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Sisters In War by Christina Asquith

Pub Date:

  Sisters In War
A Story of Women, Life, and Death in Iraq
Christina Asquith

Random House
9-19-09
Trade Paperback/336 pages
ISBN: 1400067049
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"Asquith’s book has personalized the war by offering insight into untold events . . ."

After America’s 2004 invasion of Iraq, life for Iraqi women became more restrictive and dangerous than under Saddam Hussein. This shocking erosion of women’s rights, intimately witnessed by three females who lived and worked in Iraq at the time, are related by journalist Christina Asquith in Sisters In War.

A twenty-two-year-old Iraqi, referred to only as Zia, was hopeful when the invasion began and even took a job with the Americans as an interpreter. Thirty-year-old Heather Coyne, who wanted to use her degree in Arabic to help in the liberation, joined the U.S Army. A veiled American-Muslim in her late twenties, Manal Omar, opened a support center for women in Baghdad.

From their experience, the reader gains insight into the increased violence against women and the public in general because American officials and the military were unable to provide basic protection. Disillusionment grew as they attempted to remotely reconstruct Iraq. “You don’t topple a dictator and move into the palace,” commented Omar.

Iraqi women working for Americans were kidnapped, murdered and mutilated—as were aid workers. “The liberation of Iraq unleashed the darkest forces in the country,” commented Yanar Mohammed, one of Iraq’s best-known women’s rights activists.

After attempts on their lives, Zia and Omar, whose paths never crossed, fled into Jordan. Zia secured a visa to the United States while Omar continued to support Iraqi women from afar. The discouraged Coyne returned to Washington D.C. where she wrote an article in The American Interest entitled, “Amateur Hour: Nation-Building in Iraq”. Coyne points out the “painful damage” caused by the Bush administration’s failure to send specialized expertise to help with reconstruction efforts.

Asquith’s book personalizes the war by offering insight into untold events, such as the university bombing by extremists that killed hundreds of Iraqi students. The author’s coherent, well-structured writing style unravels the complexity of warring groups within Iraq while focusing on its impact on the lives of Iraqi women.

Reviewer: Kate Padilla