Iraqi women find no end to their suffering

Click to follow
The Independent Online

For two days, 19-year-old Bedur Ibrahim lay in the mortuary of the al-Kindi hospital. Her family refused to collect her body, and the city authorities failed to provide a pathologist's report on her death.

For two days, 19-year-old Bedur Ibrahim lay in the mortuary of the al-Kindi hospital. Her family refused to collect her body, and the city authorities failed to provide a pathologist's report on her death.

Like all victims of violence here, Bedur's remains should have been brought to the city morgue. But doctors in Baghdad have admitted that - at the request of her parents - she was buried without ceremony in a common grave at the municipal cemetery.

The reason was as shameful as it was routine. Like many other women in Baghdad since the Anglo-American invasion a year ago, Bedur had been abducted from her home by armed men, gang-raped and murdered.

Even the head of the city mortuary, Dr Faqr Bakr, admitted to the Independent on Sunday that he knew her family would not have collected her body had it been sent to him.

Most women who suffer Bedur's fate leave no record of their ordeal. But she lived just long enough after being shot to tell nurses at the hospital what had happened.

Hanan Abdullah, the al-Kindi nurse who looked after Bedur until she died of her extensive injuries, described "a very distressed human being" who was looking for comfort in her last hours because she had been shunned by those she cared for most - her own family. "She told me what happened. She said: 'They took me at gun point from my home, raped me for 16 days and then they shot me.' "

Bedur was brought unconscious to the emergency department by the Khadmiya police, with no details of her family. The police officer told the hospital he would try to contact her father, but to no avail. "We operated on Bedur, and when she recovered consciousness she repeatedly asked for her mother," said the nurse. "When she realised that she would never come, I think she gave up and let herself die."

According to the Iraqi "honour" system, a woman who has been raped or abducted is considered to have brought shame upon her family. Under Saddam's regime, a rape victim would usually be killed by a brother or father to restore family honour unless she agreed to marry her abductor.

The day after Saddam Hussein's capture, the US proconsul Paul Bremer told Iraqis that there would be "no more suffering". But Yannar Mohammed, chairwoman of the Iraqi Women's Coalition (IWC), says that since the end of the war, about 350 women have been abducted. The few who survive their ordeal require protection from "honour" killings by their family. The IWC is about to open the first women's shelter in Baghdad, with no financial help from the occupation authorities.

The US State Department criticises countries which fail to curb human trafficking, but the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq has treated the fate of kidnapped women as an isolated phenomenon.

Comments