Rape as a Weapon

Diane E. King has a very unsettling piece in today’s International Herald Tribute.

As a cultural anthropologist, she comments on the view of rape in patrilineal cultures – cultures like the Shiite and Sunni in Iraq.

Rape is always humiliating, always a violation, always awful. But under patrilineal cultures, it can also be a tool of sectarian discord and even genocide. This is the case in Iraq, where rape is frequently used as a weapon of sectarian conflict. When a Shiite militiaman rapes a Sunni woman, for example, he is seen as potentially implanting a Shiite individual into her womb. He is causing her to suffer dual humiliations: She is sexually violated, with all of the personal implications that that would carry in any culture. But the rape further serves like a Trojan Horse: Thereafter, an offspring bearing the rapist’s identity may well be hidden inside her body, an enemy who will emerge in nine months.

So cross-sectarian rape as a weapon of political conflict hypothetically can force a woman to nurture her own enemy. But in actual practice, this rarely happens. Rather, the tragedy of rape is compounded when a member of that woman’s group eliminates her and any enemy offspring through an “honor killing.” Honor killings are usually carried out by the father or brother of the victim, although they may be committed by others from the group. Alternatively, the woman herself may commit an “honor suicide.”

Honor killings have been on the rise in Iraq. The connection these killings have to a corresponding rise in rapes has not been documented, but there seems to be every reason to assume a connection.

This is the real cost of the American invasion and occupation. The American losses are trivial in this light, no?

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2 comments so far

  1. startingtoday on

    I’m ashamed to say I’m not up on the “news” as much as I should be, but I’m really trying to make the effort. Reading pieces like what you just blogged about is really an eye opener. I try so hard to not live in this little bubble and ignore all around me, but it’s the way of life here in the US. It’s the culture. And it’s somewhat sickening.

  2. blc303 on

    I would say you shouldn’t be ashamed.

    It is just that this highlights the problem when politicians and managers think that the ‘solution’ to a problem can be dictated without understanding the larger picture. That any problem can be managed, I would argue that is the American way.

    Prof. King simply points out more of the horrible consequences of the ‘good’ America did to the Iraqi population.

    Don’t think that honor killings are only a part of the Iraqi culture though. Germany has had it’s share of honor killings as well. Usually by fathers or brothers of emancipated Turkish women who decided to live a liberated western life. The women’s love for their families however ended up being fatal.


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