Haifa Zangana: Urgent appeal against the execution of nine Iraqi women

Haifa Zangana: Urgent appeal against the execution of nine Iraqi women

August 4, 2009

From Haifa Zangana:

On July 29 and 30, a delegation organized by the group “Woman Solidarity for an Independent and Unified Iraq” delivered an urgent appeal to a number of Arab League countries through their embassies in London. They were received by diplomats in Syrian and Qatari embassies and by officials in the Egyptian and Saudi Arabian embassies. Copies of the appeal were sent to members of the British and European parliaments and to American human rights organizations. The appeal is for an urgent intervention to stop the imminent execution of nine Iraqi women. The letter, in Arabic, is translated below in English:


We appeal to you regarding an urgent humanitarian issue: the imminent execution of women in Iraq. The death sentences on the women have been issued in the exceptional circumstances still generally described as “the war in Iraq.”

The latest we know in this regard is the urgent appeal made on 23d July 2009 by Amnesty International to stop the execution of nine Iraqi women.

International human rights and civil society organizations do not accept that Iraqi courts can, in the current conditions, guarantee justice and fairness. This is especially the case following widespread evidence that some of the prisoners, including these women, have been tortured. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) has confirmed in its July 2008 report that proceedings in Iraqi criminal courts lack the minimum standards of fair trials. UNAMI called the Iraqi government to investigate all the stages of imprisonment and trial before carrying out sentences.

We remind your Excellency that the executions are imminent, and that three women have been executed in June this year alone. The officially declared total number of death sentences already carried out on men and women by the Iraqi authorities since 2004 stand at one thousand. There are no official figures for those awaiting execution.

Our appeal to you is based on our conviction:

  • that Iraqi courts, in the current circumstances, are incapable of acting as an independent judiciary conducting fair trials based on the state laws.
  • that the execution of women in particular, is abhorred in Arab, Islamic and universal values, since women are the bearers of life and are the core of the family and society. Other means of retribution have been found over time for women when found guilty according to evidence. Since the 1960’s Iraq and many other countries had abolished the death penalty for women;
  • that, in principle, the death penalty should be abolished in Iraq, as in most countries of the world, since the limited time of trial, no matter how long, does not provide the conditions for justice with certainty. Errors in evidence or law cannot be corrected in cases of execution as they can be in all other sentences. In numerous known cases, the innocence of long-term prisoners was subsequently proven, and they were then compensated and legal procedures improved.

Iraqi women have suffered a massive historical injustice in recent years. Starting with the lack of security after 2003, whether in physical survival or decent living, a million of them then turned into widows caring for orphans and struggling without support to feed the children. More of them were turned to refugees in foreign land, or in the tents for the displaced in different parts of the country, with no hope in sight. These pending legal killings additionally strip women of their humanity as mothers, wives, daughters and sisters, and their own personal right to life. Iraqi women deserve help and support, not legal killing.

We call for your urgent humanitarian intervention, directly through the “Iraqi government,” or through the foreign forces who still have their responsibilities as part of the occupation, or indirectly through civil organizations, to stop these executions. If successful, this will save the lives of entire families, and will, at the same time, clearly express your position on the status of women and the concept of justice.

With deep appreciation,

Nidhal al-Tabatabai (Engineer), Maha al-Shakarchi (Researcher), Dr. Nawal al-Obeidi (Geologist), Dr. Beatrice Boctor (Doctor), Intisar Ubaydi (Pharmacist), Rana Al-Shabibi (Lawyer), Henriette Khoury (Pharmacist), Malak Hamdan (Engineer), Tahrir Numan (activist), Thuraya Mohamed (Teacher), Sawsan Assaf ( Academic), Lamees Ibrahim ( Microbiologist), Haifa Zangana (writer).

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