An accurate count of women and girl victims of sexual violence is almost impossible to achieve since many victims do not report such cases or even seek medical attention. In addition, the breakdown in police record keeping and widespread looting of court and hospital records that ensued after U.S. troops entered Baghdad means that there are no reliable figures or statistics available from Iraqi authorities regarding complaints or charges that are filed. The perception of the people on the ground, however, is that there has been a sharp increase in the cases of sexual violence since the war. Human Rights Watch obtained credible information on twenty-five cases of sexual violence and abduction and interviewed four victims of rape and abduction in Baghdad in the period between
Despite indications from police that there has been an increase in sexual violence in Baghdad, the director of the Institute of Forensic Medicine (Ma`had al-Tibb al-`Adli), Dr. Faek Amin Bakr, told Human Rights Watch that before the war the institute, which is responsible for conducting rape examinations, received approximately seventeen to twenty cases of rape per month. He said that since the war the institute had only received one case, but stressed that the institute had turned away victims of sexual violence and had significantly shortened its working hours due to the security situation.4
The cases of Saba A., Salma M., Muna B., and Dalal S. (not real names or initials) are in keeping with other accounts of rape and abduction that Baghdad women and girls and their families cited as the primary reason that they feared to leave their homes.
Human Rights Watch saw a copy of the medical report by the U.S. military doctor who treated Saba A. six days later. The report documented bruising in the vaginal area, a posterior vaginal tear, and a broken hymen.6 Lieutenant Monica Casmaer, a physician’s assistant attached to a U.S. military unit, examined Saba A. with the pediatrician. She described the injuries as fairly severe, especially given the time that had elapsed before she was examined. 7
Lt. Casmaer said she also treated a woman who reported that she had been walking home from the supermarket in the middle of the day, on approximately May 12, when she was abducted and raped by unknown perpetrators. Lt. Casmaer said she saw bruising consistent with the woman’s account of struggle.8
Forty-nine-year-old Salma M. told Human Rights Watch that armed men abducted her from her home on a Thursday night in early May. She told Human Rights Watch her captors gang-raped her at an unknown location before dropping her in an unfamiliar district of Baghdad the following morning. The attack seems to have been meted out by individuals seeking reprisal against persons associated with Saddam Hussein’s government. Salma M. lives next door to a wealthy man who was known to do business with many people “from Tikrit,” and she herself is rumored to have had connections with many of them.9Salma M. told Human Rights Watch,
Salma M. described what happened after the men forced her into the car:
Salma M. showed Human Rights Watch an oblong scar on her right ankle that she said came from the cigarette burns. A journalist “embedded” with the U.S. military unit who responded when Salma M. returned home described Salma M. as in shock, her face swollen and bite marks on her neck and shoulders.12 Salma M. did not see a doctor, although one of the police officers recommended it. She explained, “I was afraid to go to a doctor. I couldn’t—I had a breakdown, I was overcome, I couldn’t think about seeing anyone, I just wanted to be taken away.”13 Salma M. told Human Rights Watch that she fears the perpetrators will return, and that she lays awake at night, certain every time a taxi drives down the street that her attackers have returned. Her fear for herself and her family is so great that she does not let her eighteen-year-old daughter leave the house.
Muna B., a fifteen-year-old, told Human Rights Watch that armed men held her at a house on the outskirts of Baghdad for approximately four weeks before she escaped on
Muna B. said the men held the sisters at a house with seven other young children: three girls (one approximately age ten, and two approximately the same age as herself), and four boys (two were five or six years old and the other about eleven). In addition to the four men who abducted her, Muna B.’s captors included a woman who appeared to be the girlfriend or wife of one of the other perpetrators. Muna B. said one of the men beat all the children on the first day they arrived. “We were crying and shouting, so he beat us, he used a plastic hose. It struck me on my back, near my shoulders. But he really beat my elder sister.” 16
The next day the men separated Muna B. from her sisters and put her in a room alone. During this time she heard them rape her older sister.
On several occasions, the men brought other people who looked the children over. Muna B. believed them to be traffickers who were going to bid on children.
The last “buyer” came in early June. He returned the following day with another man. Convinced that she and her sisters would be sold to these men, Muna B. managed to escape when her captors left to get food for breakfast. She ran through fields for approximately fifteen minutes until she reached a road, then flagged down a car which took her to Baghdad, where she eventually made her way to U.S. soldiers who took her to a police station. When Human Rights Watch spoke to Muna B. on
Muna B.’s account resembles that of Dalal S., a twenty-three-year old woman abducted from Baghdad on
Dalal S.’s mother was with her when Dalal S. was taken.
