| Ander Nieuws week 10 / nieuwe oorlog 2008 |
Iraq's war widows struggle for financial survival

The central government is sporadic with pension payments to the ever-increasing number of women who have lost their husbands. Without the money, these women are stranded in a patriarchal society.
Los Angeles Times
February 19, 2008
Tony Perry and Tina Susman
The rumor swept through this border town early in the morning, and soon several dozen women were clamoring outside a small government office.
The rumor proved false, as it had on many other days. There would be no distribution of pension payments for the Iraqi widows. Often, months pass between payments, with no provisions made for back payments and no explanations given for the gaps.
"I have nothing," one widow cried to a government employee peeping out from a half-open door.
"My children need help," cried another.
Of its unmet social needs, the central government's failure to follow through on promises made to these widows is one of the most visible. Scenes like the one outside the Social Guardship Net office in Qaim are common.
"These protests are taking place in all the (18) provinces," said Samira Musawi, a member of parliament and head of its committee on women and children. She has submitted legislation to provide housing, education and job training for widows and other low-income women, although it has yet to be acted on.
'They need so much'
As with many measures of Iraqi society, there are no firm figures on the number of widows. U.S. government statisticians estimate the number of widows resulting from war at about a half-million, saying many husbands have been lost through the Iran-Iraq war, Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1991 and since the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
Musawi believes hundreds of thousands of widows remain unaccounted for. Only 84,000 have registered with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs as pension-eligible, she said.
The prolonged fighting between U.S. Marines and insurgents for this region increased the number of widows. Many families were caught in the crossfire; when the tribal sheiks sided with the Americans, many men in their tribes joined the fighting.
"All the events that happened here took a lot of our young men," Sheik Hadi Madrouj Kallefah said.
In various spots across al-Anbar province, the U.S. military and State Department-financed provincial reconstruction teams have met with Iraqi women to discuss their household needs and concerns about their children's health.
In Haditha, more than 200 women, many with children in tow, recently packed a small meeting room to explain their struggles to female military personnel.
"It was heart-rending," Army Lt. Col. Linda Holloway said. "They need so much, and there is only so much we can do for them. That was one night I couldn't sleep."
The treatment of widows ranks high among the list of things the U.S. military wants to lobby the Baghdad government about to help al-Anbar.
Grassroots efforts
Widows are given preference in sewing classes offered by the U.S. Agency for International Development, backed by the Marines, in hopes that they can become proficient enough to make clothes to sell.
In Husaybah, 20 of the 50 women, ages 17 to 25, in the sewing program are widows. There is a waiting list of 750 women who would like to enroll. Upon graduation, each woman receives a $75 sewing machine.
In another class offered by the agency, local men learn how to lobby the provincial and central governments. "Many in the area want something done for the widows," Husaybah Mayor Farhan Kettekhan Farhan said.
Sheik Jasim Faraq Gawad told a reporter, "Tell the American people this province needs help. The nongovernmental agencies are helping us, but the (central and provincial) governments in Baghdad and Ramadi need to help, too."
Original link

| Ander Nieuws week 10 / nieuwe oorlog 2008 |