Love Sick: Annals of Liberation

The story excerpted below from The Times is such a perfect encapsulation of the kind of "liberation" the Bush gang has brought to Iraq that it needs no comment.

Young lovers court danger from puritan moral militia:
Dating is a dangerous game in Baghdad. Ali Ilhiam knows that holding hands with his teenage girlfriend could cost him a beating — or worse — from militant extremists.

“Boys can’t be seen walking and laughing with their girlfriends any more in the new Baghdad,” the 21-year-old university student said, glancing over his shoulder to make sure that he was not being watched. Friends of his have been dragged from their cars, imprisoned and threatened with death by self-appointed moral guardians for daring to link arms with their girlfriends in public....

Most cinemas and discos have closed, and the few restaurants popular with the younger crowd close at 8pm. Gunmen hang around former favourite haunts and check identity cards to make sure that couples are married....

Three weeks ago a gang of militiamen driving on the main road that runs past the park spotted one of his friends while he was embracing his fiancée near the lake. The gunmen chased the couple as they drove away and forced their vehicle off the road. The driver, a 29-year-old engineer, who would give his name only as Ahmed, was dragged from behind the wheel and pistol-whipped. His terrified partner, Wasan, 23, who is studying at the College of Science, was locked in the car and made to watch. The gunmen took the couple to a makeshift detention centre and warned them that if they were seen “misbehaving” again they would be shot...

In recent days two young women had battery acid thrown at their legs by Mehdi army members, who are loyal to the militant young cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The victims were told that they were being punished for dressing inappropriately. In Basra late last year a couple were ambushed while walking in the zoo. The man was shot dead and his young partner was partially blinded by the gunmen, who stripped and photographed her, saying that they would send the pictures to her family. She ran home and killed herself.

Mr Ilhiam recalled that holding hands with a girl was permissible under the regime of Saddam Hussein, but he expressed concern about the growing puritanism that is being enforced by both Shia and Sunni militias...

“Girls don’t walk the streets alone any more," [said Ali Athra, 24]. "We used to shop, go dancing, have parties, until a few months after the downfall of Saddam, and bit by bit, every day, we feel more repressed.”
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