The number of widows in Iraq has steadily risen over the past several years since the war first began. A trailer park in Baghdad named Al Waffa, otherwise known as the "Park of the Grateful," houses approximately 750 people. A wonderful (and surely appreciated) effort, but there are an estimated 740,000 widows in Iraq.
Approximately one out of 11 Iraqi women ages 15-80 are widows. Many of these women have had to resort to begging, prostitution, or even temporary marriages in order to survive. These marriages, sanctioned by Shiite tradition to get aid from the government, are arranged between widows and men with power and ties to the government. I'm wondering how effective, in the long run, the government is expecting these methods to be.
As the war continues, the Iraqi government says the needs for help exceeds their capabilities. Only about one in six of the widows in Iraq are currently receiving state aid. Many widows say the only way to get any kind of help is if they have political ties or agree to the previously mentioned marriages.
Samira al-Mosawi, chairwoman of the women's affair committee in Parliament calls this system "blackmail," saying widows don't need the kind of support that comes with the marriages, but a "permanent solution." Right on.
Mazin al-Shihan, director of the Baghdad Displacement Committee, actually laughed at the suggestion that money go directly to the widows. Al-Shihan said, "If we give the money to the widows, they will spend it unwisely because they are uneducated and don't know about budgeting." Then, I don't know, maybe Iraq should wise up and fix this problem at its root? Educate its women? Don't make it so that they are completely dependent on their (now dead) husbands? True, this doesn't solve the problem now. But I think it's safe to say that temporary marriages that benefit only those women with ties, and that sometimes literally only last a few hours, can only be minimally effective. Besides, nothing else is solving the problem now, either. They might as well put a plan into effect now that will ease the problems later.