RAPE IN IRAQ

RAPE IN IRAQ. In a horrifying convergence of events this week, Iraqi women are taking the center stage as rape victims. Two soldiers pleaded guilty to raping a 14-year-old Iraqi teenager and murdering her along with her family. From yesterday's testimony:

"I lifted up her skirt and took off her stockings while Barker held her hands with his knees," [Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, 24] said before admitting that he raped the teenager as she screamed. "After I was done, myself and [Spec. James P. Barker] switched spots."

Meanwhile, Iraq has been roiled by a 20-year-old married woman named Sabrine al-Janabi who says she was sexually assaulted by Iraqi security forces. Political leaders have accused al-Janabi (a Sunni woman) of lying in order to make the Shiite-dominated security forces look bad. She was examined at an American hospital, which leaked part of her medical records (only one page out of a multi-page report that simply says there were "no vaginal lacerations or obvious injury") to the Iraqi government. In a country where doctors are often used to establish their patients' virginity (as George Packer reported in his book) I'm doubtful that the OB-GYN was particularly sympathetic to the victim. Baghdad Burning makes the point that this woman is one of many -- she is just one of the few who is brave enough to say something. It's highly unlikely Iraqi woman would lie about rape because the cost is too great. It's sad that politicians (all male) have decided to paint this as a sectarian conflict between the Sunni and the Shiites.

Even in the U.S., sexual assault victims face huge amounts of skepticism when they tell their stories. It an obvious (but often forgotten) point that women have nothing to gain in lying about rape. Nothing. If anything, a woman subjects herself to a barrage of criticism, doubt, and peering into her sexual history. As the news continues to leak out about rapes and assaults perpetrated by U.S. soldiers and U.S.-trained Iraqi police, it's not surprising that women like al-Janabi face such ardent criticism. Makes you proud, doesn't it?

--Kay Steiger

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