by Jamal Hashim
BAGHDAD, March 8 (Xinhua) -- As the world is celebrating on Sunday the International Women's Day, Iraqi women are struggling to gain their rights and freedom amid improvement of security in the war-torn country.
"We are now crying out: we had enough of killing and violence, we want protection from killing and intimidating, and above all, we want the government to support us to ensure the living of families," Nidhal al-Saadi, a widow in her 40s, told Xinhua.
Saadi, a mother of two boys and two girls, lost her husband in a car bombing in eastern Baghdad in 2006.
With tears in the eyes, she said that she got 150,000 Iraqi dinars (about 125 U.S. dollars) monthly from the Iraqi government, which could only keep the pot boiling for her family for a few days.
Compared to those in other Arab countries, Iraqi women were once proud of their gains of rights and freedom before the U.S.-led invasion and 13 years of sanctions.
Under the regime of the ousted President Saddam Hussein, Iraq maintained a relatively secular society, in which women enjoyed more rights and freedom than others in the Arab world.
In post-war Iraq, women are paying price of occupation and chaos or being killed by militia groups for not conforming to the restrictions of extremist Muslims.
"The Iraqi women are now rising to start over to get the rights for themselves and freedom for the sons of Iraq," said Haifaa Makki, a female advocate and woman activist.
"We have over 1 million of widows who are fighting to secure living for their sons. Here they are fighting for the sake of over5 million orphans who lost their fathers or mothers or both of them by wars and chaos," Makki said, referring to an unofficial statistics on the widows and orphans due to wars and violence in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
"You can watch our women searching for their sons and husbands in hospitals or graveyards and some are looking for their beloved in the lists of kidnapped or missing people," she said.
Maysoon al-Damaloji, a lawmaker and editor in chief of "Noun" newspaper which cares for women affairs, attended a celebration of the Women's day in Baghdad. He said that the Iraqi women are in need of "political awareness" in order to know the means that would lead them to gain their rights.
"The Iraqi women are living in a great suffering which is part of the suffering of the Iraqi people and they need support wherever they live in our society," Damaloji said.
Iraqi women are hoping that they can gain their rights and freedom as recent improvement in security paved the way for Iraqis to return to normal life.
On the Women's Day celebration, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki promised that he will do every thing possible to help Iraqi women in all fields of life.
"In the new Iraq, women have regained their position in the society, but that is not the level that we want. We want women to have a greater role in building the country," Maliki said in a statement issued by his office on Sunday.
Meanwhile, UN special envoy to Iraq Staffan de Mistura emphasized during commemorations marking the International Women's Day the need of a "national strategy to protect Iraqi women's rights," expressing the UN readiness to assist in realizing such a national strategy.
Mistura said the "Iraqi women made much progress towards asserting their political representational rights during the provincial elections held last January, but remain vulnerable to discrimination and violence on the basis of gender."