After the war, women in Iraq could be groped for not veiling, dragged out of their cars and whipped for driving, and beheaded for talking to an American. Yet before the war of "liberation", Iraqi women were professors, lawyers, and engineers. They enjoyed more privileges than most other Arab women. How and why did the US's involvement in Iraq result in greater oppression for Iraqi women?
In Sisters in War, journalist Christina Asquith tells the story of the Iraq war and its aftermath through the eyes of four women who survived it: Iraqi sisters Zia and Nunu, US reservist Heather Coyne, and Washington, D.C. women's rights activist Manal Omar. Asquith weaves their fascinating stories together to create a larger picture of women's experience in Iraq during the occupation.
From Zia, who chooses to work for the Americans, engage in a relationship with an American man, and ultimately emigrate to America, to Nunu, who goes from a shy student to a defiant advocate of women's rights, to Heather, whose faith in the US's moral obligation to spread freedom and democracy in the Middle East is shaken by what she sees, Asquith shows us a side of the Iraq War that has received far too little attention.
Sisters in War is not simply about sharing a few women's stories. Asquith uses these narratives as opportunities to explore the choices many women in Iraq faced in the aftermath of the war: to endure violence if they would not veil, to emigrate, or to give in to the pressures of rising fundamentalism and sectarian violence. No other book has told the devastating and painful story of women in the Iraq war, and Christina Asquith, who spent two years in Baghdad on assignment for the New York Times, tells it with the compassion, grace, and rightful outrage of a dedicated reporter.
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Sisters, strangers, friends
I really enjoyed the different backgrounds of the women - conservatives, liberals, Americans, Iraqis, progressives, traditionalists, and all the stripes in between. It depicts, with emotion and historical accuracy, the messiness of Iraq since the US occupation.
This book, while dealing almost primarily with the struggles of women, should not be read solely by women. The history of Iraq told from the point of view of two Iraqi sisters, a Muslim progressive activist, and a liberal soldier, is descriptive, compassionate, and riveting.
The narrator is dramatic, sometimes overly so, but does a passable job of differentiating the voices of the players; the occasional whiny bits are grating, but this narrator reads most of the story with feeling and expression.
- Jacob R. Sullivan