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Women, Journalists, Detainees, Marginalized Groups Under Threat 8 Years After Invasion Summary Almost eight years after US-led forces invaded Iraq, the country's transition to a functioning and sustainable democracy built on rule of law is far from accomplished.
The rights of Iraq's most vulnerable citizens, especially women and detainees, are violated with impunity, and those who would expose official malfeasance or abuses by armed groups do so at enormous risk.
Iraq's future as a society based on respect for fundamental human rights depends in large part on whether Iraqi authorities will adequately defend those rights and establish a credible national criminal justice system embodying international standards with respect to torture, free expression, and violence against women and other vulnerable sectors of society.
The invasion and its resulting chaos have exacted an enormous toll on Iraq's citizens. Over the past eight years, violence has claimed tens of thousands of Iraqi lives and millions continue to suffer from the effects of insecurity.
Iraq has made some recent progress as it has pulled itself away from the civil strife that engulfed the country, especially in and But terror attacks increased again in the run-up to the March parliamentary elections and did not abate in the months that followed.
Only in November, eight months after those elections, did Iraq's political parties finally agree to form a new coalition government— ending the political crisis that has stunted progress on security and other fronts, including human rights. Human Rights Watch conducted on-the-ground research in Aprilvisiting seven cities across Iraq and interviewing activists, lawyers, journalists, religious leaders, detainees former and currentsecurity officers, victims of violence, and ordinary Iraqis.
We found that, beyond the continuing violence and crimes associated with it, human rights abuses are commonplace. This report presents those findings regarding violations of the rights of women and other vulnerable populations, the right to freedom of expression, and the right to be free from torture and ill-treatment in the period.
The Rights of Women and Girls The deterioration of security has promoted a rise in tribal customs and religiously-inflected political extremism, which have had a deleterious effect on women's rights, both inside and outside the home.
For Iraqi women, who enjoyed some of the highest levels of rights protection and social participation in the region beforethese have been heavy blows.
Militias promoting misogynist ideologies have targeted women and girls for assassination, and intimidated them to stay out of public life. Increasingly, women and girls are victimized in their own homes, sometimes killed by their fathers, brothers and husbands for a wide variety of perceived transgressions that allegedly shame the family or tribe.
If they seek official protection from violence in the home, women risk harassment and abuse from Iraq's virtually all-male police and other security forces. Iraqi law protects perpetrators of violence against women: Iraq's penal code considers "honorable motives" to be a mitigating factor in crimes including murder.
The code also gives husbands a legal right to discipline their wives. Trafficking in women and girls in and out of the country for sexual exploitation is widespread.
There have been no reported convictions for trafficking, and a long-awaited anti-trafficking bill is on hold in the parliament, awaiting revisions.
Outside of Kurdistan, there are no government-run shelters. The many women who have fled sectarian or other violence, who have been widowed, or who for other reasons are heads of households and dependent on state aid are particularly vulnerable to abuse.
Religious and government institutions are sometimes complicit in their exploitation - in exchange for charity or benefits, widows have been asked to engage in "pleasure marriages," a previously banned traditional practice that critics say is akin to prostitution.
The women who are coerced into the practice face stigmatization and have no recourse. Human Rights Watch calls on Iraq to immediately suspend and proceed to repeal sections in the penal code that allow mitigation of sentences on grounds of "honor" for violent crimes against women.
Freedom of Expression In the months following the invasion, Iraq experienced a media boom as hundreds of new publications and television and radio channels sprung up across the country, and Iraqis gained access to satellite dishes and the Internet. But media freedom was short-lived with the introduction of restrictive legislative and other barriers and an upsurge in violence that made Iraq one of the most the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist.
While improvements in security since have reduced the murder rate of media workers, journalism remains a hazardous occupation. Extremists and unknown assailants continue to kill media workers and bomb their bureaus.
In addition, journalists now also have to contend with emboldened Iraqi and Kurdish security forces and their respective image-conscious central and regional political leaders. Increasingly, journalists find themselves harassed, intimidated, threatened, arrested, and physically assaulted by security forces attached to government institutions and political parties.HUM Week 8 CheckPoint Rough Draft World Religions Report.
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