military have focused on the torture of men. We are circulating three
documents about what is happening to women at the hands of the US and
UK forces, both Iraqi women and women in the US military.
2. A statement from the Global Women's Strike.
3. Attached is a statement from a former US Airforce Captain and Commander who herself suffered rape as a serving officer and who speaks about how widespread rape is.
We have also received the following further news via email from Canada:
"Dozens of former detainees and their families came forward Sunday, May 9,
to tell their experiences of physical, sexual, and psychological torture at
the hands of U.S. soldiers in Iraqi prison camps. The press conference in
Baghdad was organized by several Iraqi and international human rights
organizations, including CPT, which have been documenting violations against
detainees and their families since last summer. . .
"A fifty-year-old man in traditional dress who was in Abu Ghraib prison camp
last winter testified that U.S. soldiers herded detainees into a room in
groups of ten to twenty men and stripped them naked. The soldiers ordered
one detainee to rape the others. The soldiers then ordered half of the
detainees to sit on the ground and engage in oral sex with the standing
detainees. . . Still there was a younger man with me, very handsome.
The soldiers stripped him naked. When he refused [sexual advances from the
soldiers], they tortured him for three days. A woman soldier blindfolded him
and led him naked into the women's prison. He was there for twenty days,
naked. He witnessed the sexual abuse of the women detainees by the U.S.
If you have any information about what is happening to women at the hands of
US & British troops in Iraq, or Afgahnistan, or elsewhere, please get in touch with us.
Stop the world and change it.
Global Women's Strike
TO WOMEN LEGISLATORS OF THE COALITION OF THE WILLING
12 May 2004
NEITHER BLOOD NOR RAPE FOR OIL
Coming clean on rape and other sexual torture of women and girls at the
hands of US and UK armed forces or their agents in Iraq and Afghanistan
By Black Women's Rape Action Project and Women Against Rape
We are writing to you, women legislators in both the UK and the US.
That there are now many more women in Congress and in Parliament is due to a
massive women's movement over decades in every area of this planet. In
the name of all the women whose movement helped get you there, we ask for
your accountability in the present crisis of war, occupation, war crimes and
torture, including rape, in which both your governments are complicit.
1. THE RAPE AND TORTURE OF WOMEN AND GIRLS HAS BEEN LARGELY HIDDEN
Information has exploded onto our screens and in all the media about the
sexual humiliation, torture and murder of prisoners in Iraq and the murder
of civilians, including children, in the streets and in their own homes.
Questions are also being raised about Afghanistan. Yet while the rape of
men (and increasingly boys) is beginning to be acknowledged, the rape of
women and girls was initially dismissed as "a soldier had sex with a woman
prisoner." Greater truth is now emerging.
Iraqi women have told us that women are in prison to be interrogated and
tortured to get information on male relatives. For women, torture almost
always begins with the torture of rape, often gang rape. A US reporter said
that "Last month women prisoners at Abu Ghraib smuggled out leaflets
claiming they'd been raped." (Anne Garrels, National Public Radio, 4 May
2004) A woman from Baghdad University working for Amnesty International has
described her own sexual abuse at a check point and what she knows from
others. "He pointed the laser sight directly in the middle of my chest, the
n he pointed to his penis. He told me, 'Come here, bitch, I'm going to fuck
you.' . . .
According to Prof. Huda Shaker several women in Abu Ghraib jail
were sexually abused, including one who was raped by an American military
policeman and became pregnant." (London Guardian 12 May) Other sources
have confirmed this.
The horrendous prison conditions to which women have been subjected have
been mentioned as an aside. Iraq's human rights minister, Abdel Bassat
Turki, who resigned a month ago, said he spoke to US chief administrator
Paul Bremer last November about the treatment of women in Abu Ghraib:
"They had been denied medical treatment. They had no proper toilet. They
had only been given one blanket, even though it was winter. And their
families had not been allowed to visit them." (London Guardian 10 May 2004)
The International Committee of the Red Cross report hardly mentions women,
and their reporter interviewed only men. (There has been no mention either
that the ICRC reports there were riots against the prison conditions and
Iraqis were shot dead.)
