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City of Widows : An Iraqi Woman's Account of War and Resistance
In City of Widows, Haifa Zangana tells the story of her country, from the early twentieth century through the US-UK invasion and the current occupation. She brings to light a sense of Iraq as a society mainly of secularists who have been denied, through years of sanctions, war, and occupation, a system
within which to build the country according to their own values. She points to the long history of political activism and social participation of Iraqi women, and the fact that, before the recent invasion, they had been among the most liberated of their gender in the Middle East. Finally, she writes about
Baghdad today as a city populated by bereaved women and children who have lost their loved ones and their land, but who are still emboldened by the native right to resist and liberate themselves to create an independent Iraq.
In her opening line, Iraqi novelist (and former prisoner of Saddam Hussein) Zangana lays out this Iraq primer's unapologetic intent: "that readers in the West will gain insight into a country they have impacted so fully and terribly." With 300,000 widows in Baghdad alone, another million across the country, and thousands of women imprisoned without acknowledgement-much less hope for legal recourse-Zangana's dispatches are different from those of U.S. and Iraqi officials who, she says, claim to support "women's empowerment" while sponsoring militant sectarian forces with "barbaric ideas" about women in society. The U.S. media, according to Zangana, is happy to fall in line: by repeating the story that Iraqis are killing Iraqis by the hundreds each day, the American reflex has become to blame the victims, rather than an occupation that has deliberately dismantled the country's only ways of coping. Putting the current moment in perspective with an engaging history of women's rights in Iraq, Zangana convincingly indentifies the current Iraqi moment "a terrible state of regression." This angry, unforgiving and powerful book is as vital as it is hard to swallow.
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Seven Stories Press
May 31, 2009
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