Thursday, January 28, 2010

Shatha al Musawi

Who is this member of the Iraqi parliament who is suing to stop Dr al-Shahristani in his tracks?

The picture at right is from Troopscoop.  The New York Times covered her in 2005 (worth reading in full):
She grew up in a middle-class Baghdad neighborhood, sharing a large comfortable house with six siblings, uncles, aunts and a brood of cousins.

Then one day in 1980 her father went to work and never came home. She later discovered he had been hit by a car belonging to a government official he had argued with.

Only 13, Ms. Musawi was devastated. One of her prized possessions is a photo album of faded pictures beneath sticky plastic, showing her father happy, with wavy long hair and a child in each arm.

“He was a poet, a great man,” she said. “I loved him and I was really very attached to him,” she said. “His loss made me unbalanced.”

Two years later, with the family living in a smaller house, the government struck again. On Aug. 15, 1982, the police arrested her relatives and threw them in prison because their names appeared on a list of “undesirables.”

Ms. Musawi said she ended up in a dirty cell with her relatives and other women and children. Over the next 38 days, she saw a woman give birth beside her; she heard children promising to kill Mr. Hussein. At one point, the police took Ms. Musawi’s mother away and threw ripped pieces of her son’s shirt on the floor to suggest (falsely) that he had been killed.

Captivity shook Ms. Musawi to the core. She did not want to leave when the police tried to release her because “I didn’t think life was a secure place,” she said.
Only one Sunni sits with Ms. Musawi on the victims committee, Khalaf al-Maula. In an interview, he described Ms. Musawi as open-minded.

“She respects other people’s opinions and listens to them even though she has a different viewpoint,” he said.

Ms. Musawi says she shares the Sunnis’ opposition to splitting the country into autonomous sectarian regions, and understands elements of the Sunni position. “Some of it is this feeling of patriotism, and a sense of how you should act in a fight against occupation and foreign forces on your land,” she said.

But her own positions and comments are now cut with a sharper sectarian edge.

In Parliament three months ago, she shouted down her colleagues for standing by as Sunni extremists in Diyala Province killed hundreds of Shiites. When the speaker, a Sunni, smirked, she screamed: “Why are you laughing, Mr. Speaker? I want to know why you’re laughing.” (He waved her away: “Leave it to the women,” he said.)

Ms. Musawi, though loyal to the more moderate Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, also now defends some actions of the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the anti-American cleric, saying that it has filled a necessary void.

“The government couldn’t protect the people,” she said. “They couldn’t save them. The Sadrists did that.”

When asked about accusations that the Mahdi Army forced innocent Sunnis out of the Hurriya neighborhood, which borders Adel, she said Shiites had no time to sift the innocent from the guilty because Sunnis were killing Shiites.

She says the basic problem is that too many Sunnis will never accept Shiite rule. Just as galling, she said, they refuse to accept responsibility for the sins of Mr. Hussein, the Baath party or today’s extremists.

“The Sunnis never felt how much we suffered,” she said.
I also found a short profile of her in a news story from back in 2005:
Shatha al-Musawi, for instance, has become one of the Shiite alliance's more visible members. A divorced mother of three, she worked for a decade selling clothes in a market while raising her children in Baghdad as a single mother and putting herself through college.

"To tell you the truth, I am not a feminist," Ms. Musawi said in a recent interview, speaking in English, and dressed in a black abaya. "I don't want to commit the same mistakes Western women have committed. I like that family should be the major principle for women here."

Some liberal assembly members say women who talk like that are just taking orders from the assembly's Shiite clerics.

But that hardly explains the passion and eloquence with which Ms. Musawi, 37, speaks of the need to bring Iraq's laws into line with its Islamic traditions. She is not timid: during the first meeting of the National Assembly she delivered an angry speech demanding that the politicians who were holding up the formation of the new government be held to account.

Asked about her belief that men should be allowed to have four wives, she shot back, "Have you heard of Nasreen Barwari?"

Nasreen Barwari, the Harvard-educated minister of public works in Ayad Allawi's interim government, led the delegation of secular women to Dr. Jaafari's office last week. She is also the third wife of Ghazi al-Yawar, the assembly member and former interim president.

Ms. Musawi can defend her views about Shariah in terms the secular can understand. She points out that after three recent wars, Iraq's women account for more than 55 percent of the population by some estimates. In a culture where relationships outside wedlock are frowned on, many women are living lives of lonely misery, she said.

In the same way, Ms. Musawi explains that Iraqi men—not women—are expected to help support their poorer relatives. So, she argues, it is fair to grant women a smaller share of inheritance by law.

"We have different traditions," Ms. Musawi said. "What is acceptable to you is not acceptable to us."


Datamunger said...

Off topic, but the EIA today released US oil consumption data for November (18.6 mbpd). This is the 10th conseq. month under 19 mbpd, a state of affairs that last prevailed in 1996.

Datamunger said...

The NYT piece seems to be from 2007.

Harrowing stuff. It would be a miracle of social transformation for those folks to bury the hatchet and become nice bourgeois while sitting on an $8 trillion hoard of crack. But stranger things have happened.

Stuart Staniford said...

Datamunger - colorful way of putting it! But I get exactly what you mean.