Last night, many watched as President Obama announced that “the American combat mission in Iraq has ended” and that “Operation Iraqi Freedom is over.”
These words, with all their sense of finality, ring false. US politicians may have decided that the war is over, but we know that Iraqi women and families continue to suffer as a result of the invasion. For years, our sister organization, the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), has countered the threats against women triggered by war and occupation. They have offered shelter to women widowed and displaced by violence. They have stood up against targeted killings of women who defied religious restrictions by holding down professional jobs or by engaging in political activism. The US invasion and occupation entrenched political and religious differences in a previously secular country, and women will continue to face the consequences.
There is a lot of mending to be done after seven years of occupation in Iraq.
The withdrawal of US troops is always good. Nevertheless, the oppressive measures which stand in the way of freedom of speech and freedom to organize have been already established. Corruption levels are one of the highest in the world. Laws allowing women's enslavement are protected by our "democratic" religious\nationalist rulers.
In addition, it is clear that the removal of “combat brigades” will not mean the end of US military presence in Iraq. President Obama made as much apparent when he stated that a “transitional force of US troops” will remain. Meanwhile, thousands of private military contractors are rushing to fill any gaps left by US troops, and then some. In fact, their number is projected to more than double in the coming months.
Despite the eagerness of President Obama and other US policymakers to “turn the page,” the conflict is Iraq is far from over. MADRE remains committed to stand with our sister organization as they rebuild their lives and country on the basis of human rights.