Productive or reproductive? The roles of Iraqi women during the Iraq-Iran war

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The roles assigned to women by the Iraqi Ba'th regime in its effort to further its political hegemony and economic ends have received much attention in recent years. Literature on this subject offers a spectrum of analyses that ranges from studies presenting the Ba'th party as eliminating feudal and tribal structure and assigning women new roles, to those that view it as maintaining and reasserting patriarchal structures and roles. Rassam based her analysis primarily on developments that took place during the first decade of the Ba'th rule, when social and economic development programs were aided by increasing oil revenues. In this article I will examine whether her analysis holds good also for the second decade of the Ba'th regime, a decade overshadowed by the Iraq-Iran War. Showing that an ambivalent attitude toward women and the roles assigned to them by the Ba'th party indeed continued, this article proposes, however, that conflicting pragmatic demands played and important part in this ambivalent attitude. These conflicting pragmatic demands were reflected in two successive but contradictory national campaigns. First, women's productive role was emphasized, as they were asked to increase their participation in the wage labour force. Later their reproductive role was emphasized as they were encourage to increase the birth rate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-44
Number of pages18
JournalMiddle Eastern Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1999


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