The men in black vanish and Basra comes to life
The first Western journalist to enter the city since Operation Charge of the Knights was launched a month ago
Young women are daring to wear jeans, soldiers listen to pop music on their
mobile phones and bands are performing at wedding parties again.
All across Iraq’s second city life is improving, a month after Iraqi troops
began a surprise crackdown on the black-clad gangs who were allowed to
flourish under the British military. The gunmen’s reign had enforced a
strict set of religious codes.
Yet after three years of being terrified of kidnap, rape and murder – a fate
that befell scores of other women – Nadyia Ahmed, 22, is among those
enjoying a sense of normality, happy for the first time to attend her
science course at Basra University. “I now have the university life that I
heard of at high school before the war and always dreamt about,” she told The
Times. “It was a nightmare because of these militiamen. I only attended
class three days a week but now I look forward to going every day.”
She also no longer has to wear a headscarf. Under the strict Islamic rules
imposed by the militias, women had to cover their hair, could not wear jeans
or bright clothes and were strictly forbidden from sitting next to male
colleagues on pain of death.
“All these men in black [who imposed the laws] just vanished from the
university after this operation,” said Ms Ahmed. “Things have completely
changed over the past week.”
Friday, April 25, 2008
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