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

 

Campaigning opens for Tunisia presidential election

Peshmerga forces take up arms against ‘Islamic State’ from Kobane

Huthi-Brotherhood conflict cements deep divisions in Yemen

Global campaign to end female genital mutilation kicks off

Bomb blast wounds three civilians in Egypt capital

Nightmare seems never-ending for families of Lebanese hostages

Jihadists flock to fight on ‘unprecedented scale’

US to examine troops exposed to chemicals in Iraq

African Union hits back at Somalia rape claims

New scare in Turkey as ‘suspect packages’ found

‘Insults against Netanyahu’ cause embarrassment to US

Kuwait online activist gets four years in jail for insulting judges

Heavy fighting in South Sudan sparks fears of humanitarian catastrophe

Sweden officially recognises State of Palestine

Egypt jails retired general for damaging national security

Syria accuses Turkey of ‘flagrant violation of sovereignty’

Horse-trading begins as Tunisia awaits formation of new government

UK court says Libyan Abdul-Hakim Belhaj can sue over rendition

Israel closes al-Aqsa mosque to worshipers in rare move

Gaza civil servants receive delayed salaries

After US criticism, Israel vows no concessions to Palestinians

Libya internationally recognised PM opens doors of dialogue with rivals

Huthi rebels seize stronghold of Muslim Brotherhood in central Yemen

Will Nidaa Tounes shun Islamists in Tunisia government formation?

Egypt starts work on buffer zone along border with Gaza

Turkey Sultan unveils new palace: Another break with symbols of secular state

Heavy toll as ‘Islamic State’ fights for control of Syria oil field

Iran President suffers fresh setback with rejection of Science Minister

Nuclear deal or no deal: ‘Red lines’ lay bare internal divisions in Iran

Heavy security in Mogadishu as UN chief meets Somalia president

Fighters from Free Syrian Army leave Turkey to join Kobane battle

Israel denies banning Palestinians sharing buses

Kurd fighters leave northern Iraq base for Syria deployment

Jordan requests UN emergency meeting over Israel settler expansion

Jerusalem Mayor visits Al-Aqsa mosque prompting anger

Tunisia reinforces commitment to democracy with ‘transparent’ elections

Turkey ‘decides’ for Kobane future: No Kurds, no Assad... Only Free Syrian Army!

Bahrain suspends Al-Wefaq weeks before parliamentary elections

Huge game changer in Tunisia: ‘In-credible’ failure of Islamist Ennahda Party

Libya PM in Khartoum for talks with Bashir

PKK hijack truck seizing explosive substance

Saudi lawyers get jail time for offensive tweets

Ennahda concedes defeat in Tunisia parliamentary elections

Syria rebels launch assault on regime-held city of Idlib

Iraq peshmerga wait for Turkey stance to depart for Syria