Iraq’s War Widows

Here’s a story that’s easy to read if you don’t think about it:

Her twin sisters were killed trying to flee Falluja in 2004. Then her husband was killed by a car bomb in Baghdad just after she had become pregnant. When her own twins were 5 months old, one was killed by an explosive planted in a Baghdad market.

Now, Nacham Jaleel Kadim, 23, lives with her remaining daughter in a trailer park for war widows and their families in one of the poorest parts of Iraqs capital.

That makes her one of the lucky ones. The trailer park, called Al Waffa, or “Park of the Grateful,” is among the few aid programs available for Iraq’s estimated 740,000 widows. It houses 750 people.  [emphasis mine]

As the number of widows has swelled during six years of war, their presence on city streets begging for food or as potential recruits by insurgents has become a vexing symbol of the breakdown of Iraqi self-sufficiency.

Women who lost their husbands had once been looked after by an extended support system of family, neighbors and mosques.

But as the war has ground on, government and social service organizations say the women’s needs have come to exceed available help, posing a threat to the stability of the country’s tenuous social structures.

With the economy limping along, dependent almost entirely on the price of crude oil, and the government preoccupied with rebuilding and quelling sectarian violence, officials acknowledge that little is likely to change soon. [emphasis mine]

I thought that one motivation for the US invasion of Iraq was to make life better for the poor sods living under the rule of the terrible tyrant Sadaam?  Good work so far eh?  “… little is likely to change soon.” 


In large cities like Baghdad, the presence of war widows is difficult to ignore. Cloaked in black abayas, they wade through columns of cars idling at security checkpoints, asking for money or food. They wait in line outside mosques for free blankets, or sift through mounds of garbage piled along the street. Some live with their children in public parks or inside gas station restrooms.

Officials at social service agencies tell of widows coerced into “temporary marriages” — relationships sanctioned by Shiite tradition, often based on sex, which can last from an hour to years — to get financial help from government, religious or tribal leaders.

Other war widows have become prostitutes, and some have joined the insurgency in exchange for steady pay. The Iraqi military estimates that the number of widows who have become suicide bombers may be in the dozens.

In the past several weeks, even as the government has formed commissions to study the problem, it has begun a campaign to arrest beggars and the homeless, including war widows.  [still more]

2 thoughts on “Iraq’s War Widows

  1. Hello, I am part of an antiwar group in New York City who is trying to find legitimate charities to donate money to victims of this horrible US war on Iraq. This story of this charity providing mobile homes is amazing. I haven’t been able to find them on the web — or rather, I have unfortunately found many groups named Al Waffa in Iraq. Do you have any idea of the web address of this Al Waffa? Thank you.

    • I don’t know how you could contribute to this mobile homes charity directly – I understand it is run by the Maryam Establishment for Children in Baghdad but I understand they are now turning away widows and also that the organization will be shut down this month – I don’t know what happens then. See this article at the International Herald Tribune.
      You can find a list of trusted aid organizations at American Institute of Philanthropy, but none of them allow you to send aid directly to women, as far as I know.

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