Tribute to Wijdan al-Khuzai

When the Price for Speaking Out Is Death
Dexter Filkins | Baghdad | January 16

NYT –  For all the violence that engulfs this land, Wiijdan al-Khuzai’s death stands out. She had begun her campaign on behalf of Iraq’s women in the 1990’s, helping to open a woman’s center in Hilla, in the south, where she distributed food and other help to widows and mothers.

Wijdan al-Khuzai would not give in.

The threats came usually by cellphone, a sinister voice promising a terrible end if Ms. Khuzai pursued a seat in Iraq’s national assembly.  Sometimes, as she drove around Baghdad, she would glance into the rear-view mirror and notice that another car was following her.  “Terrorists,” she would say, snapping her cellphone shut.

Then she would get on with her campaign, a quest she hoped would ultimately raise the prospects of Iraqi women. Ms. Khuzai, a 40-year-old mother of five, saw in the elections on Jan. 30 a rare moment to steer her country in a more humane direction. She was determined to make the most of it.

“Wijdan always said, ‘If you have a goal, go after it, and don’t let anything stop you,’ ” recalled her sister, Nada. “She thought God would save her.”

The Americans found Wijdan al-Khuzai’s body on Dec. 24, on the airport highway, a grim stretch rife with insurgents. Ms. Khuzai had been shot five times, once in the face. Her shoulder blades had been broken, and her hands had been cuffed behind her back so tightly that her wrists bled.

“The police said she had been tortured,” said her brother, Haider Jamal al-Khuzai.

 

One Reply to “Tribute to Wijdan al-Khuzai”

  1. ….Ordinary campaign events here are so rare, and new, Iraqis often do not know how to react when they see one. When workers for the Iraqi Communist Party drove a caravan with loudspeakers into Shoula, a neighborhood in northern Baghdad, on Friday, many of the residents looked on dumbfounded, with their mouths agape.

    “We will lift up the poor!” the young Communist shouted into the bullhorn.

    Yet when the caravan stopped and the volunteers began passing out leaflets, a throng of Iraqis crowded around. They did not exhibit much knowledge of individual candidates or the parties’ platforms, but they well understood that an election was only two weeks away.

    “Of course we know what democracy is,” said Nadi Kareem, a 60-year-old shopkeeper, who had grasped one of the Communist brochures. “We’ve been waiting 35 years for it.”

    The candidates themselves, even the ones too afraid to go out, sense the stakes as well. The Communists, for instance, now espousing free elections and religious tolerance, are among the few Iraqi parties that send candidates into the streets. Two of its members have been gunned down in the past month.

    from the front page article by Filkins
    (Wijdan’s story is a sidebar story to this one):

    INTERNATIONAL / MIDDLE EAST | January 16, 2005    
    Rising Violence and Fear Drive Iraq Campaigners Underground
    By DEXTER FILKINS   (NYT)   News

    (Mho, too bad the article has to be sullied with Chalabi’s image and campaign story.)

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