Sep 20 2012
Aren’t you happy we sacrificed so many American lives and treasure so the Iraqis could enjoy freedom and democracy?
RFERL (H/T Traduction) There used to be two dress codes for women in Baghdad’s predominantly Shi’ite neighborhood of Kadhimiya. On the street, women were free to wear what they wanted in the busy market square — a market that attracts people from all across the capital. Only if they decided to enter the shrine complex behind the market were they required to wear full Islamic dress, including the shoulder to toe “abaya” gown and “hijab” head covering.
Now, things have changed. Vigilantes patrol the major avenues outside the shrine to demand that any women in the area are in full compliance. Nawf al-Falahi, a women’s activist, says one of her acquaintances living in the neighborhood was recently stopped by the self-appointed morality police.
She and her husband were stopped at a checkpoint at the edge of Kadhimiya. The men around the checkpoint refused to let her pass. They ordered her to go back home and get a shawl to put over her head and shoulders,” al-Falahi says.
Men, too, are targeted by the tighter dress codes. They can no longer wear shorts or tight tops in public, and must have loose trousers and shirts. Who is behind the strict clothes policy remains a mystery.
The Interior Ministry denies any connection with the policy but also has done nothing to stop the men in the neighborhood who harass women. The practice itself is in line with a trend in Shi’ite shrine cities, like Najaf and Karbala, to impose stricter observance of “hijab,” a term that can broadly be used to refer to full Islamic dress.
As the debate over the dress code rages in Kadhimiya, some observers see it as part of a larger question. That is, whether the boundaries between pious behavior and civic freedom in Iraq are becoming increasingly blurred under the pressure of the religious parties that dominate the government.
Hanaa Edwar, a human rights activist and chairwoman of the Baghdad-based nongovernmental organization Iraqi Amal Association, says that “this decision about the hijab is part of steps by the government and parliament to build a religious state. The Iraqi Constitution calls for a civil state, not a religious state.”
Activists say they have good reason to watch closely. Neighboring Iran’s morality police sprang from the same model. And their powers range from enforcing dress codes to arresting unmarried couples walking in public.