Iraqi women have played a prominent role in the months-long protests in Iraq. On Thursday, thousands took to the streets in protests - spearheaded by women - to demand their rights.
Since the protests broke out in Iraq on 1st October, women have become a dominant part of the protest movement, asserting their rights along with their Iraqi brothers.
The protests, which have focused on removing political elites and countering corruption, have so far achieved some success with the ousting of the former Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi and the passing of a new electoral law. However, with violence continuing to break out and no new announcements on the formation of the next government, progress remains slow.
But in recent weeks, the role of women has become increasingly prominent, with many young Iraqi women leading chats and creating slogans such as “I am the revolution”, as well as organising demonstrations across the protest squares in the capital Baghdad and southern provinces. Taking place near Valentines Day, protesters also held up slogans saying “On Valentines Day every year my love is Iraq”.
On Thursday, marches and demonstrations, which were led and spearheaded by women, came out in opposition to the Shia cleric Muqtadr al-Sadr, who had earlier in the week criticised the protest movement for its “immorality” and warned against the mixing of men and women in protest squares.
The criticisms by al-Sadr, who has flitted between giving and withdrawing support for the protests, has only galvanised many protesters, especially women, who have rebuked al-Sadr for attempting to seize control of the protest narrative and women’s rights and influence in the demonstrations.
“We want a homeland, we are tired, we want stability, and want the aggressors to get out,” said one protester. “We, women, want our rights. Why do they not recognize us? We are Iraqis, and we have sacrificed and provided a lot for our country. We want a homeland.”
In response to this movement and his critique of the protests, al-Sadr called for a counter march to take place on Friday led by more women with “virtue and modesty”.