Why are these attacks on women largely invisible? Have you or others asked
questions about this? How many men will ask if women do not? If you did
ask, what answers have you received? Why are they not yet known to the public?
2. MOST WOMEN AND GIRLS CANNOT SPEAK OUT
Organisations like Black Women's Rape Action Project and Women Against Rape
which have been demanding justice and protection for women for decades and
which work with asylum seekers from all over the world who have fled rape,
know only too well that most rape survivors anywhere in the world find it
almost impossible to speak about their ordeal. They feel degraded and
ashamed, especially since society and the criminal justice system usually
blame the woman for what happened to her. In both the UK and the US, women
often call the trial of their attacker "a second rape" as it is the woman's
mental state and sexual history which are publicly examined to destroy her
credibility and get the rapist off. In other countries, hostility to the
victim can be even more extreme. Rape survivors may be un-marriageable,
ostracised and even killed. We have read that girls as young as nine who
were raped under Saddam Hussein were refused hospital treatment and that
this practice continues under the occupation.
An Iraqi lawyer said that her client, an ex-Abu Ghraib prisoner, "fainted
before providing further details of being raped and knifed by U.S. soldiers.
Another lawyer representing five former detainees described to their lawyers
having been beaten. But they did not say they had been raped. "They are
very ashamed." "They say, 'We can't tell you. We have families. We cannot
speak about what happened.' " (Los Angeles Times, 12 May 2004) "A female
colleague of mine was arrested and taken [to Abu Ghraib]. When I asked her
after she was released what happened there she started crying. It is very
difficult to talk about rape. But I think it happened." Prof. Huda said
the woman made pregnant as a result of rape by a US soldier has now
disappeared and may have been killed. "When I went to her house . . . the
neighbours said she and her family had moved away." (London Guardian
10 May 2004).
How convenient for the troops that the women and girls they rape should
be too vulnerable to tell the truth.
3. PHOTOS OF WOMEN'S TORTURE HAVE NOT HIT THE FRONT PAGES
Given that women and girls who are rape survivors risk being ostracised and
even killed, we must protect their anonymity. Yet unless there is
incriminating photo proof, those in power seem unwilling to acknowledge what
is going on. There has been no statement and no apology regarding the rape
and other torture of women and girls.
We attach photos which have been sent to us of women being raped by
soldiers, which have already appeared on some websites. We have disguised
the women's identity and will not circulate any photo where women are
identifiable. While we cannot verify the authenticity of these photos, it
is clear from all the other information now circulating that these or
similar rapes have taken place. We have heard that thousands of photos like
these have circulated like baseball cards among the troops and even used as
computer screensavers. The Pentagon is quoted as saying that it knows of at
least two CDs of photos containing several hundred images of US troops
"abusing" prisoners, including "beating an Iraqi inmate to the point of
unconsciousness, having sex with a female prisoner, and gloating over a
corpse." (London Guardian 10 May 2004).
It is not new for rape or other sexual torture to serve as pornography.
Women Against Rape (WAR) has complained that in Britain in "normal" times
photos and witness statements where the victim describes her rape are often
circulated for their pornographic value in prisons by convicted rapists as
well as among the police.
4. WE WANT TO KNOW
We want to know what is happening to women and girls in Iraq, in prison and
elsewhere, at the hands of British and US troops, beginning with the women
already mentioned. We want to know what is happening to women in
Afghanistan at the hands of occupying forces there. We understand that much
of the brutality and murder may be perpetrated by or on the orders of the
CIA and private military contractors - a euphemism for mercenaries. We want
to know about any mercenaries guilty of any of these crimes against women
and children, and how much they were paid to perform and/or oversee these
Despite international precedents to the contrary, it is common for the US
and the UK to consider rape by agents of the State not to be torture and
therefore grounds for political asylum. As a result, women are consistently
denied the international protection to which we are entitled. For example,
the UK asylum claim of a mother of five who fled Uganda after being raped by
soldiers who were interrogating her, was repeatedly rejected by the
authorities. The rape, they said, was merely "sexual gratification" and
"simple dreadful lust", not torture or persecution. Only after she decided
to give up her anonymity so that we could make her case public, and after we
called on prominent women to support her, did she finally win the right to
asylum in 2003. We have examples of many such cases in our files.
