Monday, December 10, 2007

Dress Right or Die

As a woman in a pants suit campaigns to become President of the United States, others are being killed on the streets of Basra for wearing makeup and not covering their faces.

Religious vigilantes have murdered at least 40 women this year in the southern Iraqi city because of how they dressed, the police chief told AP yesterday, and "dumped in the garbage with notes saying they were killed for un-Islamic behavior."

As American politicians debate the future of the country we invaded almost five years ago, what is happening in Basra, "known for its mixed population and night life" under Saddam Hussein, is a chilling reminder of what we will leave behind, no matter how well the Surge works.

Can the sectarian madness we unleashed be negotiated away by Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad? The Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr controls Basra, but one of his aides blames the murders on "gangs with foreign support to destabilize the city," while citing the "religious principle that says that wearing makeup and forgoing the hijab (headscarf) in public is a sin."

"But killing them," he concedes, "is a sin bigger than this one."

When President Bush makes his next self-congratulatory speech about bringing the blessings of democracy to Iraq, someone should ask him about the women of Basra and remind Hillary Clinton what she voted for in the resolution opening the door to our doing the same for Iran.

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