Hun­dreds of Iraqi women rally in de­fi­ance of order

Gulf Today - - Front Page -

BAGH­DAD: Hun­dreds of Iraqi women of all ages flooded cen­tral Bagh­dad on Thurs­day along­side male anti-gov­ern­ment pro­test­ers, de­fy­ing an order by pow­er­ful cleric Moqtada Sadr to sep­a­rate the gen­ders in the ral­lies.

Some were veiled, oth­ers not, still more wrapped their faces in black-and-white check­ered scarves. Most car­ried roses, Iraqi flags or signs de­fend­ing their role in the regime change demon­stra­tions.

They marched through a tun­nel and spilled out into Tahrir Square, the epi­cen­tre of the youth-dom­i­nated move­ment in a coun­try where vast re­gions re­main so­cially con­ser­va­tive.

“We want to pro­tect women’s role in the protests as we’re just like the men. There are ef­forts to kick us out of Tahrir but we’ll only come back stronger,” said Zainab Ah­mad, a phar­macy stu­dent.

“Some people were in­cit­ing against us a few days ago, seek­ing to keep women at home or keep them quiet. But we turned out to­day in large num­bers to prove to those people that their ef­forts will end in fail­ure,” she said.

Ah­mad ap­peared to be re­fer­ring to con­tro­ver­sial cleric Moqtada Sadr, a pow­er­ful fig­ure who first backed the ral­lies when they erupted in Oc­to­ber but who has since sought to dis­credit them.

On Satur­day, the mili­tia­man-turned-politi­cian had al­leged drug and al­co­hol use among the pro­test­ers and said it was im­moral for men and women to mix there.

And a few mo­ments be­fore Thurs­day’s women’s march be­gan, Sadr once again took to Twit­ter to slam the protests as be­ing rife with “nu­dity, promis­cu­ity, drunk­en­ness, im­moral­ity, de­bauch­ery ... and non-be­liev­ers.”

In a strange turn, he said Iraq must not “turn into Chicago,” which he said was full of “moral loose­ness” in­clud­ing ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity, a claim that was im­me­di­ately mocked on­line.

While the num­bers in Tahrir have dwin­dled in re­cent weeks, many Iraqi youth say the past four months of ral­lies have helped break down wide­spread con­ser­va­tive so­cial norms.

Men and women were seen hold­ing hands in Tahrir and even camp­ing out in the square to­gether.

On Thurs­day, men linked arms to form a pro­tec­tive ring around the women as they marched for over an hour.

“Rev­o­lu­tion is my name, male si­lence is the real shame!” they chanted, then adding “Free­dom, rev­o­lu­tion, feminism!”

Some of their chants were snide re­marks at Sadr him­self.

“Where are the mil­lions?” some said, re­fer­ring to the cleric’s call for a mil­lion-strong march sev­eral weeks ago that saw much smaller num­bers hit the streets.

The ral­lies have slammed Iraqi au­thor­i­ties for be­ing cor­rupt, in­com­pe­tent and be­holden to neigh­bour­ing Iran.

“They want us to be a sec­ond Iran, but Iraqi women weren’t born to let men dic­tate to them what to do,” pro­tester Raya Assi told AFP on Thurs­day. “They have to ac­cept us the way we are.”

In a sep­a­rate de­vel­op­ment, the Iraqi gov­ern­ment has given Nato the green light to stay in the coun­try, the al­liance’s chief said on Thurs­day, weeks af­ter Bagh­dad de­manded for­eign forces leave the coun­try over the US killing of Iran’s top gen­eral near the Bagh­dad air­port.

Prod­ded by US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to do more in the wider Mid­dle East, Nato has been de­vel­op­ing plans to ex­pand its training ef­fort in Iraq, where it was help­ing build up the Iraqi army and pro­vide se­cu­rity ad­vice to gov­ern­ment min­istries un­til it was sus­pended over the drone strike.

“The gov­ern­ment of Iraq has con­firmed to us their de­sire for a con­tin­u­a­tion of the Nato training, ad­vis­ing and ca­pac­ity build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties for the Iraqi armed forces,” Sec­re­tary-gen­eral Jens Stoltenber­g told re­porters in Brus­sels dur­ing a meet­ing of al­lied de­fense min­is­ters.

“We will only stay in Iraq as long as we are wel­come,” he added.

