BAGHDAD, 2 January 2008 (IRIN) - One hundred and
thirty-three women were killed last year in Basra, Iraq's second largest city,
either by religious vigilantes or as a result of so-called "honour" killings, a
report said on 31 December.
Women not 'properly' dressed are targeted by extremists in Basra
The report, released by Basra Security Committee at a conference on women's
rights in the city, said 79 of the victims were deemed by extremists to be
"violating Islamic teachings", 47 others died in
and the remaining seven were targeted for their political affiliations.
"The women of Basra are being horrifically murdered and then dumped in the
garbage with notes saying they were killed for violating Islamic teachings,"
Bassem al-Moussawi, head of the committee and a member of Basra's Provincial
Council, told the conference.
"Sectarian groups are trying to force a strict interpretation of Islam... They
send their vigilantes to roam the city, hunting down those who are deemed to be
behaving against their [the extremists'] own interpretations," al-Moussawi said.
The Basra office of Iraq's radical Shia religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr said
his movement opposed the killings and blamed "gangs with foreign support [which
are out] to defame the religious movements".
"It is a sin," said Harith al-Ethari, a spokesman for al-Sadr's office in Basra,
not to wear a headscarf. "But killing women is a bigger sin," al-Ethari said.
"There is a concrete religious principle that says that wearing makeup and
foregoing a headscarf in public is a sin, but it must not be dealt with like
this," he said.
Before the US-led invasion in 2003, Basra was known
for its mixed population and active night life. Now, in some areas, graffiti
messages threaten any woman who wears makeup and appears in public with her hair
uncovered: "Your makeup and your decision to forego the headscarf will bring you
death," reads graffiti in the city centre.
Some women are determined to continue their jobs despite the threats
Throughout Iraq, many women wear headscarves, while others wear a full face
veil, although secular women are often unveiled. In recent years, armed Islamic
extremists in some parts of the country have sometimes forced women to cover
their heads or face punishment.
Christian women also targeted
Christian women have even been forced to wear headscarves in many areas,
On 11 December the bodies of a Christian woman and her brother were found in a
Basra rubbish dump, police and church officials said on condition of anonymity.
A 20-year-old English student at Basra College of Arts has not been seen since
she left her college last year following harassment by male students for using
makeup and not wearing a headscarf.
"I'm from a secular family, but respect for Islam's instructions and wearing
make-up and foregoing the `hijab' (headscarf) doesn't mean that I'm a bad
woman," she told IRIN in a phone interview from Baghdad on condition of
She said she was stopped once by two fellow students and ordered to cover her
hair and stop wearing makeup "otherwise it's better for me not to attend class".
The above article comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2008
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