The Basra Feminist Team is trying to create “a balanced life, in which women can naturally obtain their right to education and general life choices without guardianship or coercion,” Huyam said.
Huyam is a final-year student at the College of Education for Girls at the University of Basrah who has a physical disability. She said she faced difficulties because she could not go to the rehabilitation centre without being accompanied by a male relative. Her family has also been criticised because a driver takes her to university.
She sees women as “victims of false beliefs and traditions that exclude and marginalize women in the public sphere.”
Demanding their rights puts women in the position of being accusers, she added. They are called “traitors” because people are unwilling to examine traditions that “constitute a barrier to women in their normal daily life.”
A government statistic published last year recorded 5,000 cases of violence against Iraqi women in a single year. The report, issued by Iraq’s General Secretariat for the Council of Ministers, said “the real number exceeds the published figures because many cases are not reported due to some customs and traditions that prevail in society.”
Raising Public Awareness
The Basra Feminist Team organises activities at Basra’s educational institutions. The events aim to empower women by presenting positive role models and raising awareness of women’s rights, including the right to jobs they have been excluded from and their right to drive a car. Women drivers are rarely seen in Basra because of “religious, security, or tribal restrictions,” team members say.
The team also organises vigils to demand improvements to divorce legislation, especially in regard to a mother’s rights to custody of her children.
Safaa Abd Ali, another co-founder, said the Basra Feminist Team was created because of a feminist need, and a feeling that too many “wrong things happened to women.”
Abd Ali, who is a law graduate, told Al-Fanar Media that the team wanted to spread hope through positive messages about women’s rights and demands. She said it did not receive financial aid from any party and financed its work through monthly contributions from members, ranging from one to five dollars.