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Walling in Iraq: the impact on Baghdadi women

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A key facet of the much-vaunted US strategy of 'surge' in Iraq has been the fracturing of Baghdad into a vast network of separated and walled communities. Baghdad has been segmented by a maze of 'security walls' that has fundamentally altered the nature of Iraqi life, reinforcing the sectarian divisions that were foisted upon the country with the Anglo-American invasion and occupation. While these 'walling' measures have been officially justified as a necessary security measure, Iraqis perceive these walls as a marker of US domination and enforced sectarianism.

This article critically examines the occupation policy of walling, arguing that the walling of Baghdad is a measure to control the popular and to enforce a new social reality. This new reality in Baghdad has created unprecedented changes to daily life, impacting commerce, social relations and the Iraqi culture. Baghdad, historically multicultural and replete with intermarriage, has been segmented along sectarian lines. The impact of the occupation walling policy has been most profound on women, who have been uniquely vulnerable under US occupation.

In the environment of walling, Iraqi women have been forced to adapt complex modes of social survival and have acquired a highly differentiated role in society. As the US policy of walling has proceeded against the backdrop of a collapse of social welfare, Iraqi women have been subjected to extreme limitations of movements, given the large increase of gender-based violence. Against this backdrop, Iraqi women have endured extreme hardships to survive, with limited access to social support: girls and young women struggle to access education, while Iraqi widows, who number over a million, struggle to survive. Likewise, Iraqi women have been forced to acquire previously unheard of functions in Iraqi society, notably the responsibility to bury their dead.

The diminished status of Baghdadi women, like Iraqis generally, is a by-product of a US occupation policy to segment Iraq's communities and force a new social reality. The walling is but the latest and most visible aspect of occupation strategy, with Iraqi women having borne a distinct burden. The traumas inflicted on Iraqi women, and Iraq generally, will be suffered for generations, as Iraqis desperately attempt to forge an independent existence against the weight of occupation policy.
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Keywords: Iraqi/Baghdadi Women; Occupation Policy; Walls in Iraq; Women and Occupation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2010

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  • The International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies is a new peer-reviewed, tri- annual, academic publication devoted to the study of modern Iraq. In recognition of Iraq's increasingly important position on the world stage, the time is right for a new journal dedicated to scholarly engagement with the country.
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