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Post-saddam Women 'no Better Off'

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Post-Saddam women 'no better off'


Wednesday 23 February 2005, 3:16 Makka Time, 0:16 GMT


Nearly two years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, women are no better off than under the rule of Saddam Hussein, human rights group Amnesty International has said.


In a new report on Tuesday, the London-based organisation said that while systematic repression under Hussein had ended, it has been replaced by increased murders and sexual abuse - including by US forces.


Washington promised that the overthrow of the former president would free the Iraqi people from years of oppression and set them on the road to democracy.


But Amnesty said post-war insecurity had left women at risk of violence and curtailed their freedoms.


Iraqi women and girls now live in constant fear of violence, said the report.


"The lawlessness and increased killings, abductions and rapes that followed the overthrow of the government of Saddam Hussein have restricted women's freedom of movement and their ability to go to school or to work," the report said.


"Women have been subjected to sexual threats by members of the US-led forces and some women detained by US forces have been sexually abused, possibly raped."


Pentagon reaction


Amnesty called on US-led forces to improve safeguards for women in detention and investigate promptly all allegations of violence against them, including sexual attacks by their forces or other agents.


The Pentagon said it had not seen the report, but took any allegations of detainee abuse seriously.


"We have demonstrated our commitment to ensuring that kind of behaviour is identified and dealt with properly," spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Joe Richard said.


"With this report, we would like the opportunity to review it and to test the validity of the allegations."


Abd al-Salam Sidahmad, director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty, said Iraqi authorities must now introduce concrete measures to protect women.


"They must send a clear message that violence against women will not be tolerated by investigating all allegations of abuse against women and by bringing those responsible to justice, no matter what their affiliation."


Three wars and more than a decade of economic sanctions have been particularly damaging to Iraqi women, said Amnesty.


Aljazeera + Agencies

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