Vigilantes Kill 40 Women in Southern Iraq
Friday, December 14, 2007 4:41 PM

At least 40 women have been slain this year in Iraq’s second largest city, Basra.  Before being discarded into dumpsters, these women have all either been shot, mutilated, or sometimes even beheaded simply for wearing non-traditional Islamic dress.  In attempts to impose a strict interpretation of Islam, these religious vigilantes attach notes to their victims warning against, “violating Islamic teachings” or suffer the consequence of death. 

Women are not the only ones under threat.  Men who wear Western clothes or have Western haircuts have also been attacked.  Although 40 deaths have been reported this year, officials believe the number is much higher due to the families’ hesitance to report the case from fear of reprisal from extremists.

Ironically, before the U.S. led invasion in 2003, Basra was known for its mixed population and night life.  The rise of a Shiite dominated government, due to the overthrow of Saddam’s regime, has led to an increase of armed men forcing women to cover their heads or face death.  In some areas of the heavily Shiite south, even Christian women have been forced to wear headscarves. 

Major General Jalil Khalaf asserts that while the sectarian groups committing these crimes claim to be spreading the instructions of Islam, they are far from the religion.  Although there is a religious principle that says wearing makeup and abandoning the headscarf is a public sin, it is a far greater sin to kill these women because of it.  The conservative Islamic movement has publicly opposed the killings.  They blame, “gangs with foreign support to destabilize the city” for the atrocities.

Compiled from: “Vigilantes Kill 40 Women in Iraq's South,” Sinan Salaheddin, Guardian Unlimited, 9 December 2007