to Jail Abuse of Women
Shaker, the humiliation began at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Baghdad.
The American soldiers demanded to search her handbag. When she refused one
of the soldiers pointed his gun towards her chest.
"He pointed the laser
sight directly in the middle of my chest," said Professor Shaker, a
political scientist at Baghdad University. "Then he
pointed to his penis. He told me, 'Come here, bitch, I'm going to fuck
The incident is one of
a number in which US soldiers are alleged to have
abused, intimidated or sexually humiliated Iraqi women.
According to Prof
Shaker, several women held in Abu Ghraib jail were
sexually abused, including one who was raped by
an American military policeman and became pregnant. She has now
Most of the coverage
of the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib has focused on Iraqi men. But there is
compelling evidence that several female prisoners, who are in a minority at
the jail, were abused as well.
"A female colleague of
mine was arrested and taken there. When I asked her after she was released
what happened at Abu Ghraib she started crying," Prof Shaker said.
"Ladies here are
afraid and shy of talking about such subjects. They say everything is OK.
Even in a very advanced society in the west it is very difficult to talk
about rape. But I think it happened."
Few women released
from US detention have come forward to talk about their experiences in a
Muslim society where rape is sometimes equated with shame and victims can be
killed to salvage family honour.
According to the New
Yorker magazine the photos and videos so far unreleased by the Pentagon show
American soldiers "having sex with a female Iraqi
prisoner", and a secret report by General Antonio Taguba into the
scandal confirms that US guards videotaped and photographed naked female
prisoners and that "a male MP [military police] guard"
is shown "having sex with a female detainee".
Yesterday Prof Shaker,
who began researching the subject this year for Amnesty International, said
she believed the woman involved had been killed.
girl was called Noor. When I went to her house in Baghdad earlier this year
she had disappeared. The neighbours said that she and her family had moved
Since the US military
began its inquiry into prisoner abuse in January, many female detainees have
been released from Abu Ghraib and the other US detention facilities across
But five women are
still in solitary confinement in Abu Ghraib's notorious 1A cellblock where
as many as 1,500 pictures were taken in November and December.
According to Rajaa
Habib Khuzaai, an obstetrician who is one of three women on the US-appointed
Iraqi governing council, none of the five has been raped or sexually abused.
US officials allowed Dr Khuzaai to visit them yesterday and interview them
Two of the women told
her that US soldiers had beaten them after their arrest in December and
January while they were in custody at Baghdad international airport, before
their transfer to Abu Ghraib.
"They were a little
embarrassed. They merely said they had been beaten and that was it," Dr
Khuzaai told the Guardian.
now paid special attention. Conditions are OK and they have given them some
But there are
unanswered questions as to why the women have been locked up without charge.
According to Dr
Khuzaai, two of the women are married to high-ranking and absconding Ba'ath
party officials, two are accused of financing the Iraqi resistance, and one
had a relationship with the director of Iraq's former secret police, the
rights campaigners say the US military frequently arrests wives and
daughters during raids if the male suspect is not at home.
US officials have
acknowledged detaining women in the hope of convincing male relatives to
provide information: a strategy that is in violation of international law.
"The issue is the
system," Nada Doumani of the International Committee of the Red Cross said
"It is an absence of
judicial guarantees. People are being kept in custody without knowing what
for. The system is not fair, precise or properly defined."
Senior US military
officers who escorted journalists around Abu Ghraib on Monday admitted that
rape had taken place in the cellblock where 19
"high-value" male detainees are also being held.
Asked how it could
have happened, Colonel Dave Quantock, who is now in charge of the prison's
detention facilities, said: "I don't know. It's all about leadership.
Apparently it wasn't there."
forbidden from talking to the women, who are kept upstairs in windowless 2.5
metre by 1.5 metre cells. The women wailed and shouted.
They were kept in
solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, Col Quantock said, with only a
allegations being investigated are that a 12- or 13-year-old girl had been
stripped naked in the block and paraded in front of male inmates.
Yesterday Prof Shaker
said after her ordeal in February her friends dragged her back into the car
and drove off. "I vowed never to talk to another American soldier," she
She said the US and
Britain should learn from the affair. "You can't treat human beings in this
way. I hope they have learned from this."
source: The Guardian - May 12, 2004