Hadani Ditmars (On Campus Event)
April 23, 2012 § Leave a comment
Hadani Ditmars recently spoke at Purdue University in a lecture titled “Iraq, nine years later: The legacy of the invasion.” From her own experience living and working in Iraq, she has written several books and her lecture covered some of her recent work. She is interested in the cultural upheaval that took place in Iraq during and after US invasion, as well as the increased militarization and worsened condition for women. Her lecture encompassed many issues relating to cultural identity.
In relation to gender, Ditmars noted that prior to the invasion Iraq had the best status for women in the region. Women had more freedom and autonomy, and better health since Iraq held some of the best hospitals and health care centers in the Middle East. After the invasion, however, health centers were completely destroyed. A direct measure of the impact can be seen in the fact maternal mortality immediately rose to levels seen in South Africa. Increased violence during and after the invasion put women at further risk for injury and abuse. Women in Iraq suffered directly from the invasion, and continue to because of ruined infrastructure, a fractured economy, and a large percentage of people living without basic needs such as clean water. She emphasized that without the basic needs of the displaced people being met, that there can be no peace. Finally, she did talk about the last open forum she saw available for women, the mosque. In the women’s area mothers can talk openly about the tragedies they witness and can express frustration. She showed a video clip of one woman doing just that, yelling out about the plight of her family and the country in general. Even this is limited, however, as the increased sectarian nature has also raised the risk at mosques, with many being threatened and bombed.
According to Ditmars, the sanctions imposed by the UN and the American invasion of Iraq made life much harder, complicated the problems, and robbed Iraq of its culture and identity. She speaks out against “embargo cats” that profited off the sanctions as well as the destruction of major public buildings, such as hospitals, during the invasion. Where Iraq was once a diverse cultural center, with a primarily secular government, it is now a police state with the population in fear of the many religious sects that have grown more radical. She claims this sectarian shift is more harmful to the local culture, because whereas people before only had to fear Hussein, now they must fear everyone. Before the invasion she personally experienced a local respect for architecture and a thriving theater, music and art scene. She insists this is the view westerners need to have of Iraq, to see the cultural beauty not just the stereotypes that before the invasion Iraqis were little Hussein’s, and afterward, a bunch of suicide bombers. These stereotypes ignore the true reality of life in Iraq, and instead reinforce negative attitudes toward Iraqis. While she expresses concern for Iraq, and particularly the dismemberment of the cultural identity, she also has faith in the local poetry and art to grow and create a new Iraqi culture.