In the Name of the Rule of Law and Democracy: Institutional Restructuring of the State and Women's Rights in Iraq

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 8:43 AM
Room: 303
Oral Presentation
Deniz GÖKALP , Humanities and Social Sciences, American University in Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Zeynep KAYA , London School of Economics, United Kingdom
The nature of international involvement in improving the status of women in Iraq has been ironic, inconsistent and controversial. Since the initial years of the war, women’s oppression has been rhetorically used by Anglo-American coalition forces as an excuse for the military operation. Ironically, the US has been accused of trading women’s rights for cooperation from the Islamists and reports by foreign governments, the UN and human rights organizations have until recently ignored the deterioration in the status of women and the rise in gender-based violence in Iraq. The tendency within the international community is still to consider culture, underdevelopment or religion as the root cause of women’s subordination and to push for “modern” changes in society and law in compliance with a western liberal model of law and gender egalitarianism. This article investigates the nature of negotiations among international actors, governmental authorities and local politics for institutional restructuring and the implications of this international endeavor for women’s rights and solidarity in Iraq. The article argues that the implementation of specific social and legal models/reforms based on the norms and systems in western liberal states, targeting disadvantaged groups such as women, in a socially and politically precarious context like Iraq might raise serious problems and contribute to social inequalities and violence if the complexities of local politics of gender are not analytically taken into consideration.  The article aims to contribute to activist efforts to enhance women’s status in war-effected societies, promote women’s solidarity against ethnic polarization and empower women to be active agents in advancing peace and justice in the face of radical transformations taking place in society, economy and politics that are dominated by men at all levels including local, regional, national and international.