While rape is not limited to war, everyone acknowledges that in war rape is
inevitable. In order to make war, men, and now women (since we have been
urged to be more like men as the only route to equality), are trained to
kill. Once killing is acceptable, rape is hardly a moral problem. And
during a period of mass slaughter, rape is even less likely to be taken
seriously. When Iraqi casualties are treated as irrelevant as they have
been (the body counts are for US and UK troops not for Iraqi or Afghani
military or even civilians), are we not also expected to dismiss or ignore
the rape and other torture of Iraqis or Afghanis?
- So why is the rape of women and children treated as a surprise result of
war now? Why were no questions asked about rape during the debate about
whether to go to war?
Defence secretary Geoff Hoon, commenting on the photos of torture by US and
UK troops, said: "I do not see that it is torture: it is abuse. I do not
see any evidence of systematic torture in terms of interrogation."
(London Guardian 7 May). Donald Rumsfeld has said publicly that photos and
videos depicting worse atrocities are still to come; these are rumoured to
contain scenes of the rape of women and children.
- How will such rape be viewed if what we have seen so far is not considered
torture? How do you plan to deal with further information on rape that is
bound to emerge? Will you excuse it as Ann Clwyd, the UK government's
special envoy for human rights, initially did, saying that it was not as bad
as what Saddam Hussein had done? She now says that she was never shown the
International Committee of the Red Cross report. Will she resign?
5. RAPE OF WOMEN SOLDIERS AND WITHIN SOLDIERS' FAMILIES
- What are the implications for the families of officers, soldiers and
mercenaries who are trained to rape, murder and torture with impunity in
this way? How often do they face rape and other violence at the hands of
these same men? How often do they get justice?
The effects of army training and war on women soldiers and the families
military men is dealt with in an extensive letter by our colleague,
air force captain Dorothy Mackey. Rev. Mackey was herself raped within
US army, and has been in touch with many other women (and some men)
survivors of such violence, either within the military or as partners
military men. She makes clear that rape of women within the army is
condoned by the hierarchy. Soldiers' rape of women is treated as a
component of soldiers' pay, a cost not to governments but to women. We
enclose excerpts from Rev. Mackey's expose. More comprehensive
documentation is available on request. Rev. Mackey has forwarded to us
preposterous "McDowell's scoring" system used by the US military for
assessing the veracity of rape allegations. Investigating themselves
accountable to no one, they employ every prejudice against women to
the victims as liars.
We now hear that 100 US women soldiers are claiming to have been raped
their colleagues while serving in Iraq.
- Will this or similar sexist measures be used to "weed out" women who
manage to come forward with allegations of rape in Iraq or Afghanistan?
What will you do to ensure that these cases are investigated by people
independent of the authorities that are accused of the assaults?
6. WE DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY FROM WOMEN IN CONGRESS AND PARLIAMENT
We do not accept that those in authority merely "turned a blind eye".
is mounting evidence that orders to torture, including rape, came from
highest levels. Neither do we accept that the UK government bears no
responsibility for the actions of US troops and vice versa. The
of the Willing must mean joint responsibility.
- Why are women soldiers who took part in the outrages we all know
apparently the first ones to be named and prosecuted? Why has no one
position of authority resigned? Will you ask that they do now and face
We are asking, urging, in fact demanding, that on the issue of the rape
women and children which took place as a direct result of the war and
occupation that your governments perpetrated in Iraq and Afghanistan,
the women in Congress and in Parliament are accountable to women
We need the full information and we need to know what you propose to do
about it, individually and collectively.
We must point out that even in 'normal' times, the forces of law and
have always found ways of protecting the rapist.
