What Kind of Liberation? Women and the Occupation of Iraq

What Kind of Liberation? Women and the Occupation of Iraq

What Kind of Liberation? Women and the Occupation of Iraq

What Kind of Liberation? Women and the Occupation of Iraq

Synopsis

In the run-up to war in Iraq, the Bush administration assured the world that America's interest was in liberation--especially for women. The first book to examine how Iraqi women have fared since the invasion, What Kind of Liberation? reports from the heart of the war zone with dire news of scarce resources, growing unemployment, violence, and seclusion. Moreover, the book exposes the gap between rhetoric that placed women center stage and the present reality of their diminishing roles in the "new Iraq." Based on interviews with Iraqi women's rights activists, international policy makers, and NGO workers and illustrated with photographs taken by Iraqi women, What Kind of Liberation? speaks through an astonishing array of voices. Nadje Al-Ali and Nicola Pratt correct the widespread view that the country's violence, sectarianism, and systematic erosion of women's rights come from something inherent in Muslim, Middle Eastern, or Iraqi culture. They also demonstrate how in spite of competing political agendas, Iraqi women activists are resolutely pressing to be part of the political transition, reconstruction, and shaping of the new Iraq.

Excerpt

Cynthia Enloe

It’s happening. The country, the complex, dynamic society that is Iraq, is becoming “Iraq,” just as the complex, dynamic society that is Vietnam has become merely “Vietnam.” Starting as early as the late 1970s, one began to hear people casually saying, for instance, “Vietnam should have taught us a lesson” or “That song was popular during Vietnam.” As if Vietnam—with its history of Chinese and French colonizations, its poetry, its rice and rubber economies, its ethnic tensions between highlands and low country, its women activists’ fascination with the heroic Trung Sisters and the rebellious George Sand—as if Vietnam could be reduced to “Vietnam,” merely a brief late-twentieth-century American (and Australian and Filipino and Korean) wartime experience.

Today, as this terrific book is going to press, a similar shrinkage is being imposed on Iraq. Iraqis are being shrunken down to a narcissistic “Iraq.” Listen, and you will hear Americans and British men and women say things such as “Iraq should teach us a lesson” or “Iraq is the reason he killed his wife.” As if Iraq—with its history of ancient civilizations’ achievements, British colonial rule, multiethnic marriages and lively urban neighborhoods, prolific writers and filmmakers, Communist and Baʿthist parties’ competitive courtings of activist women, a disastrous war with Iran—as if Iraq would be squeezed into “Iraq,” a newly blown small glass bottle of American and British angst.

One sure way to release Vietnam from its imprisoning “Vietnam” and Iraq from its currently hardening confines of “Iraq” is to start pay-

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