May 28, The pictures would horrify anyone: hooded US soldiers raping and torturing naked Iraqi women at gunpoint. But for Farah al-Azzawi, these blurry photos burn with agony and shame. Azzawi is part of a secret sisterhood: her mother is one of three women inside Abu Ghraib, the notorious prison where US soldiers took smiling snapshots of themselves sadistically humiliating Iraqis. That's why some anonymous ill-wisher slipped a newspaper with the rape photos on the front page under her front door. The pictures in the paper are fakes, bad copies lifted from a porn website and now ricocheting around the Internet. But in Iraq, where the photos circulate on floppy discs and CDs and splash across newspapers and TV screens, most people believe them. It's not just the shame that makes Azzawi's hands shake with rage.
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In opening arguments here at the court martial for the accused soldier, Specialist Charles A. Graner, his lawyer insisted he was simply following orders, and using lessons he had learned in his civilian life as a prison guard to try to maintain discipline in a chaotic war zone. Using naked and hooded detainees to make a human pyramid was much like what cheerleaders "all over America" do at football games, the lawyer, Guy Womack, argued. Putting naked prisoners on leashes was much like what parents in airports and malls do with their toddlers: "They're not being abused," the lawyer told the jury of 10 soldiers, "they're being kept in control. But prosecutors called other soldiers who testified that Specialist Graner had laughed and joked even as detainees moaned, screamed, and pleaded with him to stop beating them. Michael Holley, conceded. It was a chaotic environment. Still, he told the jury, "What we're presenting to you is the serious misconduct that anyone would say, 'That's illegal, that's beyond the pale, there's no way anyone would say that's right. The photographs included hooded and naked detainees piled in a pyramid, simulating oral sex, and leashed.
Updated October 24, Hedar Abbas Abadi once painted portraits in Saddam Hussein's palace, but today he's much more comfortable in his paint-splashed garage. Although he considers his career a form of child's play, Abadi is a respected artist. Since fleeing Iraq in — first for Jordan then Australia — he has exhibited his works internationally and won several awards. The artworks are unusual in subject, as well as style. Save Our Fish From Drowning features surrealist, almost sensual figures that are part fish, part female — not exactly what one expects from an Iraqi-born Muslim. Concerned more with his craft than the religious optics, Abadi believes the human form shouldn't be taboo. And in his latest series, the decision to paint female figures was motivated by the inequality experienced by women in the Middle East.
Corey Flintoff. Farah al-Jaberi holds her protest sign outside the Green Zone checkpoint that leads to Iraq's parliament. Her sign says, "From the American to the [female] Parliament employee — either no clothes, or the American prisons. This is the way Farah al-Jaberi says women are seen by an electronic security scanner at one of the checkpoints entering Baghdad's Green Zone — essentially naked, even when they are fully covered in conservative Muslim attire. A conservatively dressed Iraqi matron holding a provocative sign and a picture of a naked woman stood against the dusty concrete blast wall outside the main checkpoint where Iraqi workers enter and leave Baghdad's Green Zone. It's almost impossible for us, as Americans, to grasp just how shocking this was. First, you have to consider that for Farah al-Jaberi, an observant Muslim woman, conservative attire doesn't mean a tailored pantsuit; it means full hijab: a headscarf that conceals her hair and throat, topped by a head-to-foot abaya, a black drapery that's designed to obscure any hint of a womanly shape underneath. That this lady would be holding up a picture in public that revealed, well, every feature of a woman's shape, was striking to say the least. Jaberi explained that she was protesting her treatment while going through the various security checkpoints on the way to her job at the Iraqi parliament building.