In the UK, Soham murderer Ian Huntley, convicted in 2003, was reported
times for rape and sexual assault over years before killing schoolgirls
Holly Chapman and Jessica Wells. This is typical of the sexism of the
criminal justice system when dealing with rape. Nationally, just 5% of
recorded cases of domestic violence and less than 6% of reported rapes
in conviction. Incompetence and carelessness permeate the gathering of
evidence (beginning with the woman's statement to the police), and the
decision on whether to prosecute. In court, in the 23% of cases that
that far, the woman or girl is "put on trial", and is left undefended
prosecuting barrister and by the judge. Victims who are Black,
working class, single mothers, children, older, lesbian, have
or a mental health history, who were attacked by their partner or
ex-partner, are sex workers or have a criminal record, stand even less
chance of getting justice or protection, especially if their attacker
higher social status. Rape and sexual abuse by police officers,
and prison guards are notoriously difficult to get the police to
and the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute, even when the victim is
fellow (woman) officer. We can document this from our files.
Emails: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Crossroads Women's Centre 230a Kentish Town Rd, London NW5 2AB Tel
RAPE AND OTHER TORTURE IN IRAQ
A statement from the Global Women's Strike
The present outcry over the torture of Iraqi prisoners by US and UK
in Iraq would never have happened if the photos had not been published.
Their publication and the impact they have had signal that the biggest
anti-war movement the world has ever seen has had a profound effect on
everyone. The US and UK governments ignored it, hoping it would go
it never has. It is this movement which has pushed these images onto
screens and front pages across the world.
Governments tried to claim - as usual - that this exposure of their
was "irresponsible," but without the photos the torture and killing
been documented for a year would never have been available to us: the
precondition to our being able to stop it. In the same way, the
anti-Vietnam war movement gave us the tragic photo of the little girl
burning from US napalm referred to now as a turning point in ending
1. HIDDEN FROM HISTORY - THE IMPACT OF WAR AND OCCUPATION ON WOMEN AND
But despite the fact that women have been even more opposed to war than
(our experience and every poll confirms this), the effects of the war
occupation on women and girls, including the torture of women
have hardly been touched upon. We know that there are thousands of
many of them of women being raped. (See statement by Black Women's
Action Project and Women Against Rape.) It has also emerged that most
the thousands of people, including many children, picked up arbitrarily
Iraq, have been imprisoned for months, most for no reason, without
families being informed of their whereabouts. Mothers, the first
any community, and other relatives are left to trudge in the heat from
prison to prison searching for their loved ones - another form of
characteristic of dictatorship. And there is clearly no guarantee that
one has been disappeared in the process.
The economic interests behind the atrocities are barely mentioned;
implications for women have been totally hidden. The privatisation of
everything, from oil to water, electricity, etc., imposed by the US as
as it had occupied Iraq, has given powers to employers they never had
before. Paul Bremer has banned all unions and set public sector wages
$40, less than half the recommended monthly wage of a sweatshop worker
neighbouring Iran. At Najebeeya electricity plant in Basra, where
make up 10% of the workforce, "the nursery has been turned over to a
of the boss who has made it into a second home for himself, leaving
mothers to work with their children in tow." And of course there is no
equal pay and women get $15-25 less than men for doing the same job.
same is happening in US occupied Haiti, where the US has put sweatshop
owners and their friends back in charge.
After seven months of relentless organising, the first conference of
workers' unions and councils in Iraq took place in Baghdad on 8
2003. After discussion, key issues were decided upon: a list of
immediate demands, a draft for a new Iraqi Labour Code and the main
of its legislature, as well as the election of the union leadership
committee members. The attendees then established the Workers' Councils
Unions in Iraq - WCUI. Within two days, their offices were raided and
destroyed by the US army.
And what about Saddam Hussein's informers? Former women intelligence
officers, the same people who handed over lists of suspected
(or resistance activists) to security forces during Saddam's
campaign", are among those retrained by the occupation. At that time,
hundreds of women were beheaded in public or strung up outside their
What will happen now? We have read that girls as young as nine who
been raped have been refused hospital treatment, and that in Basra
female students are being refused entry to university and even attacked
stones and acid.
Women everywhere have a right to know about our sisters and their
in Iraq and elsewhere, and we want to know now.
