- Kidnapping has become the crime of choice amongst Iraqi
criminal gangs. With 70% unemployment in "liberated" Iraq, crime
is running rampant, with organized crime enjoying a free hand amidst the
terrible security situation.
- The families of the kidnapped are at times forced to
pay up to several million dollars ransom-unless they want to receive pieces
of their loved ones, or even their dead bodies.
- While media attention has focused heavily on the kidnapping
of Westerners, the kidnapping of Iraqis, in particular Iraqi women, is
much more common.
- As far back as July 2003, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported
that "the poor security situation in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities
is causing women and girls to severely restrict their movements for fear
of rape and abduction."
- HRW blames the huge increase in kidnappings and sexual
assaults on the collapse of the security forces of ex-dictator Saddam Hussein
and the US occupation's slow reorganization of Iraq's police force.
- Within three months of the fall of Baghdad, HRW had documented
70 cases of rape and abduction of Iraqi women. As brutal as the regime
of Saddam Hussein was, violent crime against women averaged only one case
every three months under Hussein's rule, whereas in July 2003, there were
several per week. And the situation is far, far worse today.
- On December 4, 2004, Inji, a 29-year-old veterinarian,
was in her clinic near Kirkuk.
- She and Mohamed, her assistant, were asked to accompany
a man who needed help inoculating some cattle.
- They drove down a small dirt road to where the man said
the cattle would be located.
- "I didn't expect anything bad to happen," she
says wearily. "The roads to the nearby villages are all unpaved and
deserted. Then another car stops. It has three passengers, people I expect
to be his relatives or friends."
- But that wasn't the case.
- "One of the passengers walked up and hit me on the
head with his gun," she said, still processing the horrible events,
"I saw them hit Mohamed when they pulled me into the car. After 15
minutes I tried to speak and they hit me again."
- They drove along dirt roads for two hours. Then Inji
was dragged out of the car, while other men pulled Mohamed from a second
- "The men ordered me to take off my jewelry, then
beat me so much I could no longer feel pain," she says quietly.
- The kidnappers then used her mobile phone to call her
husband, Turhan. He was told that his wife was kidnapped, and that he had
24 hours to pay $20,000 in ransom. Otherwise, he was told, she would be
- "I was kept in a dark room on a bare floor with
a dirty blanket," she explained. "They made me call my husband
and tell him to prepare the money, and I swore to them that my family could
not afford this money." One of the kidnappers responded "Let
the democracy that you call for collect the money for you."
- "I called my husband and begged him to save me,"
she said, "but then the man grabbed my phone and told my husband not
to call the police or they would kill me."
- "I thought the only people being kidnapped were
those who were dealing with the Americans or were rich," she explained,
her hands held up in confusion. Inji has no affiliation with the occupiers
or with any political party, nor does she work for the government.
- Miraculously, her husband managed to raise the money
and ransom Inji.
- But it does not always end well for the victims and their
- Abdulla Hamid, a 50 year-old Baghdad resident, related
how his neighbor's son was kidnapped. The family managed to raise and pay
the $15,000 ransom. They were then contacted by the kidnappers, who told
them to pick their son up at the morgue.
- Or take for example Seif, a student at the Baghdad Medical
School. After he was abducted, his family, incapable of producing the $40,000
demanded by his captors, made the mistake of contacting the police, who
tracked down the kidnappers. Seif was killed during the exchange of gunfire
between the police and his captors.
- While Iraqi government officials continue to blame the
kidnappings on various Iraqi resistance groups, the groups themselves deny
- With Iraq's borders left virtually wide open during the
first 6 months of the occupation, terrorist groups and criminal gangs alike
flowed into the lawless country.
- Not all criminal gangs were satisfied with ransom money.
Twenty-three-year-old Sajidah and her 17-year-old sister-in-law Hanan were
kidnapped just weeks after Sajidah's wedding. The two women were taken
to Yemen, where they found 130 other Iraqi women who had been kidnapped
and forced into prostitution by their captors.
- Miraculously, they were able to contact family members,
who managed to make their way to Yemen and free the two women.
- Fakhriyah is around 20-years-old, but she doesn't know
for sure. In fact, she can no longer recall her father's name, as she is
now a drug addict.
- "I was living in an orphanage and was kidnapped
the day Baghdad fell," said Fakhriyah. She described how an American
tank was stationed near the orphanage due to its proximity to an airport,
and how the US troops allowed the orphanage to be looted.
- "The kidnappers took turns raping me, and I don't
remember how long they kept me until they threw me out on the street,"
she said, dazed and high on glue, trying to blot out her miserable existence.
She uses any drug she can get her hands on, "so I don't feel what's
going on around me or who is raping me again."
- As horrific as the regime of former dictator Saddam Hussein
was, Iraqis now long for the security it provided. Rape was uncommon then;
now, kidnapping and rape are everyday occurrences.
- Just three weeks ago the Al-Zaman newspaper reported
that 11 children had been abducted in Baghdad in a single day.
- These stories are commonplace, and they have caused widespread
fear in Baghdad and other cities, scaring many women and girls off the
streets. Women now go out only when necessary, and are generally accompanied
by male relatives.
- "I don't go anywhere at night, and only go to school
and places close to my home," said Intisar, a 21 year-old physics
student at Baghdad University, citing her fear of being kidnapped.
- Layla, a 52 year-old pharmacist in the al-Adhamiya district
of Baghdad said that she lives in constant fear of being kidnapped, or
having one of her children kidnapped.
- "We are all afraid and I cannot go alone anywhere,"
she said. "Even my older daughters, I fear for them. This is not a
normal life we are living anymore."
- Who bears the responsibility for this state of affairs?
Aside from those directly committing these crimes, the responsibility lies
with the occupation. According to international humanitarian law, the occupying
power has the duty to restore and maintain public order and safety, and
to respect the fundamental rights of the occupied territory's inhabitants.
- Despite the façade of an independent "interim
Iraqi government," the US occupation effectively controls Iraq to
this day. The occupation set up the "laws" which are currently
in effect in Iraq, and it is primarily responsible for the atrocious security
situation that has allowed crimes of this kind to become commonplace in
- Additionally, the Fourth Geneva Convention states that
"women shall be especially protected against any attack on their honor,
in particular against rape, enforced prostitution, or any form of indecent
- It is yet another example of the occupation forces violating
international law. As usual, it is the people of Iraq, and particularly
women, in this case, who are paying the heaviest price.
- More writing, photos and commentary at http://dahrjamailiraq.com
- (c)2004, 2005 Dahr Jamail.
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