Riverbend, kaller en jenteblogger fra Bagdad seg. Hun er it-spesialist, skriver god engelsk, har humor, og kan fortelle om dagliglivet. Mest nedslående: jenter er blitt fanger i sine hjem. De kan ikke gå ut uten eskorte. Kvinnenes andel av arbeidslivet har sunket betraktlig. Det er en atmosfære av trakassering av kvinner som våger å kle seg individuelt. Kvinners frihet innskrenkes.

Females can no longer leave their homes alone. Each time I go out, E and either a father, uncle, or cousin has to accompany me. It feels like we’ve gone back 50 years since the beginning of the occupation. A woman, or girl, out alone, is at risk. An outing has to be arranged at least an hour beforehand. I state that I need to buy something or have to visit someone. Two males have to be procured (preferably large) and «safety arrangements» must be made in this total state of lawlessness. And always the question: «But do you have to go out and buy it? Can’t I get it for you?» No you can’t, because the kilo of eggplant I absolutely have to select with my own hands is just an excuse to see the light of day and walk down a street. The situation is incredibly frustrating to females who work or go to college.

Before the war, around 50% of the college students were females, and over 50% of the working force was composed of women. Not so any more. We are seeing an increase of fundamentalism in Iraq which is terrifying. For example, before the war, I would estimate (roughly) that about 55% of females in Baghdad wore a hijab – or headscarf. Hijabs do not signify fundamentalism. That is far from the case – although I myself don’t wear one, I have family and friends who do. The point is that, before, it didn’t really matter. It was «my» business whether I wore one or not – not the business of some fundamentalist on the street.

I am female and Muslim. Before the occupation, I more or less dressed the way I wanted to. I lived in jeans and cotton pants and comfortable shirts. Now, I don’t dare leave the house in pants. A long skirt and loose shirt (preferably with long sleeves) has become necessary. A girl wearing jeans risks being attacked, abducted, or insulted by fundamentalists who have been … liberated!

Hun vil gjerne tilbake i jobb, og besøker sin gamle arbeidsplass. En nedslående opplevelse. Ikke bare ser stedet forferdelig ut. Det er kjøligheten hun blir mottatt med. Til å begynne med ser ansiktene fremmede ut. Så kjenner hun dem igjen. Det er de gamle kollegene. De ser på henne med fiendtlige blikk. Jenter som henne har ingen plass i arbeidslivet.

I stood staring at the mess for a few moments longer, trying to sort out the mess in my head, my heart being torn to pieces. My cousin and E were downstairs waiting for me – there was nothing more to do. A and I left the room and started making our way downstairs. We paused on the second floor and stopped to talk to one of the former department directors. I asked him when they thought things would be functioning, he wouldn’t look at me. His eyes stayed glued to A’s face as he told him that females weren’t welcome right now – especially females who «couldn’t be protected». He finally turned to me and told me, in so many words, to go home because «they» refused to be responsible for what might happen to me.

OK. Fine. Your loss. I turned my back, walked down the stairs and went to find E and my cousin. Suddenly, the faces didn’t look strange – they were the same faces of before, mostly, but there was a hostility I couldn’t believe.

What we’ve lost