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International Women’s Day and Our Collective Schizophrenia

Last week’s celebration of the International Women’s Day led many Iraqi leaders, religious figureheads and notable politicians to join forces and praise the role of women — in society, in politics and in science. I read many of the statements these individuals made very closely. One of them in particular stood out, that of the Secretary-General of the Council of Ministers Hamid Naim Al-Ghazi. In his remarks, Al-Ghazi said: “On this special occasion, we must remember and appreciate the tremendous sacrifices of Iraqi women, who are still working diligently and persistently to secure their rights. … We must protect women from all forms of gender-based violence and protect them, especially in the workplace.” Those who read this statement see the institutional and social reality of women at the height and spring of their prosperity, but the reality of the situation and this land are far from these dreams, statements, congratulations and invitations far removed from a black state that depicted women as swamps and outposts of injustice and ignorance. What was striking about Al-Ghazi’s remarks was that it was among the few statements made that day that called into attention the stark contrast between the congratulatory statements and the real struggles faced by Iraqi women today. Indeed, most of those who congratulated women on the occasion of International Women’s Day were nothing more than hypocrites. None of them addressed the issue of institutional and social violence against women. None of them spoke about the tragedy of women’s suicide due to family pressures. I followed most of the tweets that were published on social media platforms that day. Not a single one of them mentioned how difficult it is for a female university graduate in Iraq to find a job: how they must knock on each and every door, only to be turned down. Not a single tweet covered the issue of workplace violence: the fact that even those few women who manage to get a job have to deal with daily harassment. No one talked about the injustice Iraqi women are subjected to or the psychological harm they incur. Iraqi women are victims of a male society that views them as inferior humans. They are subjected to harassment, violence and marginalization. Therefore, I would urge all of those who published congratulatory posts to re-read their remarks and ask themselves: do they truly represent women’s lived realities? – Ruaa Zuhair Shukr (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)