Women in the Iraqi security forces

Battling sexism in Iraqi forces

Despite efforts by U.S. forces to recruit and train women for jobs in the Iraqi security forces, just over 1,000 have been trained, many have quit and those who remain say they are struggling for acceptance.

“We’re in our posts because the Americans are here,” the army commander said. “Once they leave, we will all be out.”

The U.S. military has pushed since 2003 to have more women recruited and trained, arguing that female officers can search and gather intelligence from other women and serve as neutral peacekeepers, U.S. commanders say.

The female army officer interviewed said that when she first started, American female soldiers would often visit her command post to offer advice.

“I was always asking how things were for them. I was always wishing our laws would match theirs,” she said.

I’ve written a number of times that women’s rights is probably a far larger issue in Iraq than we usually hear about. Though it’s critical to long-term success, a women’s component to the security forces will take years, more likely decades, to reach the point it needs to be.

No women have been recruited to the Baghdad police academy since early 2006, a few months after the US handed operations over to Iraqi authorities.


  1. The LA Times won’t let me read the article without registering so I can only infer from your thread its content. Given all the crap we have been through about why we invaded and what our goals were, I sure hope women’s rights is not a show stopper. What better message to send to the Islamic world that the Americans will come and put your women on an equal footing with you whether you want it or not. What’s next on the agenda, gay marriage?

  2. Maybe men and women are different. Maybe we should embrace diversity and value men and women for who they are instead of forcing them to be ‘the same’. Maybe Iraqi women don’t want to be barren sluts unloved and uncared for, desperate for a child in their 40s and 50s like so many of our Western female Hollywood ‘roll models’ are. Maybe we should figure out what Iraqi women really want instead of assuming they must want to be just like Madonna. I find in amusing that we are so arrogant that we never stop to ask, we just assume they would naturally want to be just like us. Ya’ know what, I don’t think they do, and, frankly, I don’t blame them.

  3. Sure women are different. They have free will, don’t they? If they want to join the ISF, and they have the skills and attributes necessary, why not let them? Half of this struggle is getting enough well-trained people in the ISF, turning people away just because of their gender seems counter-productive to me.

  4. Dfens, What’s a female ‘roll model’? A fat chick? Spacey, To be fair, the Prime Directive applies to societies that remain unaware of extraterrestrial life. Since we’re all very well aware of each other on this planet, it’s a little late. Although there are certain remote and rarely-encountered tribal peoples still living on Earth, to which a sort of Prime Directive might be a good idea, they still have some sort of contact with or awareness of an outside world, and all end up with Che Guevarra t shirts and mopeds in the end. So without a workable prime directive, we have to come up with something else, a policy that allows for security and eliminates the possibility of meddling in the affairs of others. We can do it two ways, if we’re going to be thorough: We completely withdraw into ourselves. Or we exterminate everybody else. Given those unworkable extremes, we’ll just have to find a way to compromise.

  5. I’m certainly not advocating that Iraqi females act like stereotypical Hollywood-type females. I’d rather that they act like real women. The part of the article I quoted shows that at least one woman wants the opportunity to join the police, right? She doesn’t seem to think that anything’s being ‘forced’ on her. If you read the rest of the article, you’ll see that there were times when the number of female applicants were almost double the capacity to train and that hundreds had to be turned away. Nowhere did it indicate that females were somehow being pressured to apply. Encouraged, maybe, because women can sometimes do things that men cannot, but not forced. I’m sure that many Iraqi women don’t want to join the security forces. I’m also pretty sure that those women don’t apply.