2. THE CONTEXT OF TORTURE IN IRAQ - WHAT THE US AND UK HAVE DONE
Far from being exceptional, the atrocities we are seeing must be put in
context of what the US is known to have done in Vietnam (where it
three million people including with napalm and cluster - anti-personnel
bombs), and all over Latin America (where it funded and managed
and paramilitaries, and continues to do right now in Colombia - all
in the US school for torturers, the infamous School of the Americas);
coup it backed against a democratically elected government in Venezuela
(2002); (jointly with France) its present occupation of Haiti; and the
infamous Guantanamo Bay; and what the British did in Iraq, where
ordered the gassing of "uncivilised tribes", in Kenya during Mau Mau
rape and other torture were standard, and more recently where hundreds
women were raped by the British army over 30 years, and in Cyprus where
British army is banned from some areas because of its rape and murder
woman tourist and other violence since - to mention a few.
And what about the north of Ireland, which, we are told, is where the
British learnt "to behave"? What about the torture, shootings and
atrocities they committed there since 1969, in particular the
strip-searching (and manhandling) of women at Armagh prison by male
and soldiers? It took a women's movement to bring attention to and
this sexual assault.
Channel Four News (UK) has reported that at least 12,000 people are
held in US army prisons around the world - in Middle East countries,
Garcia (stolen from the expelled Chagossian people with the help of the
British government), etc. (10 May) We want to know if there are any
among them, why they are being held, the conditions in which they are
held, and whether their families have been notified. And since the US
and backs in every other way Israel's occupation in Palestine (and in
torture and assassinations are legal), we also want to know what is
happening to Palestinian women and children at the hands of Israeli
and prison guards.
Also, we want to know about the treatment of civilians, beginning with
and children, in that other occupied country, Haiti, where thousands
already been killed either by US troops or by the gangsters and drug
they have put in power in that persecuted country. (Let us remind
that for 200 years, since Haiti's working people, who were slaves at
time, liberated themselves by throwing out their European masters,
been invaded, occupied, boycotted and in every way persecuted by the
US government with the assistance of the racist French government whose
Napoleon met his first Waterloo in Haiti all those years ago.) And we
to know about Colombia, where US-funded and trained government and
paramilitaries have been murdering thousands of civilians, including
women, for opposing violence and exploitation.
We know that some women Members of the UK Parliament voted against this
and some distinguished themselves with their uncompromising opposition.
most voted for it. We know that only one congresswoman, Barbara Lee (a
Black woman representing a largely Black constituency - the sector of
who have been most opposed to war), voted against the invasion of Iraq.
fact she was the only US legislator who voted against.
3. ALL WHO ACCEPT US LEADERSHIP SHARE RESPONSIBILITY
- In our view and in the view of increasing numbers of women and of
what the US does is the responsibility of all those who accept their
leadership, as Blair's government has done with such dogged
- What the US has done in Iraqi prisons is an extension of what they
home, where two million people, disproportionately Black and Latino,
incarcerated and often tortured, not merely by living under an unjust,
repressive and racist regime, but as defined by international
The evidence for this is abundant, as is the evidence that some of the
leading people in this present crisis learnt their interrogation
as US prison guards. Women prisoners are raped by male guards; over
years, some cases have become famous - usually when women get justice
physically defending themselves against their attackers.
- It is an extension of Guantanamo Bay, and of what the US and UK are
at home accusing Muslim people of terrorism and imprisoning them
charge for an indefinite period of time. To assume, as the US and UK
government do, that only Muslims will be upset by torture and injustice
against Muslims is itself a most extraordinary level of racism, which
millions of us are appalled by.
- Torture by US troops and mercenaries ("military contractors") is an
extension of the consistent disregard for human life in Iraq, as
in depleted uranium and years of sanctions which, as we all know,
killed and maimed - especially children.
- We must now see the back of the deliberate or careless disconnection
each form of killing anywhere, each treated as a one-off, an accident,
mistake, an oversight; rather than at best a policy of carelessness
the survival of whole populations. It is time to put the pieces
and face with what little concern for humanity the world is governed,
can change the society into one which Invests in Caring and not
London 12 May 2004
womens global strike