The Female Refugee Experience in Central Ohio


Life has been difficult in Iraq for a long time. In recent history, Iraqis lived under Saddam Hussein's dictatorship and the chaos that followed its downfall. 

Under Saddam Hussein, there was no freedom of speech, many wars were waged, people went hungry, cruelty and persecution were common place, and those with opposing politics were assassinated. In addition, Kurds and Shi'a Muslims were the target of immense violence. The Sunni minority enjoyed privileges during this time while the Shi'a majority was oppressed. The country's oil wealth was mismanaged causing a very large gap between the wealthy and the poor. Watch the following clip to hear from an Iraqi about their life under Saddam's regime. 

Things went from bad to worse after the American invasion in 2003. They destroyed Iraq's infrastructure and then did a bad job building it back up. Sectarian killings soared, and even more than before, Sunni agaisnt Shi'a violence, and vice versa, became prevalent. The country was oppressed but stable under Saddam Hussein; after his rule ended, Iraqis enjoyed more freedoms but lacked safety and stability. This was due in part to the fact that Saddam's secular society gave way to a religious, ultra-conservative one. In this new society, people received death threats for the various choices they made including: the clothes they wore, the music they listened to, and the religion they practiced. 

Here, an Iraqi man describes what he has seen happen to his country:

The Iraqi people are fleeing horrific situations like the following story shared in Amnesty International's Report on the Iraqi Refugee Crisis in 2007. 
In October 2005 early in the morning four masked and armed men forced their way into the house of a Sabean/Mandaean family in Baghdad. The children and their father were beaten and shackled while their mother, BB, was forced into another room. There, one of the men kicked BB, who was five months pregnant, in her abdomen and burned her left arm with a cigarette. Then the man raped her. He was apparently aware that BB was Sabean/Mandaean and reportedly said he wanted her to lose the baby. She lost consciousness and woke up in a hospital where she learned that her pregnancy had been terminated due to the injuries caused by the rapist. The family then fled to Syria.  
When Amnesty International delegates met the woman about 20 months after the incident, she was still receiving frequent medical treatment and traces of the burns on her arm were still visible. 
Interviewed by Amnesty International in June 2007 in Syria.
Despite the heavy involvement of the international community on bringing down Saddam Hussein, refugees from Iraq have not been treated with compassion. Many countries are unwilling to accept refugees and even forcibly return them. 

Once Iraqi refugees flee and arrive in nearby countries, they face a new set of challenges; it is difficult to access basic necessities, work is scarce, and locals are not always friendly.

Where is Iraq now?

Valeria Vilardo and Sara Bittar's research report "Gender Profile Iraq: A situation analysis on gender equality and women's empowerment in Iraq" succinctly describes how the Iraqi government functions today. 

 In October 2005, a new constitution was adopted following a national referendum, and the first Council of Representatives with 275 members was elected in December that year. The constitution set up the separation of powers (Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary). Since then, the country has been governed as a democratic federal republic with a changing number of council representatives and cabinets, and is organized into 18 governorates, three of which constitute the Kurdistan Region, which enjoys some level of autonomy and is governed by a regional administration (including a parliament, a cabinet, and a judicial system). 
Vilardo and Bittar, page 8. 

Despite these advances, the Iraqi government is complicated and riddled with corruption and inefficiency. 

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