Women's Rights in Iraq - Historical Background

Historical Background

See also: Women in Islam

To appreciate women’s achievements in this society, it is important to look at the history of their position in the society and how wars and successions in dynasties and governments have affected women's roles.

During the seventh century the lamas as a part of their conquest were fighting the Persians, who were defeated. As Doreen Ingrams, the author of The Awakened: Women in Iraq, noticed, “Arab women shown in the mural tending the wounded or burying the dead. They wearing black clothes similar in design to those worn by the soldiers, however, are in white. In the early days of Islam were considered to be ‘partners’ both in war and in peace” (p. 20). It was a time when women’s help was needed. In particular, a woman called Amina bint Qais “at the age of seventeen was the youngest woman to lead a medical team in one of these early battles. After their victory, the Arabs that began ruling Mesopotamia named that country Iraq. In 750 AD, during the Abbasid Caliphate, women “became renowned for their brains as well as their beauty” (p. 22). However, even then many girls were being captured as slaves. Despite that fact, “many of the well-known women of the time were slave girls who had been trained from childhood in music, dancing and poetry. Another feminine figure to be remembered for her achievements was Tawaddud, “a slave girl who was said to have been bought at great cost by Haroun al Rasid because she had passed her examinations by the most eminent scholars in astronomy, medicine, law, philosophy, music, history, Arabic grammar, literature, theology and chess” (p. 23). Moreover, among the most prominent feminine figures was Shuhda who was known as “the Scholar” or “the Pride of Women” during the twelfth century in Baghdad. Despite the recognition of women’s aptitudes during the Abbasid dynasty, all these were reversed in 1258 when Baghdad was attacked by the Mongols. After that, the city of Baghdad was “given over to an orgy of massacre, plunder and devastation ”. With the departure of the Mongols a succession of Persian rivalries followed until 1553, when the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman captured Baghdad and its provinces, which became parts of the Turkish empire.

The Turks “had inflexible rules concerning women. They enforced the segregation of the sexes, the education of girls was limited and any importance attached to women was generally attributable to the positions held by their husbands”.

However, all these ended with the fall of the Turks. Britain was given the Mandate for administering Iraq by the League of Nations and therefore a new era began in Iraq under British rule. In the 1920s there was a “major uprising where women took part” (p. 27). In 1932, Iraq was declared independent and in 1958 was declared a Republic as a member of the League of Nations. As Doreen Ingrams argues, instability was dominating the region until 1968 when “the Ba’ath Party took control over the President Al Bakr and Iraq began to enjoy a period of stability” (28). Saddam Hussein succeeded Al Bakr as President in 1979.

Read more about this topic:  Women's Rights In Iraq

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