Iraq: Call for action against murderers of women in Baghdad

Residents of a western Baghdad neighbourhood have said militant groups in the area are hunting down women and killing them, and have appealed to parliament to do something, a member of parliament (MP) said on 22 April, 2008.
"Over the past six months 15 women were killed in al-Salam neighbourhood for religious reasons or because they had criticised the militants, or because of their previous affiliation to the Baath Party [disbanded party of ousted President Saddam Hussein]," MP Safia al-Suhail told IRIN.
Al-Suhail, who is also a woman activist, said the latest incident occurred in the past 10 days when gunmen shot dead a woman in front of her house because she had criticised the militants.

The next day, when her husband erected a huge tent near his house to receive mourners, the gunmen ordered the husband not to hold funeral rites, and torched the tent, al-Suhail said.

"We [in parliament] have been receiving such complaints recently. The problem is that these incidents are being registered against unknown persons, and some families are afraid to report them to the police," she said.

"We call on government security forces to launch a thorough investigation when people report such incidents and arrest the perpetrators. Those who are behind such crimes must be punished," she said.

Residents of the Shia neighbourhood of al-Salam who spoke on condition of anonymity as they fear reprisals, said Shia militiamen in the Mahdi Army loyal to radical leader Moqtada al-Sadr were behind the killings.

"They accuse them [the women victims] of different things such as prostitution, or of being informants for Iraqi and US forces, or of not wearing a headscarf or wearing Western clothes," a resident told IRIN.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry refused to comment on the murders in al-Salam neighbourhood.

Government forces, backed by US and British forces, have been fighting the Mahdi Army militia in Basra since 25 March. The fighting has now spread to all southern provinces and Baghdad.

23 April 2008