First Published: 2009-01-03

 
Warning over plight of Iraqi widows
 

Reports suggest some widows are being 'harassed and blackmailed' by Iraqi government officials.

 

Middle East Online

Another tragedy resulting from the US-led invasion - © IRIN

BAGHDAD - A women’s rights activist and a Baghdad government official agree that the government needs to take action to help the huge number of widows in Iraq - but they disagree on how to proceed.

“Iraqi widows, especially internally displaced widows in camps, are having a tough time. Most have more than one child and are finding it very hard to feed them,” said Mazin al-Shihan, head of Baghdad’s Displacement Committee.

“We have reports that some… are being harassed and blackmailed by government officials… More attention must be focused on this segment of the Iraqi people before it is too late,” al-Shihan told IRIN.

Citing figures and estimates from government bodies and NGOs, al-Shihan said Iraq had about one million widows, including those whose husbands had died of natural causes, but a further breakdown was not available.

“Such vast numbers of widows could tax any society,” he said, expressing the fear that unless something is done, some of these widows or their children could drift into crime or join the insurgency.

Al-Shihan said his committee was drawing up a plan to encourage Iraqi men who lacked the necessary funds for marriage - to apply for government funding if they wanted to marry a widow.

“In this project, we propose offering 10 million Iraqi dinars [about US$8,500] to men in their late 30s or 40s who can’t get married due to soaring prices, if they marry a widow,” he said.

Project idea rejected

Women’s activist Hanaa Adwar, who heads al-Amal, a Baghdad-based NGO, rejected the project out of hand, saying it smacked of “cruelty as the widow must get married to another man to get the government help”.

“What we need is to rehabilitate this segment [of the population] to be independent and productive elements of society - getting them to be more self-reliant in terms of feeding their children. The government should ensure there are adequate social and health programmes [for the widows],” she said.

“Their dignity is violated when they have to stand in long queues to get small sums of government aid which will last for a few days, or when they have to depend solely on their extended families,” she said.

Social welfare programme

After the US-led invasion in 2003, an Iraqi social welfare programme was created. It provides widows, divorced women, orphans, disabled people and the unemployed with a monthly allowance of 50,000-75,000 Iraqi dinars (US$50-70). However, many aid experts say the money is insufficient.

Umm Amina, a 34-year-old mother of two in northern Baghdad, lost her husband in a mortar attack in one of Baghdad’s markets in August 2007.

She lives with her two young daughters in a room in the house she and her husband used to share with her brother-in-law and his family. She has applied unsuccessfully for several jobs in government offices, and thought about working as a cleaner even though she has good educational qualifications. She said the government welfare assistance only lasted “a few days”.

© IRIN

 

US warplanes carry out first strikes on IS near Baghdad

Erdogan: Turkey would welcome exiled Brotherhood leaders

UN brokers Israeli-Palestinian deal on Gaza reconstruction

Qaeda branches urge jihadists to unite against US

Scottish independence campaigners find support in Palestinian bagpipers

Iraq parliament votes down PM's security nominees

Despite war, South Sudan replaces foreign workers with locals

IS jihadists shoot down Syria warplane

Renegade former general claims air raid on Libya militia position

Six Egypt policemen in Sinai bomb attack

UEFA urged not to award 2020 European Championship to Israel

Israel sees future war with Hezbollah

Germany tries first 'Islamic State jihadist'

Egypt court bails top 2011 revolt activist

Iran rejected US request to cooperate against IS

Iran ridicules anti-jihadist international conference

Egypt textile factory collapse kills six

Mali separatists agree to speak with one voice

Qatar starts to curb Brotherhood’s activities

Coalition meets in Paris to plan fight against IS

Around 930 French citizens or residents involved 'in jihad' in Iraq, Syria

Yemen rebels, officials to meet with UN to end standoff

Qatar-based Egypt's Brotherhood leaders to relocate

Cameron chairs emergency meeting over British hostage beheading

Hollande defends arming Kurds against IS

43 Israeli soldiers condemn 'abuses' of Palestinians

Egypt urged to free more than 20 demonstrators

Turkey’s internet censored further

Tunisia Islamists clash with police in protest

10 Arab states agree to 'share' US-led fight against IS

Obama awaits Congress approval of Syria rebel aid

Hollande in Iraq to back new government

Lebanon to set up refugee camps along border with Syria

Russia slams unilateral US airstrikes on jihadists in Syria

Four Qaeda suspects in Yemen drone attack

Meshaal: Hamas may hold direct talk with Israel

UN Syria envoy says world must confront terrorist groups

Turkey refuses to allow US-led coalition to hit IS from its air bases

Yemen president, Shiite rebels reach deal

EU warns Gaza violence could re-ignite within 'months'

Thani denies UAE, Egypt conducted air strikes in Libya

Obama: We will destroy ISIL in Syria and Iraq

Beirut urges 'common front' against IS 'monsters'

Obama to steel Americans for long battle against IS

Turkish prosecutor demands life sentences for protesting soccer fans