Iraq, Baghdad/Abu Dsheer – This memorial day, as citizens of the United States, and perhaps elsewhere, are remembering the fallen soldiers of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as previous conflicts, Alive in Baghdad asks you to remember the civilian fallen as well. It’s been estimated that 1.3 million women have been widowed in Iraq due to war, ranging from the Iran-Iraq war to the most recent conflict which is still going on today.
Although its difficult to be certain if this number is accurate, or to know just how many have been widowed in the most recent conflict, Iraq’s acting Minister of Women’s Affairs, Narmeen Othman, suggests that at least 70,000 women have been widowed due to the most recent war. However, these numbers are disputed widely, and while a government committee on women’s affairs has claimed there are just 1.3 million widows in Iraq, others have reported drastically different numbers. One source in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs told an NBC staffer in 2007 that there were 3 million widows in Iraq due to the various wars of the last two decades. Despite this already shocking number, the United Nations news service, IRIN, reported in 2006 that there are 8 million widows nation-wide, with upwards of 330,000 in Baghdad alone.
To put that in perspective, if true, it would mean that as much as 6-7 percent of Baghdad’s population may be made up of widows, suggesting that the number of children with only one parent left is likely to be double, or triple this, if not more. The primary cause for women to be widowed today is sectarian violence and terrorism. Areas such as Abu Dsheer, Hawr Rajab, and other tumultuous districts that have seen some of the worst internecine fighting understandably have some of the most prevalent populations of widows and orphans.
Abu Dsheer has been considered one of the bloodiest conflict areas in Baghdad, due to the influence militias have held there. Abu Dsheer is located in the south of Baghdad near Al-Saha neighborhood. Since 2004, Abu Dsheer was controlled by al-Qaeda on one side and the Sadr Movement on the other side, Many people were assassinated due to their sect whether they were Sunni or Shi’a. The Iraqi government tried many times along with coalition forces to restore security in Abu Dsheer with no success.
In 2006 there were many bombings taking place in Abu Dsheer, in addition to the battles between the Iraqi or coalition forces and the militias. The civilian casualties were very high in Abu Dsheer, and the families living there faced grave financial difficulties due to the bad security conditions which prevent them from going to work or looking for jobs within Abu Dsheer.
There are NGOs trying to help the people living there, by providing them with medical and financial aid according to their abilities. NGOs such as Al-Tathamon Social Organization (Social Solidarity Organization) are trying to fix some of the problems in areas like Abu Dsheer. The organization was created on the 10th of July 2007 in order to help families or individuals who were having medical or financial problems. They also help the families who lost there provider, like the father of that family or the mother. The Social Solidarity Organization has offices located in several areas such as Kadhimiya, Sadr City, Al-Husseiniya and Al-Nahrawan, as well as Abu Dsheer.
Due to the difficulty these organizations have finding funding, many such as the Social Solidarity Organization and Al-Yateem Charity, which help the women interviewed by Alive in Baghdad, receive support from the Sadr Movement. Although they claim to have sought financial support from the Iraqi government, both, the organization, and the widows interviewed by Alive in Baghdad say they have not received any support from the government.