Solidarity 200925 May 2009
Below the personal account of Rasha Jassim, a widow, who has chosen to get involved in the Iraqi Democratic Future Network, a network of progressive organizations supported by Alternatives since 2004. Rasha’s story shows how much your support means to her, but also how it becomes a powerful force for development for all Iraqis in this country in the midst of reconstruction. Thank you for helping them by making a donation today.
"I am a widow. In Iraq, to be a widow is to be a woman without a voice, defenceless, condemned to poverty, a grieving woman who must submit to the will of men she hasn’t chosen, often mistreated…
My husband was executed by Saddam Hussein’s troops: he wasn’t on the right side. That’s why I was refused the right to a pension. And yet, I really needed one: I had an 8 month-old son and I was pregnant. Fortunately, my parents agreed to take care of me. I lived my life as a young woman under the strict orders of my father, but I am very privileged compared to other widows who have no family support.
Today in Iraq, the situation is worse than ever because of the inter-ethnic conflicts and clan wars which are tearing my country apart. Here, men are killing each other and leaving their wives to suffer in silence. When I joined the Iraqi Democratic Future Network, I finally understood that we do not have to endure this fate.
My life changed after I saw a televised campaign by the Network, aimed at mobilizing widows in order to pressure the government to grant them pensions.
Someone coming to our aid? It was more than we could hope for!
A month later, the Network brought us together and transported us to Baghdad by bus. There were 500 of us in a room, sitting in front of representatives of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs . . . people in positions of power who had never bothered to take an interest in our reality. And yet, our reality is known to all. In Iraq, one woman out of six is a widow!
For all of those years, we were each lying low, isolated at home, with little contact with the outside world. We could never have improved our situation without a concerted effort by those who decided to speak and act in our name.
Now, I receive a pension of 70,000 dinars per month, the equivalent of 77 dollars; just enough to give me financial independence. I have also decided to get involved, to join the ordinary citizens who are determined to change the fate of women like me. For example, last month I convinced seven widows to meet representatives of the Network so they can get their rights enforced.
I am told that more and more of us are joining forces to improve our lives. We are all women whose only fault was to have been married to men who died. We do not have to endure a second injustice by being denied a source of income which allows us to take care of ourselves and our children. Thanks to the Iraqi Democratic Future Network, we have understood this and today, we are taking action."
Rasha Jassim, Wasit, March, 2009
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Interview made by Séverine Defouni, TacTicDirect