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In Iraq, Activist Struggles as Women's Rights Shrink

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Yanar Mohammed

Activist Yanar Mohammed has seen Iraqi women's rights rolled back sharply in the years since the U.S. invasion. Akram Saleh/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Akram Saleh/Getty Images

Yanar Mohammed, an internationally renowned Iraqi activist, founded the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq to advocate for women's rights. It's an uphill fight: From the 1950s to the 1970s, Iraqi women could legally work, study, marry and divorce, and wear what they wanted, but the new constitution in Iraq, based on the Islamic Sharia law system, denies women the civil and social rights guaranteed to men.

As repressive attitudes have re-emerged, atrocities against women have increased. Several of Mohammed's colleagues have left the country, and Mohammed herself has been the target of death threats. Still, she stays, and her organization has set up a network of women's shelters, along with a kind of Iraqi Underground Railroad, to protect women who have been abused or become targets of "honor killings."

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