded an initiative to end the occupation of Iraq and to present a secular, egalitarian alternative through the Iraq Freedom Congress.
In March, 2004 Mahmoud wrote for the Guardian:
From the start of the occupation, rape, abduction, “honour” killings and domestic violence have became daily occurrences…
A lack of security and proper policing have led to chaos and to growing rates of crime against women. Women can no longer go out alone to work, or attend schools or universities. An armed male relative has to guard a woman if she wants to leave the house.
Girls and women have become a cheap commodity to be traded in post-Saddam. Owfi knows of cases where virgin girls have been sold to neighbouring countries for $200, and non-virgins for $100.
The idea that a woman represents family “honour” is becoming central to Iraqi culture, and protecting that honour has cost many women their lives in recent months. Rape is considered so shaming to the family’s honour that death – by suicide or murder – is needed to expunge it.
Like Iraqi men, many women have lost their jobs. Marooned at home and lacking independence, are faced with new miseries. Islamist groups have imposed veiling, and have issued fatwas against prostitutes. Now “entertainment” marriages are taking place. This is an Islamic version of prostitution, in which rich men marry women temporarily (often for only a few hours) in return for money.
The Iraqi Governing Council – an American creature – offers no hope for Iraqi women consisting as it does of religious or tribal leaders and nationalists who rarely make any reference to women’s rights. In fact, many IGC members have a history of violating women’s rights.
…One of the IGC’s first moves was symbolic. International Women’s Day in Iraq has been changed from March 8 to August 18, the date of birth of Fatima Zahra, the prophet Mohammed’s daughter. This has nothing to do with women’s rights, and everything to do with subordinating women to religious rules.
When the IGC proposed replacing the secular law with sharia, there were big demonstrations, but these have received almost no media coverage. This is no surprise. When the Union of the Unemployed marched for jobs, American soldiers arrested some of the organisers. This, too, passed unnoticed.
What is needed is a secular constitution based on full equality between women and men, as well as the complete separation of religion from the state and education system.