Saddam’s Iraq at least offered women the protection of enforced secularism; they were encouraged to study at universities and to pursue professional careers. That changed in the 1990s as the dictator began to rely on tribal sheiks to prop up his rule, while U.N. sanctions drove families into poverty and reduced opportunities for women. Americans arriving in 2003 hoped to make the new Iraq a showcase for gender equality. But women’s advocates say that dream fell by the wayside as violence engulfed the country.

Some tribal leaders are more egalitarian than others. In Baghdad’s Adhamiya district, the local women’s college is bustling with students, even with the Sahwa in charge. Times are tougher in Anbar’s provincial capital, Ramadi, where tribal troops allow women to work but not to go without headscarves, and polygamy is reportedly on the rise. Women rarely venture out of their homes now in rural Sahwa areas like Arab Jabour, south of Baghdad.

There is no common sense in trying to bring democracy to a culture that treats women like cattle. This is just stupid! When the U.S. invaded Iraq, things just got worse.

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