Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Intercommunal misinterpretations and exploitations of rape

Posted by worriedlebanese on 21/02/2007

The New York Times reported on a rape case that has been stirring Iraq since Monday. A woman publicly accused (on Jazeera television) the police of raping her. The Iraqi Prime Minister first issued a statement saying that he will do everything to punish those responsible for that crime. His office later issued a statement saying that the woman was lying and that she only said that her motivations were political (hinting that the motivations were sectarian).

It is easy to say that this affair “should not be dealt with on a sectarian basis”, to quote Salim Abdullah, a spokesman for the Tawafiq bloc of Sunni parties. But the problem is not really there. It lays in the fact that this case heightened inter-communal suspicions from the start and added to the inter-communal tension that prevails in Iraq today; the alleged rape victim being a Sunni woman and the accused perpetrators Shiite. So it’s not a question of dealing or not dealing with it on a “sectarian basis”, but knowing that it is a highly sensitive issue and that intercommunal sensitivities and tensions should be taken into account while dealing with this sordid affair.

So it is important to “depolitise” the affair or at least try to separate its political dimension from its judicial one. This is obviously not an easy task knowing the deep communal polarisation. What Malki’s government should obviously do is start working on intercommunal trust building measures. Something it hasn’t done and that it doesn’t seem likely to given its communal bias and the dominant “republican” discourse that denies the communal aspect of any political matter, something that doesn’t really help manage communal tensions and crises.
Here’s the article mentioned:
rape-accusation-reinforces-fears-in-a-divided-iraq.doc

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