The paper claims that historically, "Iraqi women and girls have enjoyed relatively more rights than many of their counterparts in the Middle East." (1) The paper discusses how pre-war Iraqi women's rights were directly connected to, and motivated by, the government's political and economic development policies. Although millions of Iraqi women struggled with oppression, women's equality was formally guaranteed in the Iraqi Provisional Constitution, Iraq's ratification of the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Iraqi women had the right to vote, attend school, run for political office, work in the public sector, own property, seek divorce, and gain custody of their children in the case of divorce.
After the 1991 Gulf War, many of the rights Iraqi women had achieved were overturned due to a number of legal, economic, and political factors, including governmental collusion with conservative religious groups and tribal leaders, U.N. sanctions, and the aftermath of the Gulf War on the economy. The result of these combined factors, according to Human Rights Watch, relegated women and girls to traditional roles within the home. (5)