Sophia's Peace Work

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Fed up with Iraqi Men

Our girls are having problems again with the boys. We have two women from Baghdad working with us here (away from their families) and the boys seem to not understand how to relate to them in this non-traditional situation. They are either being pursued or vilified. They themselves probably don't respond to this treatment in a mature way. Instead of being strong in the face of it and demanding their rights, they act the victim.

I say, "Kick ass, girl!" but they respond by gossiping and seeking advice that they don't seem to know how to act upon. The boys for their part do things like try to control them, tell them what to do, get upset if they talk to any outsiders, make inappropriate advances and/or comments, say bad things about them behind their backs (which in this office always gets back to them), ignore them or give them the cold treatment, etc. etc. etc.

After the last situation, I had one supervisor tell me that the girls would have to go back to Baghdad (as if they had done something bad) and then when I arrived to hear the girls story I found that the boys bear atleast equal responsibility for what happened. I raised the issue with another supervisor of doing some training for the staff to try and educate them about what is and is not appropriate behavior. To my surprise this got a lukewarm response.

I feel that the supervisors need to send a clear message and be very specific, "If you make comments about the personal appearance of any staff member, this can be considered harrassment and will receive a warning. If it continues it can lead to suspension and/or dismissal."

His response was to say, I don't want to pull the sword just yet. He told me a story that had just happened recently in Basrah where a young girl was strangled by her father while the rest of her family looked on. All because she was seen talking to a foreign soldier. Everyone praised the "father" for taking this action ... but the mother, unable to live with the man who had so coldly murdered his own daughter left him and went to stay with relatives and friends. This woman was then hunted down and killed herself by her husband. My supervisor, an Iraqi by birth, said, "You see how serious this can get. What we are dealing with in this trash society?"

He asked me to let him handle the situation and I will but I'm somewhat disturbed by what he said. If things are really as bad as that even with our own staff (which I doubt), then I think pulling the sword is a more appropriate response ... anything less does not convince them of the gravity of what they are doing and a lack of strong action risks the supervisors become a part of the problem ... because they allow this behavior to simmer and fester on.

For myself, I'm somewhat sick of the kind of relationships a woman (atleast a western woman) can have with Iraqi men. The lack of maturity is one obvious problem. The self-centered behavior is another. The double standard of what is allowable for them and for you. How they will protest that they are different from other men but, of course they are just the same. I know it is not across the board but it's been a common theme to one degree or another of pretty much every relationship I've had with the men around here ... arab or kurd.


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