Women and girls missing in Iraq

According to the current issue of Time magazine, more than 2,000 Iraqi women have gone missing since the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein. This estimate comes from anecdotal evidence collected by the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, and is thought to be the result of the collapse of law and order in Iraq.

In addition to the existence of gangs of criminals, some aid workers say that various ministry bureaucrats have either frozen the assets of charities that might provide refuge, or have bound them with excessive red tape. According to the UK press, sex traffickers have been abducting women and girls and selling them into prostitution. Some, these sources say, are sold instead of being released after they have been kidnapped for ransom; others are taken at random. Kidnappings are often not reported because of the societal shame that surrounds them, and many families are reluctant to take back females who have been raped or forced into prostitution.

In July of 2003, Human Rights Watch published a report, “Climate of Fear: Sexual Violence and Abduction of Women and Girls in Baghdad,” which concluded that the failure of Iraqi and U.S.-led occupation authorities to provide adequate security in Baghdad was at the root of women’s fear of being raped and abducted. Now, almost three years later, the problem still exists. There is no way to tabulate how many women and girls have been taken out of Iraq to Yemen, Syria, Jordan, and other places as part of this contemporary slave trade, and there is no indication that a solution is at hand.