  6. I can’t speak for Iraq because I haven’t worked there, but the info presented in this article closely parallels what I experienced in the Stan this last year. For some odd reason we (the West in general) think we can go into these 13th century cultures and graft on not only the bits of Liberal Western Democracy we think they should have, but bizarre (by Afghan standards) elements of our decadent culture. Like not stealing significant portions of the equipment we give you, and selling it on the black market, stealing most of your subordinates pay, attending the counter narcotics meetings immediately prior to your next shipment of opium, and ………………oh yea, not beating and raping your women folk whenever the need arises. Many/most of the Afghan males I came into contact with like their system. They’ve been Charles in Charge for centuries and really have no desire to change. They go along with our goofy Western ideas in order to keep the money and gear flowing into their coffers, and as soon as we turn around, they ignore or standards and ideas and do as they please. The Taliban use all this to good effect by touting how we’re there to ‘destroy’ their culture and disrespect Islam. Our message and style sells much better with some women (who oddly enough would like a bigger slice of our life) and the younger Afghanis of both sexes (especially the ones who’ve been educated in that bastion of Liberal Western Democracy——-Pakistan!). Coincidentally, most of the more open minded Afghanis I spoke with expressed a desire to live somewhere other than Afghanistan (go figure). If our goal is to do our thing and get out of the Stan (and Iraq) as expeditiously as possible, we better stop worrying about, and putting energy into, trying to change certain elements of their cultures and concentrate on getting their political system modernized (into at least the 18th century). If we’re really determined to make them more like us, we should push as much Internet into them as we can, work on converting their women and kids, and be prepared to be there for 3 or 4 decades (Americans have a well deserved reputation for being ‘stick with it’ kinda people! LOL!).

  7. Dfens, you’re mistaking ‘allowing the opportunity’ with ‘forcing’. BIG difference. One falls right along the lines of the freedom we all hold so dear, the other one is exactly the kind of crap we’re trying to exterminate. Foreign lands should feel free to have an ENTIRE NATION of women that choose not to participate in defense forces. They can stay home, weave baskets, whtever they want and whatever’s appropriate to their culture. It’s just that little ‘freedom’ thing that’s the key here. And I disagree with you that we should be ‘asking’ leaders of they want freedom in their land. Anywhere we go, we should bring it. Even if the ‘lucky’ side of the oppression equation doesn’t like it.

  8. If we’re giving them freedom, then how about we give them the freedom to say, ‘no thanks’ to some of the PC crap we’re trying to ‘give’ them? Freedom is the ability to be who you want to be, not the ability to be who someone else wants you to be. They don’t want to be us, so why is it we can’t learn to live with that? I mean, hell, you’re telling people who have possibly the oldest civilization on the face of the Earth how to live their lives. That pretty much defines arrogance, don’t you think?

  9. I mean, hell, you’re telling people who have possibly the oldest civilization on the face of the Earth how to live their lives. How is it that we’re doing that? We’ve already established that we’re not forcing women to join the police force. We were letting them if they wanted to. Is holding elections ‘telling them how to live their lives’? What is it that we’re doing that’s ‘telling them how to live their lives’?

  10. What I find somewhat ironic is that while many of us want to spread our values worldwide and change the world into our image, the good ole USA is being changed right before our eyes. Islam is the fastest growing religion and we have a de facto second language. Who would have thought this could have been possible after WW2? There was the communist threat, but a bilingual nation with a rising alien religion was probably not on the radar. I came across an article that laments this trend. Indeed, he no longer believes in God. Among our best and brightest are many whose purpose is to enjoy life to the fullest and to end it, when the time comes, as painlessly as possible. Which seems to suit the rest of the world – China, India, Islam, Africa, Latin America – fine, as all look forward to a magnificent inheritance. If demography is destiny, the West is finished. And, if so, does it really matter all that much who rules in Baghdad?

  11. Freedom is the ability to be who you want to be, not the ability to be who someone else wants you to be.’ Yup. Anyone caught forcing female conscripts into service should be jailed or shot. As long as the OPPORTUNITY is there for people to be free (including the freedom to pass their own laws), that is what we should be doing. NOT forcing any women into doing anything. (I hope we’re not doing that.) Constittutions that hndl the ‘tyranny of the majority’ should take care of the rest. Yup, it’s arrogant to say that freedom is better than tyranny, democracy is better than dictatorship. You can even point out specific cases where those don’t work out exactly like we think they should. However, the values of freedom should be the common denominator to our impact on the world. I’m not too proud to hold THAT kind of arrogance.

  12. I mean, hell, you’re telling people who have possibly the oldest civilization on the face of the Earth how to live their lives. That pretty much defines arrogance, don’t you think?’ Oh, I think all right, and I disagree. What you’re talking about isn’t arrogance, but simple privilege of power.