…according to an Op-Ed in the February 4th issue of the New York Times entitled 31 Days in Iraq, by Adriana Lins de Albuquerque with graphic design by Alicia Cheng. This article is mainly a large picture showing the death tolls in various areas of Iraq. The picture contains icons of people who represent American forces, other coalition forces, Iraqi forces, police officers, and civilians. All of the icons are male figures, except for … the civilian icon, [which] is a figure of a woman holding a child. Apparently, men don’t count as civilians.
Indeed a glance at the full graphic gives the impression that innocent women and children are being slaughtered in huge numbers in Iraq, while male casualties are confined to soldiers and a small number of policemen. But is this a fair picture?
The UN produces a bimonthly report on the Human Rights Situation in Iraq. The May/June report last year was expanded, and for the first time gave civilian casualty figures, including figures for women and children. Fatalities reported are the sum of the Ministry of Health figures (which cover deaths in/bodies brought to hospitals around the country, excluding Kurdistan) and bodies brought to the Medico-Legal Institute (MLI) in Baghdad, each of which contributes about half of the total. For reasons that aren’t clear, the figures for women and children killed were omitted from the November/December report, hence I will consider here only the figures for the six months between May and October.
The total civilian casualties for the period are reported as 19,471. (Each report also gives revised figures for the previous two months. I have not taken these revisions, which are in any case small, into account because the figures for women and children were not given a comparable revision.) This figure includes 852 (4.4%) women, and 204 (1.0%) children. However, The MLI did not report separate figures for women in May or June, and does not appear to have reported separate figures for children at all. If the MLI’s figures for May and June are excluded, the total falls to 16501, and the proportion of women increases to 5.2%. Unfortunately the MLI’s figures are not reported separately in all four reports, so it is impossible to repeat this adjustment for children. Suffice it to say that if we could, the corrected proportion would probably be roughly double, or about 2%.
A child is anyone under the age of 18. Although I have not found specific information on this subject, I would conjecture that the majority of children killed are not babes in arms, as depicted in the graphic, but teenage boys.
Police and Combatants
Police are legally non-combatants, even though the media sometimes refers to them as “troops”, and lumps them in with army casualties. In December, the Ministry of the Interior reported that 12,000 of them had been killed since 2003.
I have no information on the numbers, but Google searches on the phrases “female Iraqi soldier”, “female Iraqi terrorist”, and “female Iraqi police”, indicates that they do exist. According to this report (PDF) one in seven suicide bombers worldwide is female. In some places, Turkey and Chechnya, 40% or more are female. This tells us little about Iraq; I cite it solely for the proposition that there could be more female combatants than people might expect.
Just as the Haditha atrocity, and the attack on the Education Ministry the mainstream media whitewashes the overwhelming burden of violent victimisation of men in Iraq. A wholly false picture of ‘innocent’ female victimisation is presented. Men, if they are visible at all as men, are depicted in cannon-fodder roles.
(Crossposted between Feminist Critics and Creative Destruction.)