U.S.-trained Iraqi Police Rape Women


February 23, 2007

Armed, Trained and Funded by the US
Iraqi Police Commit Rapes

The international news media is flooded with images of a woman in a
pink headscarf recounting a shattering experience of rape by members
of the Iraqi National Police. Most of the coverage has focused on her
taboo-breaking decision to speak publicly about the assault, but has
ignored the context for understanding-and combating-sexual violence by
Iraqi security forces.

As Iraqi women's organizations have documented, sexualized torture is
a routine horror in Iraqi jails. While this woman may be the first
Iraqi rape survivor to appear on television, she is hardly the first
to accuse the Iraqi National Police of sexual assault. At least nine
Iraqi organizations (including Women's Will, Occupation Watch, the
Women's Rights Association , the Iraqi League, the Iraqi National
Association of Human Rights, the Human Rights' Voice of Freedom, the
Association of Muslim Scholars, the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Iraqi
National Media and Culture Organization) as well as Amnesty
International, the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq, and the Brussels
Tribunal have documented the sexualized torture of Iraqi women while
in police custody. And as this case attests, sexual violence is woven
into the fabric of the civil war now raging across Iraq. According to
Iraqi human rights advocate and writer Haifa Zangana, the first
question asked of female detainees in Iraq is, "Are you Sunni or
Shia?" The second is, "Are you a virgin?"

Next week, MADRE, an international women's human rights organization,
will release a report that documents the widespread use of rape and
other forms of torture against women detainees in Iraq by US and Iraqi
forces.* The report includes testimonies of numerous rape survivors,
collected by the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI). Since
November 2005, OWFI has conducted a Women's Prison Watch project and
has found that, "Torture and rape are common procedure of
investigation in police stations run by the militias affiliated with
the government, mostly the Mahdi and Badr militias," according to
their summer 2006 report.

These are the same sectarian Shiite militias that are prosecuting
Iraq's civil war, the same militias that stepped into the power vacuum
created by the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and the same militias
that have been systematically attacking women in their bid to
establish an Islamist theocracy. Since 2003, the political leadership
of these militias has been handed control of the Iraqi state by the
US, while the militants themselves have waged a campaign of
assassinations, rapes, abductions, beheadings, acid attacks, and
public beatings targeting women-particularly women who pose a
challenge to the project of turning Iraq into a theocracy. As the
occupying power in Iraq, the US was obligated under the Hague and
Geneva Conventions to provide security to Iraqi civilians, including
protection from gender-based violence. But the US military,
preoccupied with battling the Iraqi insurgency, simply ignored the
reign of terror that Islamist militias have imposed on women.

By early 2005, as the "cakewalk" envisioned by US war planners
devolved into the quagmire that has become the Iraq War, the US began
to cultivate Shiite militias to help battle the Sunni-led insurgency.
According to Newsweek, the plan was dubbed the "Salvador Option,"
recalling the Reagan Administration's use of militias to bolster
right-wing regimes in 1980s Central America. But by late 2005, once
the Iraqi militias had become notorious as thugs and sectarian death
squads, we stopped hearing so much about the military training that
these groups had received under the command of Colonel James Steele
during John Negroponte's stint as US Ambassador to Iraq.

Neither have we heard about how the US allowed the government it
installed in Baghdad to hand control of the country's security forces
to the militias. Today, the Mahdi Army controls the police forces of
Baghdad and Basra , Iraq's two largest cities. The Badr Brigade is
headquartered in Iraq's Ministry of Interior, which directs the
country's national police, intelligence, and paramilitary units. And
the United Nations special investigator on torture is reporting that
torture in Iraq is worse now than under Saddam Hussein.

It's no surprise that we're hearing allegations of rape against the
Iraqi National Police, considering who trained them. DynCorp, the
private contractor that the Bush Administration hired to prepare
Iraq's new police force for duty, has an ugly record of violence
against women. The company was contracted by the federal government in
the 1990s to train police in the Balkans. DynCorp employees were found
to have systematically committed sex crimes against women, including
"owning" young women as slaves. One DynCorp site supervisor videotaped
himself raping two women. Despite strong evidence against them, the
contractors never faced criminal charges and are back on the federal

Contrary to its rhetoric and its international legal obligations, the
Bush Administration has refused to protect women's rights in Iraq. In
fact, it has decisively traded women's rights for cooperation from the
Islamists it has helped boost to power. Torture of women by police
recruits armed, trained, and funded with US tax dollars is one symptom
of this broader crisis.

*Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy: Gender-based Violence and
the US War in Iraq will be available at www.MADRE.org after March 6,
2007. For more information about the report, please contact MADRE at
madre@madre.org or 212.627.0444.

Yifat Susskind is communications director of MADRE, an international
women's human rights organization. She is the author of a book on US
foreign policy and women's human rights and a report on US culpability
for violence against women in Iraq, both forthcoming.

A shorter version of this article originally ran on TomPaine.com.

3 thoughts on “U.S.-trained Iraqi Police Rape Women

  1. Maybe you could cover all the preteens raped by Saddam and his son? Maybe you could also cover the “honor killings” by Muslims who ARE NOT trained by the U.S.? Maybe you could cover rapes by Muslims? Guess not. Can’t say anything bad about anyone other than the U.S., can we?

  2. Can you provide any facts to back up your claims? Or are we to take your word on faith, just like we are to take your claims on your website on faith? Obviously you haven’t read the research on climate change, given your attack on Gore’s film.

  3. Well, So the Americans are in Iraq to do like Saddam Hussein and his sons. Rape, and torture, … Because Saddam did, they are allowed to do so, and we should not blame them for that. Why US had invaded Iraq?! Is’nt for democracy and human right?!

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