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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 November 2007, 03:03 GMT
Witness: Violence against Basra's women
"Um Zeinab", a mother of six who works in the south Iraqi city of Basra, has described for BBC World Service how she nearly fell victim to a campaign of religious extremism targeting women:

I was heading to work in the morning. I used to stop at the main road to wait for the bus. As normal I was wearing a shirt and skirt and some make-up.

Suddenly, a motorbike came heading towards me at top speed. Maybe it wasn't my day to die because the bike rolled over and the driver fell off.

He had a beard and a black robe worn by the militia. I was so shaken. He didn't say anything but I could feel his anger. After that I started to wear hijab and light make-up or even no make-up.

My daughter, who is at the university, told me that some men are watching how women dress and ask them: 'Why are you wearing a skirt and a shirt?' One of her friends who doesn't wear a hijab received a letter threatening her.

Two days ago two women were killed in al-Makal district. All these incidents are recorded as 'killers unknown' and the bodies remain unidentified, because no-one dares collect them.

People said the women had received a warning beforehand, and that the gunmen then came to their houses and killed them - one of them in front of her kids.

I blame dark, fundamentalist extremists for these incidents. I don't know what's happened - have we become savages? I don't know what's happened to people's way of thinking, they've changed overnight.

I remember back in the 1970s our teachers used to wear miniskirts and have the latest hair-dos. These are terrible setbacks. We don't know what they want, or why they want to take us back 14 centuries.

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