Iraqi blogger on martial law

A young Iraqi woman, who was one of the first to start a blog on conditions in the wake of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, tells how life has changed since the first bombs started falling and martial law was imposed.

    Daily car bombings keep many Iraqis off the streets

    Identifying herself as Riverbend on the blog she calls Baghdad Burning, the 26-year-old computer specialist became distinct from other bloggers because she offered a refreshing woman's perspective of events in her city, Baghdad. The period for martial law enacted by interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's government expired this week. Has martial law been effective in stemming the tide of violence?

    Riverbend: Not really. We have a curfew at night (after 11pm) but a lot of the violence is occurring in broad daylight - exploding vehicles, attacks with mortar and abductions occur in broad daylight.

    It has created a different sort of violence. It has given the new Iraqi security forces, such as the National Guard, the right to invade Iraqi houses and detain people who are under "suspicion" without any semblance of proof. It also gives them the right to shoot at cars which may appear "suspicious".

    Are you saying there has been no change in violence and lawlessness?

    There has been a decided change in the violence. In the beginning, the violence seemed more random. Now, the gangs and criminals seem more organised and the violence is a different sort.

    We're hearing more and more of intellectuals such as doctors and professors being made targets for abductions and shootings.

    There has also been an increase in car bombers and attacks which Iraqis find mystifying as this sort of attack has never been a part of Iraqi history.

    You have written extensively on how life has changed for women in Baghdad and the rest of Iraq. How have conditions changed? Have they become better or worse?

    Women in Iraq are struggling to
    go about their normal lives

    Baghdad is not safe at all for women. We cannot go out alone - even during broad daylight. Areas differ in danger, but generally it is not a good idea for a woman go out walking alone or even driving.

    The attacks against women seem to have increased over the last two years and the reasons vary. Professional women are being pressured to quit their jobs and even young women in colleges and high schools are not immune from harassment.

    Many women are being pressured to wear headscarves (hijabs). There are certain areas in Baghdad where you cannot go without wearing a headscarf and there is not any security force to protect women from that sort of harassment.

    Many high-profile women have been harassed and threatened. One famous female gynaecologist was abducted and threatened upon release that if she did not leave the country, she would be killed the next time around.

    How then do Iraqis go about their daily lives? You paint a rather dismal picture. Do Iraqis go out to clubs, restaurants, parks etc?

    Baghdad has some exclusive clubs that are frequented by members of those clubs (although less than before). We sometimes go out to restaurants but usually in big groups of males and females.

    Parks are less popular than before because they have become a haven for drug pushers, peddlers and gangs.

    Additional problems with security include the fact that many of the gangs and petty criminals are bribing police officers and Iraqi security to turn a blind eye to shootings, looting and more organised crime such as armed robbery or abductions.

    Martial law has done nothing to curb that sort of violence.

    Do you have hope that the security situation will improve?

    I think the situation will get better only when the Americans allow it to get better. I think the current lawlessness justifies their reasons for having troops inside of the country.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera



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