Document Type

Research Paper

Publication Date

Spring 2019


gender violence, United States foreign policy, sanctions, women’s rights in Iraq, imperialism


From 1990-2003, the United Nations, largely at the direction of the United States., enforced a strict set of international sanctions against Iraq with the goal of eliminating chemical weapons in Iraq and weakening Saddam Hussein’s regime. While the impacts of these sanctions were widespread and devastating, this period also saw a specific loss of rights and worsening of social and economic conditions for most Iraqi women. In this paper, I examine these understudied gendered impacts of sanctions, particularly on women’s participation in the workforce, education, and political arena; as well as their impacts on family structures and marriage, gender-based violence including honor killings, domestic violence, and criminalization of sex work. I also explore the specificities of women’s experiences under sanctions in Iraqi Kurdistan, which vary significantly in some respects from non-Kurdish Iraq. This paper argues that the sanctions not only impacted women similarly to all Iraqis, but actively reversed gains in women’s rights made in the previous decade. Furthermore, it argues that both the Iraqi and U.S. governments blamed the decreased position of Iraqi women on the other government to avoid responsibility and invoked women’s rights violations to justify further violence, such as the 2003 invasion. This paper aims to complicate common understandings of the (non)violent impacts of sanctions as foreign policy and expose the regressive gendered implications of United States policy in Iraq.


This paper was nominated by Charles Anderson, Department of History.

Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

Women--Iraq--Social conditions; Women's rights--Iraq; Economic sanctions--Iraq

Geographic Coverage



student projects; term papers




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