Nato’s Canada-led training mis­sion was launched in 2018 and in­volves around 500 troops. The plan now is to move hun­dreds of train­ers work­ing with the in­ter­na­tional force fight­ing Daesh group in Iraq over to that mis­sion.

Un­like the in­ter­na­tional coali­tion, Nato’s training ef­fort does not in­volve com­bat op­er­a­tions.

The move was not ex­pected to in­volve the de­ploy­ment of more troops. But when asked if he had re­ceived pledges from other Nato al­lies to do more so the US could re­duce its per­son­nel in Iraq, De­fense Sec­re­tary Mark Esper said “the short an­swer is yes.” He de­clined to pro­vide de­tails.

Stoltenber­g also pro­vided no de­tails about how many troops might be added to the training force or what new ac­tiv­i­ties they might even­tu­ally un­der­take. More de­tails could be made pub­lic af­ter he meets top of­fi­cials in the anti-is coali­tion in Mu­nich, Ger­many on Fri­day.

Of­fi­cials have said “a cou­ple of hun­dred” troops would change roles. The first step would be to ex­pand the training at three bases in cen­tral Iraq. A sec­ond step, pos­si­bly over the sum­mer, would see the mis­sion’s man­date changed to take over more ac­tiv­i­ties cur­rently han­dled by the coali­tion.

BRUS­SELS: The Iraqi gov­ern­ment has given Nato the green light to stay in the coun­try, the al­liance’s chief said on Thurs­day, weeks af­ter Iraq de­manded for­eign forces leave the coun­try over the US killing of Iran’s top gen­eral near the Bagh­dad air­port.

Prod­ded by US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to do more in the wider Mid­dle East, Nato has been de­vel­op­ing plans to ex­pand its training ef­fort in Iraq, where it was help­ing build up the Iraqi army and pro­vide se­cu­rity ad­vice to gov­ern­ment min­istries un­til it was sus­pended over the drone strike.

“The gov­ern­ment of Iraq has con­firmed to us their de­sire for a con­tin­u­a­tion of the Nato training, ad­vis­ing and ca­pac­ity build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties for the Iraqi armed forces,” Sec­re­tary-gen­eral Jens Stoltenber­g told re­porters in Brus­sels dur­ing a meet­ing of al­lied de­fense min­is­ters.

“We will only stay in Iraq as long as we are wel­come,” he added.

Nat o’ s canada-led training mis­sion was launched in 2018 and in­volves around 500 troops. The plan now is to move hun­dreds of train­ers work­ing with the in­ter­na­tional force fight­ing the Daesh group in Iraq over to that mis­sion.

Un­like the in­ter­na­tional coali­tion, Nato’s training ef­fort does not in­volve com­bat op­er­a­tions.

The move was not ex­pected to in­volve the de­ploy­ment of more troops. But when asked if he had re­ceived pledges from other Nato al­lies to do more so the US could re­duce its per­son­nel in Iraq, De­fense Sec­re­tary Mark Esper said “the short an­swer is yes.” He de­clined to pro­vide de­tails.

Stoltenber­g also pro­vided no de­tails about how many troops might be added to the training force or what new ac­tiv­i­ties they might even­tu­ally un­der­take. More de­tails could be made pub­lic af­ter he meets top of­fi­cials in the anti-daesh coali­tion in Mu­nich, Ger­many on Fri­day.

Of­fi­cials have said “a cou­ple of hun­dred” troops would change roles.

The first step would be to ex­pand the training at three bases in cen­tral Iraq. A sec­ond step, pos­si­bly over the sum­mer, would see the mis­sion’s man­date changed to take over more ac­tiv­i­ties cur­rently han­dled by the coali­tion.

Esper said the min­is­ters have “asked Nato’s mil­i­tary lead­ers to con­sider what more the al­liance could do to as­sist the Iraqi se­cu­rity forces.”

Esper said he wel­comed “follow-on dis­cus­sions on how to broaden Nato’s role in the Mid­dle East to de­fend the in­ter­na­tional rules-based order, to in­clude de­ploy­ing air de­fenses and other ca­pa­bil­i­ties that would de­ter ag­gres­sion and re­as­sure part­ners.” Again, no de­tails were pro­vided.

↑ Iraqi women take to the streets in a protest in Tahrir Square on Thurs­day. Agence France-presse

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Bahrain

© PressReader. All rights reserved.