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Having accumulated, throughout the twentieth century, historical achievements in education and standards of living higher than in most Arab and 'third world' countries, Iraqi women were hit hard by two wars, the US-imposed economic sanctions of the 1990s, and then set back by the 2003 Anglo-American imperial occupation. Physical survival and daily subsistence have become the main priorities over healthcare, education, employment, self fulfulment, creativity and research. Once making up nearly four in ten Iraqi doctors and university graduates, including engineering, the role of professional women now is to support their families in conditions where one in eight people are displaced within the country and in neighbouring countries. This article argues that the claim that the invasion of Iraq would lead to the establishment of women's rights and to rapid moves towards their increasing participation in building a new Iraq has proven false even before the present breakdown of law and order. In fact, Iraqi women's political, economic, social, educational, and cultural rights have markedly deteriorated as a result of the occupation, to the extent that today they have lost their basic human right to live with dignity. The US occupation has led Iraqi women to switch their priorities in two ways. One concerns the struggle for physical survival; the other concerns the struggle against colonial domination and to preserve national unity. Far from the occupation aiding Iraqi women's progress, it has interrupted and set back their organic historical struggle for emancipation and fulfilment, and for social justice and legal claims of equality. One implication of women's current battle for survival under occupation is to change their perception of education from a right taken for granted to a luxury most women cannot afford to have.