Director of The Organization of Women’s Freedom (OWFI), a group that works to stop the atrocities against Iraqi women and defend their rights. One of the organization’s main projects is the development of a battered women’s shelter in Baghdad to protect women who are fleeing from violence and "honor killings." In addition, she serves as the Editor-in-Chief of the Equality newspaper (Al-Mousawat).
As fighting rages across occupied Iraq, we speak with Iraqi women’s activist Yanar Mohammed. She is the director of the Organization of Women’s Freedom (OWFI), a group that works to stop the atrocities against Iraqi women and defend their rights and is editor in chief of the newspaper Equality in Iraq. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: We are joined right now by Yanar Mohammed. She is director of the Organization of Women’s Freedom, a group that works to stop atrocities against Iraqi women. One of the organization’s main projects is the development of a battered women’s shelter in Baghdad to protect women who are fleeing from violence and "honor killings." Also the editor-in-chief of The Equality newspaper. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Yanar.
YANAR MOHAMMED: Thank you
AMY GOODMAN: After this weekend, one of the bloodiest since the occupation began, can you respond?
YANAR MOHAMMED: We came out with our opinion in Baghdad. We had our demonstration on the fourth of this month, and we said we need safe streets for women. Our recognition of why it’s unsecure is because the occupation is still there, the U.S. troops, and that is attracting all sorts of terrorism from all over the world. Now, our cities, our neighborhoods have turned into daily battlefields between the U.S. troops and the military resistance. Women cannot leave their homes for work, for studying, for even the streets have turned into unsafe places because of the inhumane practices against women by the rising Islamism. And it’s not safe anymore. That’s why we demanded for the immediate leaving of the U.S. troops from Iraq as a prerequisite for any change towards peace. What we see now happening in Iraq are consecutive failures, one after the other, for the U.S. administration. They just cannot make it work. Whatever government they’re bringing is totally rejected by the people, and all kinds of opposition to it, political opposition and other kind of opposition that’s military. Some of it is local, but some of it is coming from abroad. Because of their holy jihad against the Americans, we are paying the price, and Iraqis are being killed by hundreds every day. We think this needs to stop, and there’s no way it can stop if the U.S. troops do not leave. Some people would say, "How would you have security if there is no army to protect you?" We tell them there is nothing worse than what we are facing now. Hundreds of innocent civilians being killed every day is something that we don’t want to see anymore. U.S. troops have to leave now, immediately. And we will take care of Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Yanar Mohammed, who is a woman’s rights advocate in Iraq, has just come from there. As you hear the description of what took place this weekend, both in Baghdad as well as in Tal Afar near the Syrian border. Your father is from there?
YANAR MOHAMMED: My father is originally from Tal Afar, and I heard the reporters saying that they are Turkmen and that Turkey will be taking a role in this, but this is not the right description. Turkmen in Tal Afar are Shiite, and they’re more influenced by Iran, and there is rising Islamism in that city. I hear that many of my cousins are being influenced by that rising Islamism, and that’s where the insurgent— I don’t want to call it insurgency, we do not like that name in Iraq. Young men want to work to push the American troops out of Iraq, and they are being vulnerable to all of the military resistance that is on the ground. I hear in Tal Afar, Islamism is able to attract many young men into those underground groups. That’s why all of these, let’s say, clashes are being done in Tal Afar.
AMY GOODMAN: Why don’t you like to use the word "insurgent?"
YANAR MOHAMMED: It is our right to decide. It is the right of people in Iraq to decide our future. And this occupation, it’s refused, it’s rejected. It’s our right to work against it. We do not like the words being imposed on us, descriptions being imposed on us. And I do not, myself, do not — I do not go for military resistance because they are causing more deaths in the Iraqis than they are in the Americans, but then again, resisting against the occupation is a right for every people.
AMY GOODMAN: Women in Iraq right now, can you describe the situation more specifically?
YANAR MOHAMMED: It has a couple of aspects. First from the American administration’s point of view, they have brought liberation. That’s what they say, but what we have seen is that there is just a makeover. They are pretending that they have brought 25% to the political councils, and they say that we have gained our representation. Those 25% that have reached to the national assembly do not present women’s rights. And most of them are not known activists, even within the most reactionary groups. We heard that the outspoken women were not chosen into that national assembly. And, of course, they do not want any representative that wants to achieve equality between men and women or to have a secular situation where women are equal to men. The actual situation on the streets, on the other hand, is being controlled by the Islamic groups. We call them "political Islam," because they are imposing their religion on the political arena. The first result to that is that women have to go back to their homes, they go to the schools. They impose the veil on women, and they are having very inhuman practices against women. They are threatening to kill women if they don’t wear the Islamic dress, and the young girls in the schools are under the daily threat. If they do not succumb to that way of life, they will be punished. So, for us, it’s either the American occupation that is willing to do genocide, or the other alternative is that’s political Islam, that will make us live in a completely inhuman and unliberated way of life. The two alternatives do not look good. We think that the progressive forces in Iraq should rise up and do something against this, and we are working for it. We are beginning to make a movement where we are pulling into it civil society institutions to come up with the third alternative, which is the alternative of freedom of progressive lifestyle, and also the alternative of the working class.
AMY GOODMAN: Yanar Mohammed, I want to thank you very much for being with us, director of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, a group that works to stop human rights abuses against women. Thank you.
YANAR MOHAMMED: Thank you.