Iraq: Women losing freedoms in chaos of postwar Iraq - Shiite clerics move into power vacuum

San Francisco Chronicle
In the chaos that followed the fall of Saddam Hussein last month, the Hawza, a powerful group of senior Shiite Muslim clerics, took over al-Rahmah, an orphanage in Iraq.
In the name of security and Islamic values, the new management stationed 12 armed guards around the perimeter and confined the girls to two rooms in one of the building's four wings. To make sure the boys and the girls didn't mingle, Hawza guards built a brick wall separating the girls' wing from the rest of the building. "This is the only way we can control the girls in an Islamic fashion. It is really better this way," said Sheikh Bakr Saadi, the orphanage manager appointed by the Hawza. With a violent crime wave still engulfing Baghdad, even the girls say they have no alternative.

The powerlessness of American troops to provide security in postwar Iraq is helping Shiite clerics gain leverage in many parts of the country. Religious leaders have set up their own administration, rivaling the American one, in the eastern half of Baghdad, mainly in the derelict Shiite enclave of Sadr City, taking control of hospitals, schools and orphanages.