The participation of women in the 2019 and 2020 protests were very apparent and inspiring for many women around the world, though their participation came with a price. Women have lost their lives because of systematic killing and assassinations. Reham Yaqoub is the latest victim of the systematic assassinations that have affected activist women within the last two decades.

By Huda Samir

With the fall of Saddam’s dictatorship and the fall of the Iraqi state,  Iraqi women  had hoped that they would have more say over their future and more rights.   However,  since then, women’s limited rights have been taken away from them, and they have lost their fundamental rights of just being citizens. Overall though, women have refused to stay silent in light of all of the changes surrounding them. Seventeen years have passed since the collapse of the Saddam government and yet, the struggling and the suffering of Iraqi women has not changed. In fact, it’s as if the rug was pulled right from under their feet with these political changes.  The political situation in Iraq  completely turned against them because of the militias and parties affiliated with the Iranian Islamic fundamentalist government.   Iraqi women also had to suffer from the destruction by both the United States occupation and ISIS being in control of the many cities in Iraq. All of this turmoil is what contributed to the economic instability, violence, destruction and the continuous suffering of Iraqi women.

Under the new political situation in 2003 and after,  women in Iraq were now forced to wear a mandatory headcover. They lost their rights to travelling without companions.  Their safety and security was threatened by militias and political Islamists  who had more power in the government. Day after day, women continued losing their rights and this coincided with the loss of many basic services such as electricity and clean water. There was a lack of job opportunities which then increased poverty, and homelessness for women.

The 2019 uprising in Iraq has not stopped and the demand for better living conditions continues. The participation of women in these protests were very apparent and inspiring for many women around the world, though their participation came with a price. Women have lost their lives because of systematic killing and assassinations. Reham Yaqoub is the latest victim of the systematic assassinations that have affected activist women within the last two decades.  She  will certainly not be the last.

Reham Yaqoub was a resident of Basra City which is in the south of Iraq. This is where most of the Iran-backed Shia militia controls the city’s wealth, and politics. She was an Iraqi feminist and activist who worked as a nutritionist. She participated with thousands of other women in the Iraqi protests 2019-20 and called for the change of officials in Basra Governorate,  for women to rise against injustices, and protested the government, calling for an end to end sectarian division, poor services, and unemployment . Reham was assassinated by unknown gunmen while she was inside her car on August 19, 2020,

There are countless other stories like Reham Yaqoub. On  October 29, 2019,  several months pregnant,  activist and journalist Sarah Talib was killed with her husband in their small apartment and in front of their four-year-old daughter.  On September 25,2018   Suad Al-Ali, a founding member of the “Waad Al Aalami ” organization was killed on her way out of her house. She demanded  support for the demonstrations, a stand against sectarianism, and called for reforms in Iraqi civil laws. No one has been  held accountable for these assassinations or has paid  the price for these crimes that were committed against these women.

Many women have lost their lives because of militias that want to stop women from participating in protests. The killers want to send a clear message to women that their lives are in danger if they participate. Women like Aliaa Al Saadi, Noor Raheem, Huda Khader, Jinan Al Shahmani all participated in the October 2019 uprising to treat wounded men and women. They provided food and water in the Tahrir Square, and even though they were doing good for others, many of them were still kidnapped and killed by the militia groups.

The increasing  assassination of  women activists in these Islamic fundamentalist  states under the corrupt government allows people  to see that  women are no longer accepting their fate. These women are strong and empowered, and they refuse to be silent about their maltreatment, no matter who or what government comes their way to stop them.  Despite these assassinations, women will  prevail.  They will be heard. Women in Iraq will not be silent and will  triumph with hope and dreams for a better society.

September 10, 2020