[News] Pattern Emerges of Sexual Assault Against Women Held by U.S. Forces

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Mon Jun 7 09:05:55 EDT 2004




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News Report
Pattern Emerges of Sexual Assault Against Women Held by U.S. Forces
by Chris Shumway 

Jun 6 - Well publicized images of US soldiers torturing and humiliating 
male Iraqi prisoners may be overshadowing evidence gathered by several 
human rights groups and Pentagon investigators indicating US military 
personnel have raped and sexually abused Iraqi women held at Abu Ghraib 
prison and other detention facilities.

Amal Kadham Swadi, an Iraqi attorney representing women detainees, told The 
Guardian she believes that sexualized violence and abuse committed by US 
soldiers against female prisoners goes far beyond a few isolated cases. 
It's "happening all across Iraq," she said.

Women make up a small minority of the total number of Iraqis held by 
Coalition forces. The US military says 78 women are currently detained by 
occupation militaries throughout Iraq.

It is not clear, however, exactly how many women the US and its allies have 
detained since the invasion last year. According to the International 
Committee of the Red Cross, 30 Iraqi women were housed in Abu Ghraib last 
October. That number was reduced to five last month, and finally to zero as 
of May 29, according to the military.

Like the majority of male prisoners, many of the women detained by 
Coalition forces have not been charged with any crime. Iraqi human rights 
groups say they are likely being used as "bargaining chips" against family 
members wanted by Coalition forces, Newsday reports.

Swadi and six other female Iraqi lawyers began investigating claims of 
sexual assault late last year after a note reportedly written by a prisoner 
named Noor was smuggled out of Abu Ghraib. The note claimed that US 
soldiers were raping female detainees, and in some cases, such as that of 
Noor herself, getting them pregnant. Swadi then began interviewing 
detainees who said they too had been assaulted or had witnessed assaults, 
The Guardian reports.

During a visit to Abu Ghraib in March, Swadi said, one of the prisoners 
told her US soldiers had forced her to undress in front of them, an act 
that would be seen as particularly demeaning in conservative Muslim 
culture. At another detention facility in Baghdad, Swadi encountered a 
woman who said soldiers raped her. "She was the only woman who would talk 
about her case," Swadi told The Guardian. "She was crying. She told us she 
had been raped," Swadi said. "Several American soldiers had raped her. She 
had tried to fight them off and they had hurt her arm. She showed us the 

Iman Khamas, head of the International Occupation Watch Center, an 
organization investigating human rights abuses under the US-led occupation, 
said a former detainee told her about the rape of a cellmate at Abu Ghraib, 
according to Middle East Online. On another occasion, a woman whispered 
cautiously to Khamas -- even though no one else was in the room -- 
intimating that soldiers had raped her at Abu Ghraib. A day later, Khamas 
said, the woman returned and asked her to tear up the statement.

According to Khamas, Swadi and others who are investigating assault cases, 
few women in Muslim cultures will come forward since they know rape 
survivors are often treated with shame and are sometimes killed as a means 
of preserving family honor.

Khamas and two other human rights workers have all said separately that 
three young rural women from the Sunni Muslim region of Al-Anbar, west of 
Baghdad, had been killed by their families after coming out of Abu Ghraib 
pregnant, Middle East Online reported.

The Pentagon has acknowledged, in an internal report by Army Major General 
Antonio Taguba, that US soldiers videotaped and photographed naked female 
detainees at Abu Ghraib. Photographs taken by US soldiers and shown to 
members of Congress, but not yet made public, reportedly depict at least 
one Iraqi woman being forced at gunpoint to show her breasts.

The Taguba report also cites a case of rape at Abu Ghraib, although Taguba 
described the incident as a male prison guard "having sex" with a female 

Referring to rapes at that very prison, the military's chief spokesperson 
in Iraq, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, told Agence France Presse that the 
department running prisons was "unaware of any such reports at Abu Ghraib."

The military has not yet charged any soldiers for a specific case of 
assault or abuse involving a female detainee.

Another Pentagon report indicates that three soldiers from military 
intelligence were alleged to have sexually assaulted a female detainee at 
Abu Ghraib last October. Army investigators did not confirm the assault. 
The three soldiers were reportedly fined several hundred dollars each and 
demoted for having been in the prison's female wing without permission, 
according to the Washington Post.

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