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U.S. forces abuse and torture female detainees in Iraq

Al Jazeera | April 19 2005

Iraqi female detainees say that they have been illegally detained, raped and sexually humiliated by U.S. occupation forces.

One female detainee, who identified herself as “Noor”, said that U.S. soldiers at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib raped women and, in many occasions, forced them to strip naked in public. She also said that many female detainees got pregnant.

The classified investigation launched by the U.S. army, led by Major General Antonio Taguba, confirmed Noor’s account and said that U.S. guards sexually abused female detainees at Abu Ghraib.

According to Taguba’s report, the 1,800 abuse photographs shot by U.S. guards inside Abu Ghraib included images of naked male and female prisoners, a male Military Police guard “having sex” with a female detainee, and naked male and female detainees forcibly arranged in various sexually explicit positions for photographing.

The Bush administration, which insists that these were the acts of a few soldiers, blocked the release of photographs of Iraqi women detainees at Abu Ghraib, including those of women forced to bare their breasts, although these have been shown to Congress.

However, Taguba’s fifty-three-page report, found that between October and December of 2003 there were numerous instances of “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” at Abu Ghraib”.

Also, a British MP, Ann Clwyd, confirmed a report that an Iraqi woman in her 70s had been harnessed and ridden like a donkey at Abu Ghraib after being captured last July. Clwyd said: “She was held for about six weeks without charge. During that time she was insulted and told she was a donkey.”

Moreover, the Italian reporter, Giuliana Sgrena, who was held hostage in Iraq, reported that in one incident, U.S. occupation forces raided the home of Mithal al Hassan, and arrested both her husband and son.

“The soldiers later ransacked the apartment. Denounced as part of a vendetta, Mithal was condemned without trial to eighty days of horror in the company of other women prisoners who, like her, were subjected to abuse and torture. She has since spotted her tormentors on the internet.”

Other reports state the U.S. forces violate international laws by kidnapping Iraqi women to use them as a bargaining chip to persuade their male relatives to surrender.

Iman Khamas, chief of the International Occupation Watch Center, a nongovernmental organization that gathers information on human rights abuses under occupation, said that “one former detainee had recounted the alleged rape of her cell mate in Abu Ghraib.”

According to Khamas, the detainee said that “She had been raped 17 times in one day”.

Attorney Amal Kadham Swadi, one of seven female lawyers representing women detainees at Abu Ghraib, says that abuse and torture against Iraqi women is not confined only to Abu Ghraib, but is “happening all across Iraq.”

“Sexualized violence and abuse committed by U.S. troops goes far beyond a few isolated cases,” she said.