Iraqis say no to violence against women

BAGHDAD, Dec. 3 (Xinhuanet) -- Hundreds of Iraqis on Thursday held a rally in Baghdad, condemning violence against women when terror becomes popular in the war-torn country.

The rally, sponsored by 85 Iraqi women groups, was in commemoration of the CARE International's director for Iraq Margaret Hassan and senior adviser to Iraq's Ministry of Public Works Amaal al-Maamelgi, both killed by unknown insurgents.

"We are united to say 'NO' to terrorism against women who shouldby no means be offended or humiliated," Hameed al-Kafae, a member of the Iraqi National Council, or parliament, told Xinhua.

As a British-Irish-Iraq national, Hassan had served as head of CARE International in Iraq before she was kidnapped and killed in late November.

Married to an Iraqi man, Hassam had lived in Iraq for some 30 years and stayed in the country when other international agencies were evacuated following the upsurge of bombings and kidnappings.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for her death.

Maamelgi, a prominent Iraqi women rights activist, was gunned down along with her driver, secretary and a security guard late November in Bagdad.

Many Iraqis were shocked to hear the two women bear the brunt ofthe violence as women, according to Islamic teachings, are supposedto have a protected status in war.

Speaking in a tough voice, Shatha Naji, member of the women groups, said: "This gathering is a scream in the face of violence and oppression in our society against women."

"Hassan and Maamelgi's blood will never go down the drain. We will continue our struggle for the women rights," Naji told Xinhua.

"We want to prove that the Iraqi women are participating in the political process in Iraq," She said, adding "We are inspired by Maamelgi and expecting to see 25 percent of the parliament seats taken by women in the coming elections."

Insurgents have frequently targeted government officials and citizens from countries participating in or helping the US-led coalition forces.

About 140 foreigners and Iraqis have been kidnapped in Iraq since April. Some were released while others were beheaded or shot dead, with Hassan being the first woman to spill blood in violence-laden Iraq.

Doctor Suadad Fadhel still got the jitters while talking to Xinhua. She said she felt unsafe in a terrorized society.

"You don't necessarily have to collaborate with the occupation forces when you are threatened. We, Iraqis, are virtually living ina terrorized country," she said.

Overwhelmed by the atrocity, Minister of Environment Meshkat Muemen raised one question: "Is violence the best way to deal with a problem or solve a certain issue?"

"All kinds of violence in Iraq are due to differences in viewpoints," Muemen said.

"Can you imagine that killing, displacing people and terrorism can solve any problem? ... The Iraqis are the losers in this violence."

Aoras, daughter of Maamelgi, told Xinhua, "I don't know how the future of Iraq will be like after all these violence. After the insurgents killed my mother, my future looks uncertain."

While still reeling from the tragedy, she expressed hope that "those who work with my mother will not stop building Iraq ... My mother has gone, but her followers will eventually bring about whatshe had fought for." 2004-12-04 00:26:53

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