Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Washington Post: Daughters of Iraq

© Andrea Bruce/Washington Post

Here's a heartbreaking photo essay by Andrea Bruce published by The Washington Post titled "Daughters of Iraq".

In a suburb of Baqubah, women have signed up to become Daughters of Iraq, a U.S. military-funded program that pays women to search other women at checkpoints to prevent the spate of recent suicide attacks. Many of the recruits are widows whose husbands were killed by Sunni insurgents or Shiite militias. They receive a week of training and $280 monthly salaries.

I'm taken aback that The Washington Post published such photos. Aren't the editors worried it may increase the risks of retribution against these unfortunate women? I looked at each photograph, and the expressions on the women's faces are really heartbreaking. Many do not look directly at the camera lens...a reaction of many women in the Middle East when they're ashamed, or when their privacy is being breached. Those who stare back at the camera show incredible anguish and pain.

I really don't understand the purpose of this photo-essay. Is it to show that the US occupation is gathering supporters within the community? The accompanying article in The Post would be enough for that. Most of these women are widows with no financial means to survive except through frisking other women...essentially putting their lives on the line. There's no support's a means of livelihood. The option would be prostitution or begging. Oh, and the monthly $280? I'd bet that a large chunk of that goes to pay bribes to the "facilitators" who got these women the jobs.

The Iraqi translators for the US Military are often seen wearing balaclavas or hideous wrap-around sunglasses to hide their identities, so why show these women? Yes, these women should have refused to pose for the photographer (perhaps some did), but would they? Realizing they're a step away from penury if they didn't pose is a powerful incentive.

In my view, publishing these photographs (and the names of these women) is absolutely unwarranted.