Finally, an Al-Qaeda connection to Iraq
The New York Times reported on January 13 that there are Al-Qaeda operatives in Iraq, but they're no friends of Saddam Hussein. In fact, they're enemies of both Saddam and the secular Kurdish autonomous zone, where they're fighting nearby Kurds and have taken control of a corner of a Kurdish area in the north and are now running it, Taliban-style.
The Times reports that the group, Ansar al-Islam, which is said to have 600 men under arms, runs training camps for "religious fighters, including lessons on infantry weapons, military tactics, suicide bombing and assasination." In the area they control, Ansar al-Islam requires strict interpretations of Islamic law, including the veil for women and beards for men.
Meanwhile, both the secular Kurdish government in the Kurdish autonomous zone of Iraq and the secular Iraqi government provide more rights for women than U.S. allies in the Gulf region. The U.S. National Organization for Women noted in 1991 that the Iraqi constitution provides for equal rights for women, and parents enjoyed free childcare and women got 6 months of paid maternity leave. "With the destruction of Iraq it is likely that women will lose much of what they fought so long to gain," NOW stated in the National NOW Times, March/April 1991.
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