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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Nationalism, Conflict and the Feminist Subject Among Modern Iraqi Women

  • Author(s): MacDougall, Susan
  • et al.

The American occupation of Iraq, now widely acknowledged in many progressive and not-necessarily progressive circles as an ill-conceived initiative, went through numerous phases in its justification. After the United States government realized that there were no weapons of mass destruction to be found in the country, its rhetoric in framing the war shifted quickly to emphasize democracy, a significant element of which was the liberation of women. This argument used Iraq as a symbol for the backward and traditional stereotypes of the Middle East, and emphasized its despotic government and ‘tribal’ mentality to frame the invasion as an effort in the name of humanity’s collective progress toward Western modernity. Considerable ink has been spilled elsewhere contesting and condemning that narrative; I will not take up the question of its validity today. Instead, I would like to discuss some of the ways that Iraqi women are now articulating and remembering Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, particularly the situation for women therein, and the manner in which those narratives can be understood as a response and a resistance to the American decision to frame the occupation in terms of women’s rights.

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