a bird and a bottle


Rape as Military Tactic
February 22, 2007, 8:48 pm
Filed under: criminal justice, feminism/s & gender, news, reproductive justice, war

The feminist blogosphere was ablaze the other day with the story of the rape of an Iraqi woman by American-trained Iraqi security forces. The woman challenged taboos by speaking publicly — on Al Jazeera no less — about her rape. Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki denied that the rape had occurred, a claim that seems to be seriously undermined by news today that four Iraqi men have been arrested and allegedly confessed to the crime. While this woman is one of few to speak out publicly, we all know she was not the first woman to be brutally raped in connection with the war in Iraq.

Then today comes an article at TomPaine by MADRE Communications Director Yifat Susskind highlighting an issue that many of us have missed in our coverage of the case: during this war, military forces have used ritualized sexual violence as a form of torture of female detainees. At least nine Iraqi organizations as well as several international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have documented proof.

According to Iraqi human rights advocate and writer Haifa Zangana, the first question asked of female detainees in Iraq is, “Are you Sunni or Shia?” The second is, “Are you a virgin?”

And it’s not only Iraqi forces that are perpetration acts of sexual torture. In November 2006, a U.S. soldier was convicted of conspiring to rape and murder a 14-year-old Iraqi girl. U.S.-supported militias have been among the worst offenders, according to Susskind. Iraqi police forces have also perpetrated the rapes of many Iraqi women. Susskind says that this should not come as a surprise:

’s no surprise that we’re hearing allegations of rape against the Iraqi National Police, considering who trained them. DynCorp, the private contractor that the Bush Administration hired to prepare Iraq’s new police force for duty, has an ugly record of violence against women. The company was contracted by the federal government in the 1990s to train police in the Balkans. Human Rights Watch reports that DynCorp employees were found to have systematically committed sex crimes against women, including “owning” young women as slaves . One DynCorp site supervisor videotaped himself raping two women. Despite evidence, the contractors never faced criminal charges.

And Dyncorp? One of the U.S. government’s top 25 contractors.

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10 Comments so far
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Rape in Iraq has dominated the news lately but let us not forget Darfur, the Congo, Kosovo, Bosnia, Vietnam, WWII (the imprisonment of Korean women by Japan, the revenge rapes in post-war Germany by the Soviets, among others), and perhaps all of human history from the beginning. Rape as spoils of war, rape as enslavement and property, rape as an instrument of terror, rape as retribution, rape as genocide, rape as military aggression, not to forget rape as acts of violent crime. And I am sure this meagre little list doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Comment by Swampcracker

Postscript: I should have added the line: “It is a problem of civilization itself.”

Comment by Swampcracker

The ‘It’s a problem of civilization itself’ line sounds a bit like a liberal-minded “Boys will be boys” or “Stuff happens.” I prefer the specificity of your all too accurate list.

Comment by professorplum

Agreed. Just because it is a problem of civilization (and indeed rape as a tool of war is nothing new) does not mean it is any less objectionable….

Comment by bean

Not to quibble over words, no “boys will be boys” or “stuff happens” was stated or even implied. Had I stated it this way: “a problem of civilization, or the lack thereof,” (which I did think of later … there are always dropped words and expressions that come to mind afterwards), perhaps the postscript would have been read differently. Point: There is no excuse or rationale for murder or rape or any other atrocity or crime, although these have been recorded since the beginning of history. Proper context: A fact or observation does not imply approval or even an attempt at trivialization.

Comment by Swampcracker

Thanks for the context, Swampcracker. Though to be clear, I didn’t think *you* approved of rape as weapon, just that the list might have downplayed the urgency to do something about it. But you’re right — context does not equal trivialization.

Comment by bean

Swampcracker: Apologies. That came off a lot harsher than I meant it. I see your point and its context.

Comment by professorplum

No need to apologize, ProfessorPlum. My written stuff deconstructs all the time. In fact, people no longer come to dinner because often I confuse “soup” with “soap.”

Comment by Swampcracker

Why is the news filled with Anna Niclole Smith and the like and not something like this? Where are we all? Why are we not doing more? Every human being should be up in arms about this.

Comment by Joan Czukor

I have a very wise and brilliant friend (a rape victim herself and a sufferer of bipolar disorder) who wrestled emotionally with these issues. If you are a rape victim, a holocaust survivor, or a mad woman (as she often called herself), how does one handle the brutal blows one receives in life? First, there is “revolt” because one has to utterly reject what has happened to you. But, eventually, anger will drive you insane. So there must also be “resignation” if one is to survive the memories. And this was the name of her blog: “Revolt and Resignation.”

I revisited this issue recently at Echidne’s site, leaving this comment: “Our body politic, ugly as it is, can make a person angry or insane. My generation failed to correct the injustices of our society, but I should not allow failure to make me angry or insane.”

Amazing what I learned from my friend, dearly loved, you can be sure!!

Comment by Swampcracker




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