A 40-minute drive separates me from another historical operation in Fallujah. Sometimes when I stand outside my room at night, I hear the sound of rocket explosions fired from military jets flying above Baghdad, and I ponder on the next chapter in Iraq’s dark history that might impact America as well.
It has been almost three years since Evil occupied major cities and provinces in Iraq – like Fallujah, Ramadi, Tikrit, Diyala and Mosul – in the form of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). At a certain point ISIS occupied one-third of Iraq, constituting a combined population exceeding 7 million people. It has been estimated 20,000 to 30,000, or more, ISIS members have ruled over those areas.
ISIS commanders and members enforced Islamic Sharia Law. Meaning, among other things, women in those cities became a commodity in the local markets. ISIS bought, sold, and took women as much as they pleased, promenading in the streets of Mosul, Ramadi, or Fallujah raping as many women as they saw fit.
After the war on ISIS ends, no doubt we will see many social problems start to surface in Iraqi society. And because official records, during this period, are either destroyed or never existed in the first place, the Iraqi government will not be aware of how many children were fathered by ISIS commanders and members.
Currently, Iraq has no law to deal with women being impregnated or raped by terrorists. Many of these ISIS terrorists were foreign fighters, and many of those died. Thus, if they cannot prove who the father of a child is, will the Iraqi government even grant them citizenship? Ominously worse, how can those women legally prove to the court they were raped? Complicating it even further, Iraqi officials, and the society as a whole, can point to the fact that some of the Iraqi population (females included) welcomed ISIS as liberators from the Shia dominated Iraqi government. Making legal status, citizenship – or anything resembling fair treatment – let alone justice – that much harder for the victims (women or children) to obtain.
Having been born in Iraq and raised to maturity in that culture, I can affirm that Iraq is a very tight knit society. Tribal vendetta laws remain active. Honor killing is acceptable. Premarital sex, in the Iraqi culture, remains very much a taboo, and it is legally permissible to kill a woman who has engaged in it.
What’s more, children without a father are still stigmatized, and considered “bastards.” Calling someone a “bastard” is a major insult, and carries with it the connotation that the mother is “a whore.” It is socially unacceptable, to put it mildly.
All cruelties suffered by children during their upbringing, of course have an emotional impact on their development. So it’s a very disturbing thought to look to the future, and ask what will be in store for the thousands of women who were impregnated by ISIS members. Equally disturbing is the idea that the children born of this tragedy, and born into these circumstances, will almost certainly suffer psychologically – in ways we can only guess at, and would rather not think about. Can you begin to visualize the life of those kids being raised in Iraqi society?
As my friend Ali, who previously worked for the New York Times Bureau in Baghdad, said, “It is just a matter of time before Iraqi society starts to label Falluja, Ramadi, and Tikrit as forbidden cities for intermarriage relationship between Sunnis and Shias. This would widen the sectarian gap further.”
It is not far-fetched, some Iraqis would call it “Generation ISIS”. And families from the south or north of Iraq would not allow their kids to marry women from areas that were occupied by ISIS. A Majority of those areas were Sunni. The social stigma, rumors, and derogatory jokes could soon follow. Multiply those calumnies by a million on a daily basis, then people would begin to see the curse of ISIS extended. A Shia or a Kurdish family would find it difficult to accept woman from those areas. The crevasse between Sunni and Shia might deepen even further.
I can also testify to the fact that Iraqi public opinion continues to blame America for creating the ISIS problem in Iraq and Syria. And I can say with confidence, that same public opinion would pass the blame and the responsibility – for those women and children – on to America.
Then, for America’s or Europe’s part, what path can they follow, or policy can they adopt? Will special political asylum be granted to the women raped by ISIS members, and / or their children?
Conquerors have always fathered children in the lands they occupied. The question is – is this time different?
It may be. Many questions remain. The answers, and of course, even many of the questions, are unknown. I cannot even grasp the philosophical, psychological or political implications of this issue. Welcome to the next chapter of Iraq.
Very often news reporters come to Iraq to report on battle scenes. Next time they visit Iraq, I will suggest to them to report on this issue. As an option, the Western media could pressure the Iraqi government to create a non-government organization (NGO) to help the integration of these families.
Normally, I accompany a picture with every blog I write. But this time isn’t normal, and my heart would not allow me to add a picture representing such a child conceived… or woman raped…by ISIS.
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