Iraqi society was shocked with an unprecedented issue of a woman stepping forward voluntarily and admitting to have been sexually assaulted by Iraqi Security Forces. Instead of pursuing further investigation into this assault allegation, or empowering the victim with moral support, the opponent Islamist sectarian factions competed to exploit the matter politically preparing the ground for bloody sectarian conflict. They symbolized Sabrine's rape as an assault against the whole "Sunni religious group."
Meanwhile, the heads of Shia Islamist parties -- who are the top officials in the government -- immediately scorned and disbelieved the victim and rewarded the accused rapists. Moreover, they indulged in raising moral suspicions about the victim's reputation. All of this was publicized before knowing for sure that the assault did not take place, as the reports were contradictory and it is impossible in the first place to cancel out the possibility of a rape by clinical check ups. This matter has revealed a misogynist tendency where most spokesmen started to scorn and discredit the victim, wishing that no woman should ever dare to speak out the details of her sexual humiliation. On the contrary, a few of these male-chauvinist reports declared clearly that they preferred that she ends her life or live a lifetime of pain and misery without even thinking of punishment for her rapists.This kind of assault was repeated again in the northern city of Tal Aafar, where Wajida Muhamad Amin was group-raped by security forces. In this case, it was not possible to deny or discredit the victim as there were witnesses.
Raping Iraqi women by the police force is not an unbelievable or a new matter. The Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq has located six confirmed cases of women raped by police, inside and outside detainment centers. The youngest of these raped females is 14 year old. OWFI activists have raised reports of these cases to the officials in the Ministry of Interior and the presidency of ministries and no answer has arrived so far.
The matter to be questioned at this point is not whether these assaults happened or not, neither about Sabrine's credibility. The rapes take place daily under the chaotic situations resulting from the occupation. The occupation authorities handed over the power to uncivilized forces which have no respect for women's rights and dignity. On the contrary, they have promoted sectarian hatred to be applied in tribal barbaric ways where women of the other clan are "sexual hostages" to be exploited, while the women of their own clan are "valuables to be protected". In all cases, these uncensored forces will always regard women as property of the clan and a tool of political vengeance, but never an independent human worthy of respect.
Who protects Iraqi women in these barbaric situations? And who will guarantee their dignity, their privacy, and right to a decent future?
Women of Iraq cannot live securely under the occupation and the government of ethnic and sectarian division which has no respect for human and women's rights. The only hope lies in the people's strive to create the other alternative which liberates all from the repression of the religious, sectarian, and ethnic parties. Our alternative of freedom and equality is the only guarantee to ending gender inequality and all kinds of social discrimination.
Yanar Mohammed is the president of Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq, a Global Fund grantee.