Ripped away from her relatives, Dalal S. was driven around for three hours and then eventually taken to a farm that she believes was on the outskirts of Baghdad. The perpetrators seemed to be brothers, and one told Dalal S. he was a former prisoner who had been sentenced to eighty years’ imprisonment but was amnestied by Saddam Hussein in October 2002. They gave Dalal S. various accounts of who they were and why they had abducted her.
The men held Dalal S. at the farm until the next evening, when they sent her back to Baghdad. Before leaving her abductors made her don an abayato disguise her identity from neighbors who might see her.22
Dalal S. did not want to talk about the details of what had happened to her when Human Rights Watch interviewed her, saying that she was trying to move beyond the incident. However in an interview with a German journalist, Dalal S.’s mother confided that Dalal S. had been raped during the abduction.24
In addition to these cases, Human Rights Watch received several reports of other women who were abducted and taken outside of Baghdad. For example, U.S. military police reported to Human Rights Watch that on
In another case, Dr. Enas al-Hamadi, a doctor at the al-`Alwiyya maternity hospital, told Human Rights Watch that she had treated two young women who had been transferred to the hospital by police on Friday, May 9, 2003. Dr. al-Hamadi said the young women, in their late teens, had told her they had been walking down the street when they were abducted by men in a vehicle; they were driven to a location on the outskirts of town, raped repeatedly, and then were returned to Baghdad the next day. According to Dr. al-Hamadi, the two women showed signs of bruising and vaginal tears consistent with their accounts that they had been raped.27
2 Human Rights Watch interview with police officers, al-Karrada police station,
3 Human Rights Watch interview with Iraqi police investigator, Baghdad
4 Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Faek Amin Bakr, Baghdad,
5 Human Rights Watch interview, (name withheld),
6 Human Rights Watch interview with physician’s assistant Lieutenant Monica Casmaer, attached to the 4-64 armored battalion, Second brigade, Third Infantry Division, Baghdad, May 31, 2003, who was present at the examination; and medical report signed by Dr. Eric Schobitz, staff pediatrician, CPT MC U.S. Army, dated May 28, 2003.
7 Human Rights Watch interview with physician’s assistant Lieutenant Monica Casmaer, attached to the 4-64 armored battalion, Second brigade, Third Infantry Division, Baghdad, May 31, 2003.
8 Human Rights Watch interview with physician’s assistant Lieutenant Monica Casmaer, attached to the 4-64 armored battalion, Second brigade, Third Infantry Division, Baghdad, May 31, 2003.
9 Human Rights Watch interview with Salma M., Baghdad,
10 Human Rights Watch interview with Salma M., Baghdad,
11 Human Rights Watch interview with Salma M., Baghdad,
12 Human Rights Watch interview with Natalie Pompilio, Philadelphia Inquirer,
13 Human Rights Watch interview with Salma M., Baghdad,
14 Muna B. did not know the exact date, but recalled that it was a Sunday and estimated that she was held approximately one month. Human Rights Watch interview with Muna B., age fifteen, Baghdad,
15 Human Rights Watch interview with Muna B., age fifteen, Baghdad,
16 Human Rights Watch interview with Muna B., age fifteen, Baghdad,
17 Human Rights Watch interview with Muna B., age fifteen, Baghdad,
18 Human Rights Watch interview with Muna B., age fifteen, Baghdad,
19 Human Rights Watch interview with Muhannad Walid Shakr, age twenty-one, Baghdad,
20 Human Rights Watch interview with Dalal S.’s mother, Baghdad,
21 Human Rights Watch interview with Dalal S., Baghdad,
22 An abayais a black head and full-length body covering worn by conservative women.
23 Human Rights Watch interview with Dalal S., Baghdad,
24 Human Rights Watch interview with Birgit Kaspar, ARD German Broadcasting Network, Baghdad,
25 Human Rights Watch interview with U.S. military police Lieutenant Brad Manning, 307 MP company, 519 Battalion, Baghdad,
26 Human Rights Watch interview with Iraqi police officer at New Baghdad station, Baghdad,
27 Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Enas al-Hamadi, Baghdad, June 2, 2003.