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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 December, 2003, 06:50 GMT
Letters home: Iraq
BBC World Service's World Today programme is looking at the end of year letters of ordinary people who lived through extraordinary events in 2003.

2003 saw the US-led invasion of Iraq and the toppling, and eventual capture, of Saddam Hussein. Here, Yanar Mohammed, who runs the Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq and the newspaper al-Mousawat which fights for women's rights, explains why she decided to return to Baghdad.

I was born and raised in Iraq until my family decided to go into exile to Canada. The events in Iraq this year made me long to go back to my home country and I decided to move back to Baghdad - not an easy decision to explain to my family and especially my mother.

But the return made me think of the three generations of women in my family, how different our lives have been and how much they depended on politics and the resulting culture and its commands.

And here are some thoughts I would like to address to my mother, who is angry and upset at my decision to leave to the most dangerous city in the world:

Dear Mother

This is the letter I will never write to you, as much as I would like you to read it. Maybe some of it will reach you, maybe someday you will understand, and forgive the work that I do.

Grandma's life should have been better, and then again it couldn't have. She should have been protected, but she never was.

When my grandfather's first wife died, he thought it to be the most normal thing to marry her 14-year-old sister. She would be a good mother to his children, even though some of them were the same age as her.

I remember sleeping on the rooftop of our house in Baghdad in the summer nights next to grandma, asking her about her childhood
It did not occur to him that she should have the right to choose not to be his wife. Her escape to a far-away relative in the village did not help. She had to come back and submit to the only choice a female of her position could have in a traditional Islamic society, and that is to surrender to a man she despised.

Dearest mother... How could that "respectable" man that you still call your father rape, horrify and torture the innocence of a girl, a kid in her early teenage life, and what gave him the right?

And how does it feel to be the outcome of such a forced union?

He prayed five times a day, gave money to the poor, was a good judge among his community to solve disputes, and definitely deserved the honorary title of Mullah because of all his pious and devout work and also because of his extensive religious knowledge.

But it seems his teachings never touched on the idea that females are human beings that deserve to have choices or well-being or even any self-esteem at all.

I am glad that your generation had it better off. Well, I see that you married the man you loved and finished your education and worked as a teacher.

I know one thing for sure: if I and other women do not work against it, the dark ages are around and women are the first victims
And I remember you in mini-skirts and fashionable sleeveless dresses all the time.

I also remember grandma visiting us and staying for long periods of time with us. I remember sleeping on the rooftop of our house in Baghdad in the summer nights next to grandma, asking her about her childhood.

As a teenager with a strong urge for love, I used to ask about her memories of love, maybe with grandpa? While lying down on her bed, she would turn the other way looking away from me and whisper that, at night time when she had to go to bed, it felt like death - every single night of her life with him.

I see Iraq going back to the times of my grandmother. I see all women in the streets wrapped up in the veil and ugly, long and shapeless dresses.

I see the politics of the New World Order handing the power over to the men, leaving millions of women in a situation like my grandmother, vulnerable to distressing and devastating lives.

That is the main reason I am going back to Baghdad. I know one thing for sure: if I and other women do not work against it, the dark ages are around and women are the first victims.

My Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq and my newspaper al-Mousawat are my way to reach women who have no one else to defend, support and empower them to a better life, a life where they have the freedom that grandma Fathiya was not allowed to.

I wish some day you will understand and respect my choice to be there and forgive my not listening to you when you advised me to leave it all and stay in my comfortable home in Canada.

It is something that I just have to do.

Your loving daughter
Yanar

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WATCH AND LISTEN
Yanar Mohammed
"The events in Iraq this year made me long to go back to my home country"




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