News Releases

Murray Speaks Out Against Reported Rapes in Iraq

Jul 18 2003

Spurred by disturbing media reports, Murray cosponsors successful amendment to improve security in Iraq

(Washington, D.C.) – Last night, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) took to the Senate floor to raise her concerns about the lack of security in Iraq, which threatens American troops and - according to new reports - has lead to a dangerous atmosphere for women and girls.

This week, Human Rights Watch released a report detailing reports of rape, assault and kidnapping of women and girls in Baghdad. Murray referenced the report and news articles and spoke in support of an amendment to the Defense appropriations bill offered by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

The Schumer amendment requires the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Administrator of USAID, to report to Congress plans for the establishment of an Iraqi police force, the costs of establishing such a force, the effect that establishing such a force would have on U.S. troop levels in Iraq, and the effectiveness of the Iraqi police in protecting Iraqi citizens and U.S. military personnel.

Murray voted for the Amendment, which passed by voice vote and became part of the Senate FY 2003 Defense Appropriations bill. The bill passed the full Senate, 95-0, last night.

Murray’s prepared remarks follow:

“Mr. President, I come to the floor to support the Schumer amendment to the Defense bill regarding the development of an Iraqi police force. This is an urgent amendment – one of the most important Iraq-related amendments we have considered on the Defense bill.

The Schumer amendment will focus the Administration’s attention on the domestic security issue in Iraq that threatens American servicemen and women, other Americans and foreigners now in Iraq, and the Iraqi people.

One of the reasons we went to war in Iraq was to liberate the Iraqi people. The military campaign was named, “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Again and again, from the President on down, we have been told that we acted on behalf of the Iraqi people. We all witnessed the scenes of jubilation at the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Time and again, the Administration has told us that we have restored freedom to the Iraqi people.

We all hope this is ultimately true. But the truth today is very different for women in Iraq and particularly in Baghdad.

Yesterday, Human Rights Watch released a report detailing reports of rape, assault and kidnapping of women and girls in Baghdad. The report cites twenty-five credible allegations of rape and abduction since the fall of Saddam Hussein. It is believed that the number of rapes and sexual assaults in Baghdad is far higher. Women are discouraged from reporting the crime and face social isolation and even “honor killings” by other family members for being violently victimized.

Yesterday’s New York Times contains a disturbing article about the dangers confronting women in Baghdad. I ask unanimous consent to include the article, “Rape (And the Silence About It) Haunts Baghdad,” in the record at this point.

The article describes a nine-year old girl who wakes up screaming, “Let me go.” This is a nine-year old girl whose life has been forever changed by unimaginable violence. She says in the article, “I am afraid of the gangsters. I feel like they are killing me in my nightmares. Every day, I have these nightmares.”

The story of this young girl – one of too many stories -- ought to be enough to focus the Congress and the Administration on the urgency of the domestic security situation in Iraq. Have we restored freedom to the Iraqi people when women and girls live in fear of abduction, rape and murder?

Have we restored freedom to the Iraqi people when women are denied participation in a new Iraqi government and economy because their physical security is threatened every time they go out alone?

Have we restored freedom to the Iraqi people when nine-year old girls are victimized in the most horrifying way?

I want to share with the Senate a passage from the summary of the Human Rights Watch report titled, “Climate of Fear: Sexual Violence and Abduction of Women and Girls in Baghdad.”

The summary reads:

“Many of the problems in addressing sexual violence and abduction against women and girls derive from the U.S.-led coalition forces and civilian administration’s failure to provide public security in Baghdad. The public security vacuum in Baghdad has heightened the vulnerability of women and girls to sexual violence and abduction. The police force is considerably smaller and more poorly managed when compared to prior to the war. There is limited police street presence; fewer resources available to police to investigate; little if any record keeping; and many complaints are lost. Many hospitals and the forensic institute are unable to operate twenty-four hours a day as they did before the war, thus preventing women from obtaining medical treatment and the forensic examinations necessary to document sexual violence in a timely manner.”

The summary concludes with the following,

“At the time of writing, plans for Iraq’s reconstruction are taking shape and rights of women and girls are at stake. It is essential that all parties involved in these plans address the state’s inadequate protection of the rights of women and girls. Those involved in the reconstruction process should ensure that any existing and new trends toward treating women and girls unequally before the law and discouraging women and girls from reporting sexual violence, or punishing women and girls for being the victims of sexual violence are countered.”

We all know that our troops are faced with dangerous resistance throughout Iraq. Just yesterday, our military leaders acknowledged that we were facing a guerrilla warfare campaign of resistance. We know that our troops are serving honorably in a tremendously difficult environment. All of America is proud of our all-volunteer force now serving in Iraq and the region.

Despite the efforts of U.S. personnel, we have not adequately addressed the domestic security crisis in Iraq. We cannot ignore that women and young girls are being victimized with terrible consequences. These crimes do not just affect individual women but the way women are viewed and the role they will play in a new Iraq. We cannot be silent about the abuse and violence that has come to women and girls in liberated Iraq.

The Schumer amendment is our opportunity today to tell the Administration that we will not tolerate silence on the treatment of women and girls in Iraq.”